|The project developed from a fascination with the language within the retail industry at a time when the small business was changing beyond recognition – changes that ultimately led to its demise. The Silent Salesman draws on dialogues surrounding radical innovations in the conception, design and display of the packaged product; while We Women All Agree reflects on the direct address of the consumer via advertising. Situated in a disused shop that was likely once a specialist small business such as rarely seen today, at a time when the very future of the high street is uncertain, the installation takes on a certain poignancy.
The Silent Salesman lays bare product packaging and the shop display as channels of communication. The texts are extracted from industry adverts aimed at designers and manufacturers, extolling the abilities of then new packaging materials and printing technologies to sell. Between the wars, the package, shelf and counter display became objects of intense imaginative interest and the bearers of a new commercial aesthetic. Decontextualised here, the fragments of text read as a kind of manifesto that remind us of the optimism felt at the time, now seemingly misplaced in the modern mass-market context.
We Women All Agree is a suspended window display of women’s heads amassed from magazine advertisements from the 1930s–1950s, reworked and scaled-up to life-size. The cut-out aesthetic recalls the aesthetic of early window displays but also comments on how the dimensionality of how the shopper, typically the housewife, was imagined in the early days of retail psychology. To the left is a key identifying each character by an extract from the advert in which they featured – in many cases an attribute that could equally apply to the product being promoted or to the woman presented as the embodiment of the brand – revealing much about the way in which women were perceived at the time.
To find out more about Aviva and her work, visit her artist page.