This has to be one of my favourite artworks I’ve seen so far this year. It’s symbolic, it’s poignant and it reeks of satire. Would more could you ask for?
Let’s start with the denotations. There’s Tony Abbott, there’s Pinocchio, there’s a wall and there’s a rhetorical conversation. On the surface, there’s really not much else to see. You aren’t presented with much, hence I would argue that this artwork relies on its connotations to serve a purpose – thankfully, there are many!
The most obvious signified is that Tony Abbott is comparable to Pinocchio in his attempts to tell the truth. The rhetorical question relates directly to the ugly truth that politicians can, and often do, get away with being untruthful and facing no consequences. I would also argue that the use of Pinocchio draws parallels between a fictional character and the reliability of Tony Abbott’s sentiments.
In terms of the style of the text, it connotes Banksy almost explicitly. Banky’s artworks are known for highlighting political and social issues through satire, so it’s fitting that this piece was presented on a public wall graffiti-style. The colouring of Pinocchio juxtaposed with the grey-scale Tony Abbott draws your attention to Pinocchio first, so you immediately want to sympathise with Pinocchio as the text positions you from his point of view.
I would also argue that the positioning in this text is imperative in understanding the connotations. Abbott is shown higher than Pinocchio, in a position of authority. The mundane expression on Abbott’s face and the superiority of his stance connotes a sense of political arrogance. It’s almost as though he’s amused by Pinocchio’s sentiments, again relating to the idea that politicians can be unsympathetic and untruthful.
Now, this might be going a bit far, but I’m going to just put it out there. I feel as though this text is subtly ridiculing corporate wealth and the lies that often accompany it. For me, it challenges the ideology of neoliberalism, and the focus on the state as the primary issue and the lower-class citizens as a vehicle for profit.
Clearly, this image requires contextual knowledge in order to comprehend the connotations, and people from different countries may not relate to it very well. However, if the knowledge is there, the connotations are plentiful and have the ability to speak very strongly to those who agree with the message, and challenge those who do not agree.
I found this image on this tumblr and I highly recommend you check it out. Lots of cool posts about similar things.
Note: all references were hyperlinked.