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U-M Ann Arbor professor dissects rhetoric of marketing, intersectionality of consumerism, power

Modrak's art explores intersectionality of labor, consumer culture, power,

Rebekah Modrak in her studio with "Re Made Co" plungers. Photo | Roger Hart/Michigan Photography.
Rebekah Modrak in her studio with "Re Made Co" plungers. Photo | Roger Hart/Michigan Photography.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – University of Michigan professor Rebekah Modrak uses art to examine the rights of communities and workers.

A professor of art and design at the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, Modrak's art takes a deep dive into the intersection of consumerism, power and labor -- themes that have always been in her lift. 

Having grown up in a pro-union house and hearing stories of pushing against the exploitation of power, Modrak's art plays with the narratives surrounding commerce, consumerism and the rights of workers.

In her project, "Re Made Co" - a mordant mock-up of the brand Best Made - Modrak uses toilet plungers to highlight the empty rhetoric of brand marketing. "Re Made Co's" website, social media accounts and brand video mimic many current brands that act to persuade consumers with a constructed identity and community around common products being sold for a high price. 

Rebekah Modrak in her studio. Photo | Roger Hart/Michigan Photography.
Rebekah Modrak in her studio. Photo | Roger Hart/Michigan Photography.

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"Re Made Co," like Modrak's project "Rethink Shinola" -- a project based on Detroit company Shinola -- uses art to comment on power dynamics within consumerism and, in the case of "Rethink Shinola," the exploitation used underneath a narrative of economic development. 

For "Rethink Shinola," Modrak used a timed animation online, including drawing animated colonial hats onto Shinola company executives, as well as reenactments. 

Her work is on display at the Stamps Gallery until Nov. 10 as part of the "Border Control: Traversing Horizons in Media Practice" exhibition.

The gallery is free and open Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is closed Mondays. 

The University of Michigan Stamps Gallery is at 201 S. Division Street.

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