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Matt Siber’s work addresses the way public text and advertising functions as a mode of communication and power in our society. Siber is a digital photographer who often uses photo editing software in order to draw attention to specific aspects of everyday life in his photographs that tend to be overlooked. In The Untitled Project, Siber presents images of city life with all of the text and signage edited out. Next to the images, the text is printed on a blank white paper. By abstracting the text from the scene it was in, Siber draws the viewer’s attention to the pervasive nature of advertising and textual communication in their lives. In (Untitled) Lists, Siber presents three posters listing brand names common products that have been isolated and stripped of their customary fonts, colors and packaging. By divorcing the brand names from their referents, Siber asks the viewer to consider these words (often taken for granted) in themselves, and the effect that such ubiquitous advertising has on his or her life.
I really like Siber’s work. I don’t often think about how pervasive textual communication is in our society. One may think one is walking down a silent street alone, but in actuality one is constantly being talked to and commanded to “Stop,” “Buy this product,” “Yield,” “Be hipper/thinner/prettier/younger/more fashionable.” Because these commands are so ubiquitous in our everyday life they tend to fade into the background and blend with the landscape, although we still respond to them on a sub-conscious level. By divorcing the texts from the landscapes in which they had previously resided, Siber presents us both with the uncomfortable image of a truly silent (text-free) landscape and allows us to realize how pervasive textual communication is, allowing us to consider in turn what kind of power relations are invested in public texts and what the effects of that may be.
Something else that I found very interesting in Siber’s work is the fact that, although he is clearly technically skilled in photography and the elements of design and composition, the actual compositional elements of his work are not what make his work art. His pieces are first and foremost conceptual statements about the nature and power of public textual forms of communication. One does not consider the actual composition and color choices of his works as much as the statement about text itself that they are making; the textual aspects become secondary background noise to the conceptual statement. However, in an ironic nod to the very modes of textual advertising that Siber draws attention to, it is the technical aspects of Siber’s pieces that allow his message to translate with such clarity and power; Siber therefore uses the same modes and manner of commercial advertising and public signage (photography, photoshop, typography, posters, color and design theory) in order to take a critical stance toward the modes of textual communication, showing that the same slick tricks that allow constant advertising and commands to fade into the background landscape can also be used to expose the hidden power relations in the texts.