Earlier this year, The Independent published an article about Robert Montgomery, an artist who plasters verses of poetry over advertising billboards. The buzz this article generated on different social media platforms gave a huge notoriety to this art and created a new movement of advertising artists called «Brandalism». This portmanteau made of Brand and Vandalism feeds the debate about graffiti and vandalism. This street art is of course illegal and uses on-going convenient advertising spaces which are normally made for commercial products.

Drawing inspiration from the long history of protest art, a group of guerilla street artists have set about reclaiming urban space from advertisers and the big brands they represent. Bill Posters is one of these artists: «We are lab rats for advertising executives  who exploit our fears and insecurities through consumerism. I’m a human being, not a consumer. So by ‘taking’ these billboards, we are taking these spaces back. If Sao Paolo in Brazil can ban all outdoor advertising, so can we.» In 2007 the world’s fourth largest city, Sao Paolo, passed the Clean City Law to combat water, sound, air and visual pollution. Furthermore, Sao Paolo also legalized public art.

Montgomery and 25 other artists have now successfully hijacked 37 billboards in five important cities across the United Kingdom and thus completed the world’s first international collaborative «subvertising» campaign. Their purpose is to challenge the dominance and authority and also the legitimacy of the advertising industry. They want to tackle its prejudicial impacts on issues as consumerism, body image, debt. It’s also a way to show support to the riots in UK and across Europe.

«The advertising industry creates pressure when they manipulate our needs and desires. Pressure to have the latest gear, clothes and phones. This pressure erupted when kids took the streets across the country to claim what they had been told that they needed.» says Bill Posters.

Simon Templeton and Joe Elan speak for the group behind the Brandalism project: “It’s our public space as well. You have a choice when you read a magazine, turn on the television, or turn on the radio. You have an agency over that. You can choose whether you engage with it or not. On the internet you can block it out if you want. Whereas in the pubic realm there’s no choice to opt out,” Joe Elan says.

Brandalism is not about targeting any specific brand; it’s a critical assessment of the advertising industry in today’s society. The 26 international artists involved in the Brandalism project tackle a range of issues from debt and propaganda, to climate change, consumer and cultural values. They hope Brandalism can help initiate discussion and social change around a range of issues.

Templeton argues that we need to look critically at consumer culture and its impact on the environment. “What is the end result of trying to have constant economic growth on a planet of finite resources?”

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