Commercials and Blings

I started the Brett Commercials in 1996 while in graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. At this time, I was watching a lot of television and I became interested in the conventions of early Reality TV shows like C.O.P.S. and MTV's The Real World. I admired the look that resulted from a low-tech style shot with hand-held cameras during "unscripted" scenarios with "real people" rather than trained actors. Even though Reality TV shows were using these conventions the commercials that appeared between them still had the look and feel of slick productions populated by actors whose appearances and fictional lives adhered to the Hollywood ideal. I noticed there wasn't anyone that looked or acted like me in commercials so I came up with the idea of making my own advertisements that brand me as a product, lifestyle, etc. To do this, I started video taping my self and my everyday life. I would edit the videos using the thirty second to one minute format that commercials traditionally use. My goal was to tell a full story in that time frame. I also shot, edited and made my own music from sampled sources. The one constant in all of the commercials was that my name appeared at the beginning of each commercial. This device established me as the brand.

I made several of these commercials for my thesis show which was held in a movie theater. My commercials played in between the other students' films so the audience was forced to watch commercials away from their TV viewing at home. (This was several years before movie theaters started showing TV commercials before the feature film.) After the screenings, I became a local celebrity for a short time around Chicago. Strangers outside of the art school community recognized me on the streets, in the subway, and in bars and restaurants so my marketing campaign was a success.

The work has evolved from these early commercials to new works called Blings that simply use my name and motion graphics with music. In fact, I don't physically appear in any of the new work at all. These pieces are more like intros to shows on MTV like Viva La Bam or the weird little shorts that MTV uses as network identifications. In television industry jargon they are called bumpers. The new work consists of looped DVDs which are shown on flat panel monitors mounted to the wall or on conventional televisions placed on pedestals. The Blings function as video installations rather than commercials that play between films.