Sonal Motla Writes About How Younger Generation Plays A Pivotal Role In Reshaping Consumerism

Sonal Motla Writes About How Younger Generation Plays A Pivotal Role In Reshaping Consumerism

A golden toilet pot named ‘America’, created by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, is planted in an unassuming bathroom on the fifth floor of the Guggenheim Museum

Sonal MotlaUpdated: Saturday, October 21, 2023, 09:11 PM IST
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A golden toilet pot named ‘America’, created by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, is planted in an unassuming bathroom on the fifth floor of the Guggenheim Museum.

The scatological ‘artwork’ is a fully functional gold toilet, with a serpentine line of museum visitors waiting to experience relief of nature’s call on a golden throne! In a world where opulence is revered and ostentatious choices spell ‘class,’ the artist perhaps invites the participant to reflect on his satirical participatory artwork about whether sheer opulence of gold, makes the experience any different. And no, being in gold does not prevent it from getting clogged or make the process, exquisite. 

Just as Marcel Duchamp once challenged conventional art by hanging an inverted urinal as an artwork. Cattelan’s gold toilet at the Guggenheim Museum challenges the conventional perception of value. Punctuations in artworks like these in the art world, encourage us to reflect and question the value systems that exist in our society.

Consumerism has been the driving force in our world, compelling us to desire, acquire, and discard. Advertisers sell lifestyles, rather than the intrinsic value of a product, as the world is all about projections.

Today, it’s not just about flaunting possessions, but believing what we own, defines us. This is alarming. ‘You are what you wear, what you have, and what you use’, is true but this definition is not coming from the self, the idea is being sold by companies to sell their products, using psychological, manipulative, marketing tactics of ‘Catch them young’, influence their minds, create peer pressure and see profits and bank balance swelling.

 Buy, Use, Throw, and Repeat! Is the current popular mantra. 

Troubled with this deprivation in aesthetics and individuality, as the director of an educational design institute, we initiated a ‘Create Your Own’ (CYO) movement. Craft your daily essentials — coffee mugs, glasses, books — fostering a unique bond. When you create, you value. Once you buy something with your parent’s money it’s easy to discard when it isn’t so ‘cool’ anymore, but if you have created your coffee mug there is a certain kind of intimacy that’s created. It will not be easy for you to discard it ruthlessly. There is a relationship between the person and the object he uses constantly, they develop a relationship of comfort. It reminds me of a stone I have, which is used by sari weavers to polish the zari after weaving. The weavers’ fingers are imprinted on the stone in the form of depressions in the stone due to constant use. We may not realize but we exchange our energies when we constantly use an object. 

One hopes that in this age of heightened environmental consciousness, we create a new paradigm for young minds. Embracing it empowers us to reclaim control, make sustainable choices, and create objects that express our uniqueness. The younger generation plays a pivotal role in reshaping consumerism. Their choices, fuelled by a desire for sustainable living and ethical consumption, wield the power to transform the market. Thrift shopping, upcycling, and eco-friendly alternatives are setting new trends that prioritize our planet’s well-being. Amid these shifts, the environment takes centre stage in our choices. Often overshadowed in our quest for possessions, nature is the most integral part of our lives.

Writing this, I ponder — when was the last time we slept beneath the starlit sky, gazing at the universe hanging above? Or stopped to imagine that each sunset and dawn is unique and so magical and beautiful and how many have we missed? When did we stroll through untamed, stunning wildflowers? What choices do we make in a world so magical and gorgeous?

(Sonal Motla is an art curator and Director at Rachna Sansad and a visiting faculty with educational institutions like NIFT Mumbai, among others. Send your feedback to: sonal25fpj@gmail.com)

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