COCA-COLA UBER ALLES
Artists paint soft drink, which is above everything
Varvara Babizckaya, Fyodor Savinzcev (photo)
Santa Claus drinks Coca-Cola. He sits in a huge armchair, relaxing and rolling up his eyes. In one hand he has the next kid's letter with requests and wishes for Xmas, in the other hand he keeps a cherished glass bottle of a soft drink. Swastika flaunts on his sleeve, and his face is also not very fairy-kind. That Santa Claus is one of the most significant heroes of the Nazi Coca-Cola exhibition which was opened last week in Moscow.
The exhibition and action Coca-Cola Nazi Adverts was created yet in 2002 by Mark Thomas and Tracey Moberly after they have read the book by Mark Prendergast, in which for the first time were loudly declared about the collaboration between the Coca-Cola and Third Reich. Artists from many countries improvise how advertising posters of the Coca-Cola in Nazi Germany could look like. After the demonstration in Great Britain the exhibition moved to show all around the world. For the last 4 years it has been exhibited in Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Venezuela. It has not started by a chance from Latin America, because exactly there, according to organizers, it had stated the most scandalous human rights offences, concerned with Coca-Cola activity. Russia is the first country of the European tour of the exhibition, from our country curators start to conquer the continent. "I simply wished to transfer the exhibition to this part of the world, - Tracey Moberly says. - Coca-Cola is already everywhere, it means that our exhibition is actual in Russia also".
The main part of the works is advertising posters, made by photomontage technique. The Coca-Cola logotype is set in a famous photos of the Nazi leaders, Olympic Games 1936, etc. and vice versa swastika and Nazi slogans are set on an old Coca-Cola advertising posters. Sometimes there are original works also, for example, a dark stream sparkles out of cognate bottle and shoots through a man's head. In a word, all works are rather angry, scandalous and funny.
The list of the authors is hanged on a wall, but there are no inscriptions under each work (except several children's drawings). Together with professional artists' posters there are many amateur works; just everybody can participate in the project. That's why works of the famous British designers mixed up with works of Russian students. Try to guess which is whose? Nobody selects works for the exhibition; Thomas and Tracey demonstrate everything they've got. There are only two requirements: a work should be A4 format and must not break the law. The collection is widening constantly. In 2004 there were exhibited only 200-250 works, now there are 400. The Russian artists also add their works: around 20 students. As organizers said, all the participants are joined in a fierce dislike for globalization, transcontinental corporations and unprincipled economy policy, which offence the human rights. "I'm not a wild antiglobalist, but I see what happens in the world and react to it somehow" - says Stepan Lukyanov, professional designer and participant of the project. - I don't drink Coca-Cola, for example".
The Coca-Cola Company is favorite bugaboo for antiglobalists. Together with such giants as the Nestle and M_Donald's the soft drink corporation became am embodiment of the USA economic expansion. Not all the artists are interested in politics but even for them the Coca-Cola is not only a brand. Since the Coca-Cola became one of the main symbols of the so-called consumer society and apple-pie way of life, many artists use that symbol in their art: from Andy Warholl to representatives of the Russian Sozart. Several years ago the Coca-Cola lawyers even went to law for the Russian artist Alexander Kosolapov, in whose work Lenin the world proletariat leader was depicted on the trade mark and Coca-Cola's slogan image. But the claim was withdrawn just after, instead of sensational scandal sales slump of the famous small bottles in a skirt shape didn't happened.
Against Tracey Moberly and Mark Thomas hadn't advanced any claim yet. According to the PR representative of the Russian branch of The Coca-Cola Export Corporation Vladimir Kravtsov, the company will not react to the event for not to provide an additional advertisement for the exhibition. "It's a strange method to attract personal attention to themselves, creating false sensations, - he says. - And if we start now to send angry petitions they will have more and more articles in mass media. Why we have to justify our actions and that 'we are not camels'?"
May be they are not camels but they have to justify, Tracey Moberly considers. In war time the Coca-Cola became a national symbol of the USA. It was a soft drink's mission to remind home-sweet-home to the American soldiers at the front. It is a well-known Robert Wudraf arrangement that "any man in uniform can get his 5 cent Coca-Cola bottle wherever he is and whatever the company will spend on it". At that time nobody known that a uniform can be also brown with a swastika on a sleeve. Meanwhile, Tracey Moberly referring to Mark Pendegrast's book, assures of a fact that the Fanta (one of the company's brand), for example, was invented specially for the Nazi's market in 1941, when the syrup supplies for Coca-Cola from the USA were finished (on the official Coca-Cola web-site the Fanta's "birthday" is 1960).
"They advertised in the Nazi newspapers, - Tracey tells. - They opened the factory in Sudets (Czechia) practically just after the country occupation. They worked at the Nazi trade fairs, and in general they financially supported the regime". The Coca-Cola limits its official comments: "Those images are not concerned with acts in fact made by the company many years ago when the world was differ from today world where we all live". But for the "nazi-exhibition" the Nazi symbolism is a ground to speak about this day activity of the Coca-Cola. "In Columbia the Coca-Cola is accused of hiring militants for murders, kidnapping and tortures of the trade union members, who are working at the company's factories. Since 2002, when the exhibition was opened at first time, already eight people had been killed by the Coca-cola militants, - says Tracey Moberly with confidence. - And, for example, in the South India, in the area prone to drought, farmers complain against the Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverage which steals their water, using underground springs". The Coca-Cola rejects all the complaints, but also refuses to make detailed comments. According to Moberly, many authors-artists from the problem regions devoted their works particularly to those facts.
In Russia the corporation also had problems: in 2004-2005 trade unionists have opened a real war for the working-people rights. There are not open conflicts now, and the Russian artists are keeping to the original conception using Hitler's and Nazi Germany's images in their works. Nevertheless, as the galerist Marat Guelman assures, we have our own tradition of political art connected with the Sozart: "In Russia you can prove an actuality only taking it to a court. Artist is put in a prison? That means his art is actual because it touched somehow. The Coca-Cola company will not put artists in prison. But what is touching the company more than everything that it is appearing in courts as a respondent. The last lawsuit has finished recently: in the end of September the Moscow regional court has answered to a claim from Khimki inhabitant Natalia Koshuba - she have been drinking 2 liters of Coca-Cola every day for two years, after it doctor diagnosed her gastritis. The court obliged the company to pay to Natalia around 3000 rubles for moral damage and injury to health.
Cola and outrage. Artists consider that popular American soft drink and German Nazism are a single whole.
Regional problems. There is no water in India, only Coca-Cola.
Tracey Moberly dreams about victory over Coca-Cola all over the world.
Trasformation. A sparkling drink has transformed Hitler to advertising agent, and Santa Claus to Nazi.