Anonymous Artist 'Frees' Celebrity Images Used in Apple's Ads


Famous people hawk everything these days, from sports cars to sports drinks. But last month at the State University of New York at Buffalo, an anonymous artist symbolically freed a few legends -- Samuel Beckett, Amelia Earhart, and the Dalai Lama -- from a fate as corporate shills for Apple Computer.

For the past year, the mysterious figure known as Swimming Horse has waged an artistic battle against Apple's award-winning "think different" advertising campaign, which uses the images of famous artists, athletes, and political figures.

Last month, while attending an art exhibit on the Buffalo campus that displayed some of his works, Swimming Horse launched his newest piece, "The Rafts of the Archetypes." He took the images of Beckett, Earhart, and the Tibetan spiritual leader that had been used in the Apple campaign, removed all of the ad copy, enlarged the pictures, and turned them into 10-foot sails. He then attached the sails to wooden rafts that he set free to float in the university's Lake LaSalle. "Their energy as archetypes cannot be contained in the manufacturing and sales process," he said in an interview.

Swimming Horse left words of protest off the pictures. He said he wanted the archetypes to stand alone, looking timeless -- neither pitching Apple nor his own messages. Swimming Horse's work hasn't always been so placid. His guerrilla art troupe, known as Hocus Focus, has illegally altered Apple's "think different" billboard ads across the country. For example, the group has pasted the words "No machine is a moody genius" on ads featuring Miles Davis.

No word from Apple Computer on whether the company approves of Swimming Horse's decision to think differently.

Copyright 1999 by The Chronicle of Higher Education