Salon crosses ethical boundaries
The power of photography should never be underestimated.
With one shot you can move virtually anyone to tears, anger or happiness. In one photograph, you can even incite the rage of hundreds of people.
This fact shouldâve been taken into consideration by the Canadian beauty salon Fluid. In a series of photographs, the salon took its slogan, âLook good in all you do,â to disturbing new heights with a shocking series of photographs. Since late August and early September, Fluid has received a lot of flack for its poor taste in advertising.
One photograph features a woman pulling a dead body out of a hearse. Another depicts a woman who looks as if sheâs just been in a motorcycle accident.
But the ad that got peopleâs skin crawling and tempers flaring was the photograph showing a woman with a bruised eye sitting on a couch with a man behind her. The same âLook good in all you doâ slogan is present, making the ad seem to suggest that you can look good even as a victim of domestic abuse.
Naturally, those who have fought against abuse or know someone who has could not help but be offended at the advertisements. To make matters worse, the salon defended the ads; salon owner Sarah Cameron told people to âplease interpret the ads as freedom dictates â that is your right â just as artistic expression is our right.â
Unfortunately, the term âartistic expressionâ is a trite one, often used as an excuse for almost anything these days. When an artist creates something confusing or controversial, the go-to justification is oftentimes these two words.
But what this salon does by calling its advertisements art is shedding a bad light on a freedom that allows artists to create positive, pleasing works.
âArtistic expressionâ is what results from the passion of an artist who experiments with cans of paint, performs for an audience or creates something otherwise stunning. It has nothing to do with creating pieces that could quite possibly ridicule a very serious and dangerous act like domestic abuse.
If the advertisements were meant for shock value, Fluid shouldnât have tried to cover up using âartistic expressionâ â viewers deserve the truth. There are artists who express themselves with less-than-pleasant works, but this shock value is inherently part of their image and approach to art. Whatâs more, not all artists are trying to convince people of a certain viewpoint, while these advertisements are obviously meant to persuade potential customers to drop by the salon to look good.
And though the advertisements are specific to their salon, the images are powerful to anyone, anywhere. The salon has used the power of photography to virtually surpass the need for words â almost any woman walking by the ad would understand the message.
The domestic abuse scene could mirror the lives of many women from different walks of life. Just one glance of these photographs could excite emotions in people that have nothing to do with getting a perm.
Controversial art pieces can be found throughout history, from Marcel Duchampâs 1917 âFountain,â â a urinal signed with the name R. Mutt â to Andres Serranoâs 1987 âPiss Christâ â a photograph of a plastic cruficix inside a jar of Serranoâs urine â and even Banksyâs contemporary street murals.Â Duchamp and Banksyâs work might be seen as comical, but âPiss Christâ was actually damaged by angry protestors. Various artists have abused the term âartistic expressionâ as well, but this only serves to show that perhaps some topics, such as domestic abuse, are better left untouched.
Concern about offending audiences will always be an issue, but artists should consider the consequences of being insensitive.
As for the ads, Cameron has promised to donate money to Edmontonâs womenâs shelter when someone mentions the ad inside her salon. Even still, the public is unlikely to be placated so easily. In fact, a street tagger took action into his or her own hands and spray-painted a simple but effective message over the ad depicting domestic abuse: âThat was violence wrongly named art.â
In creating the ads, the salon is not only being insensitive, but also creating an inaccurate picture of what art is. It is unfair that these photographs cast a negative light on the term âartistic expression.â Artistic expression is much more.
Eva Recinos is a junior majoring in English.Â Her column âArt Boxâ runs Thursdays.