Jesse Willesee – Product Placement
Sydney artist Jesse Willesee is nothing if not contentious – he’s been blushingly compared to Warhol, been the target of a graffiti and video hate campaign and held some of the most talked-about, and debated-about, shows of 2012. His fans love him, haters hate him – so much so that he has a “hate wall” on his website where detractors can voice their concerns.
After all this is the same guy who had his massive show 22 Girls Smoking Weed shut down by a squad of police last year, and he’s taken up the whole front page of mX with his equally topical offering Passout, which featured “passed out” models live on display in an artfully trashed nightclub.
The latest in his exploration of social media trends comes PRODUCT PLACEMENT. A show which asks, “What are we saying when we hold up our Coke, Nike or Pizza Hut products and take a social media snap showing them off?”
While many of Jesse’s previous shows have had a shock factor, Jesse’s new show is more of an exportation of what he sees on his Instagram feed every day. “I see all these kids holding up their drinks and chips and candy up to the camera, showing off the brand. It’s like it’s not enough for them to just consume these products. It’s like they want to be in the ad. So they make one starring themselves. It’s beyond a status symbol, it’s advertising”.
Recreating the trend Jesse spotted online in a series of stylized fashion images, the show will feature photos of models, musicians and a handful of “well-dressed friends” photographed by Jesse “product placing” brands.
But like many of Jesse’s shows, this is a celebration of excess. On the night, he will hand over loads of free products to the audience, including 500 bottles of Arizona Ice tea, energy drinks from 28 Black and fashion goodies from Estate of Mind, Henry Godzilla and We Were Warriors, while drinks come courtesy of Budweiser and DCider. The pile of free products will be organised into an installation, with a GoPro camera perched above catching the action. Entry is free, too.
Jesse says that he’s constantly accused of “selling out” and Product Placement is in part a response to that. But he also explains Product Placement is more a celebration than a criticism of the culture of branding. “I lived in America as a kid so I have really warm feelings when it comes to certain American brands I remember from my childhood,” he says.
Plus, when you go to a Jesse Willesee show, you know you’re in for a party. “Nothing is more boring than staring at art on a wall,” Jesse says. “There will be some surprises to shake the night up”.
And hey, who doesn’t love free shit?
The new show will debut on June 19 at District 01 Gallery, in Surry Hills from 7pm-10pm and will include live music from Buzz Kull and DJs TBA.
Keep up to date with Jesse’s work on his website here.
Words by Ana Friwis