I confess I find ads like this irritating. It’s insidious, because it’s art, but it’s really good marketing. It seems like there should be rules preventing horrible corporations from using kitschy or endearing or well-conceived art to hock their products and services.

Our emotions are aroused by our vicarious participation in the vivid or cathartic emotional experiences of the people on the screen, and we develop a connection, reinforced by use of branding and focused message with a product or service, or a brand entity that has no claim to the feelings in question.

Delta Airlines very likely had little or nothing to do with the creation of this art, apart from paying for it, but they reap the benefits.

This misappropriation of our experiences of art and expression is as inescapable as it is inexcusable. We swim in a sea of art, most of it leading a double life. Beyond acting as outlet for creative expression, our art must generally be trying to sell us something. We can enjoy the creativity, but only once it’s been sanitized and put to work underlining our desires.

Artists themselves, who would most probably (and more beneficially) prefer to dispense with the sales tactics and focus on the business of telling us something true about ourselves, are wrangled in and tempted to the poisoned cup. Unimaginable money is brought to the table, especially when the artist has a powerful and trusted voice, because the best salesman is the one who we believe to be on our side.

These imperialist tactics are unethical. Our brightest points of light are lured away from us, one by one, by vast and insidious corporate interests, to sell us a new iPod or business-class ticket.  That their voices are allowed to be appropriated by the machine is wrong, to say nothing of the misappropriations of the art forms and movements themselves. Every day, subversive forms of expression are stolen and put to work serving the interests of the monied class and we applaud the creativity rather than condemning the thievery.

Oh well.

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