Soft Sell is a group exhibition that looks at the role of architecture in determining certain subject positions. Contemporary architecture, as it is employed within commercial and museum settings, places an emphasis on surface, image and display so as to seduce and distract. It has been argued such spaces render us passive consumers and impotent political agents. Center, which was originally designed as a commercial shop with large floor to ceiling windows, is the perfect setting in which to examine this postmodern emphasis on surface and symbols.
Soft Sell, like soft power, is about transforming and managing perception. It is also a pleasing word play, recalling the name of the 80s British New Wave band Soft Cell. The name suggests a padded cell and by extension the panoptic gaze of the state or the institution. Today the surveillance state is firmly aligned with corporate interests making the all-encompassing gaze of technology and commerce inseparable from the controlling gaze of state and institution. Benjamin H. Bratton's account of the reverse panopticon effect as 'exhibitionism in bad faith’ whereby 'you know you are being watched but act as if you aren’t,' echoes the Freudian account of the exhibitionist as the voyeur in disguise who acts out their own imagined viewing.