Just What is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?
One of the most famous examples of Pop Art is Richard Hamilton’s collage ‘Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?’
One of the most famous examples of Pop Art is Richard Hamilton’s collage ‘Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?’ This was not intended as a complete work to be seen in the original. Instead it was exhibited as a page in the exhibition catalogue. Though Marco Livingstone has remarked that it is uncharacteristic of Hamilton’s work in this period it is nevertheless seen as one of the earliest examples of Pop. Being a collage of images of consumerism and popular entertainment, rather than a loving and assiduous copy of them as in Blake’s work, this image is less obviously a celebration of these sources.
This assemblage of existing images perhaps exhibits a reluctance to actively engage with them, preferring to adopt a distant, critical stance. With a sense of bewilderment, images of popular culture are juxtaposed with corporate identity and transport (the Ford insignia) advertising (the Hoover advert), comic strips (mounted on the wall instead of a painting), muscle men and pin-up girls. These are arranged as a room – an environment that completely encloses its inhabitants, so despite its humorous tone, the work presents them as potentially suffocating.
This is most evident in Hamilton’s use of a photo of a beach crowded with people for the room’s carpet and one of Earth as the ceiling – as if mass culture, being the first universal culture ever known, threatens to homogenize people and whole societies into one seamless mass. At the same time the work is not determinedly hostile to mass culture. The presence of various technical innovations does not permit this – tape recorders, the coming of sound in cinema (the poster for The Jazz Singer) and labour saving devices, which seem to be welcomed since they are shown in their natural, logical locations. The tape recorder is on the floor; the poster on a wall outside; the Hoover on the stairs.
By contrast, the less useful objects are presented in more disdainful, bizarre terms by placing them in unlikely situations – the comic on the wall (instead of a painting); the Ford badge, not on a car, but on a lampshade; and the giant lollipop held by the muscle-man. The pin-up girl is juxtaposed with a tin of ham – perhaps commenting on mass cultures tendency to treat women as commodities through glamourization and fetishization.