Landscapes of Global Capital
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Visa05-99This Visa ad from 1999 opens iconically with scene and landscape identified as The Australian Outback. An elderly aborigine man (his native tongue translated by a voiceover) fingers some tracks in the dirt, and says "Three motorcycles passed here. Three men, two women. All carrying their Visa cards." To which his Grandson responds, "how do you know that Grandfather?" "Because," replies Grandfather, "Central Oz Motorcycle adventures doesn't take American Express -- heeheehee." He chuckles with laughter at his own little joke about aboriginal ways of knowing. Today, the man who is in touch with the secrets of the earth must know how markets work, and whose credit card is preeminent.

Corporate voiceover: "Central Oz will take you to a place beyond your imagination but they won't take American Express.
Visa. It's everywhere you want to be."

In this advertisement, Visa mixes together signifiers of remote geography and aboriginal culture to testify to the ubiquity of Visa's reach and availability. That is what Visa and MasterCard want to offer -- a universal medium of exchange in a world of many localized currencies.

Visa05-99 Visa05-99

The ad has a jokey edge to it. By casting the primary character as the weather-worn face of an elder Aboriginal tracker, who speaks in native tongue (his authenticity preserved by the visible act of translation), Visa seeks to naturalize the penetration of the Visa card in the hinterest of hinterlands. Just as the wolf or any other animal might leave tracks to follow, so too do the modern machines (and technologies) of man. Even the presence of a Visa card leaves its "impression" if one knows how to read the lay of the land, and what is out there. And it certainly makes its mark when consuming the global travel experience. In the final scene below, the Visa card becomes part of the map of the territory.


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Robert Goldman, Stephen Papson, Noah Kersey