Particularly now, in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics, walking around London means being surrounded by brand messages broadcast from every available speck of space. However, if you looked closely enough in the last few days, you may have noticed that some of these advertisements were a little off. Rather, they weren’t ads at all, but anti-ads, placed in ad space by a group of artists on a mission.
Co.Create has covered the work of Robert Montgomery previously, an artist who hijacks outdoor ads and turns them into poetry. Montgomery recently joined an international community of artists who have converged upon the U.K. under the banner of a project called “Brandalism.” The effort spanned five days and the cities of London, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and Bristol, and by the time the crew was finished over 33 billboards had been subverted, in what the group calls the largest ever subvertising project in U.K. history.
A spokesperson for “Brandalism” told Co.Create, via email, “If anyone wants to understand western cultures and societies they had better come to terms with the role and power of commercial images. Advertising does not stress the value of a collective long range future and the prevailing values of the commercial system provide no incentives to develop bonds with future generations. Faced with growing ecological and social crises, and with advertising being the engine of an unsustainable and detrimental economic system, it must be viewed as one of the major obstacles to our survival as a species.”
Planning for the mission had taken place over a period of eight months. Artists were invited to contribute pieces on different themes including Art of Propaganda, Body Image and Well Being, Creative Resistance, Cultural Values, Debt and Environment, Advertising and Visual Pollution.
The idea was to reclaim some of the 100,000 billboards in the U.K. that are devoted to advertising.
As for the logistical aspect of coordinating the large-scale project, the spokesperson said, “the ‘Brandalism’ project simulated the practices of the outdoor advertising companies including economies of scale and printing processes. As the project is ongoing, we cannot reveal more for legal reasons at this time.”
And as the spokesperson noted, the project is ongoing. “When you’re going up against nearly a century of blissful consumption and nearly a century of commercial images that promote personal desire and individual need and you’re exploring what this is doing to our cultures and societies, the biggest challenge is still ahead of us, which is to bring the issues that are explored in the project to as many people as possible around the world. So essentially the Brandalism project has really just begun.”
You can expect the billboards to be re-reclaimed by advertisers very soon, but until then, have a look through the slideshow above for images of some of the artwork.