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See The Results Of "Brandalism," The World's First Collaborative Act Of Ad Subversion

Combining the efforts of 25 artists from 8 countries, "Brandalism" is the world’s first international "subvertising" collaboration.

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.

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  • Jason Nolan

    Most of their billboards are to surrealistic to bring across their own point. If the public can't "Get it" then what is the point. They could learn some tips from the same people they are mocking

  • Crispymoore

    Bang on. If the artists can't covey their message without the assistance of an artists statement, then this is a major fail.

  • Arman Nobari

    Even if the public doesn't "Get It", the jarring observation of something so unexpected may be enough to influence them to see the world differently, more acutely. These installations aren't just there to make a point with visuals or literal translation, but to subject society to a public, albeit direct tap on the shoulder, telling them "Please, observe more of the world around you more closely". The surrealism is in fact the tool by which this experience is translated to the viewers - even if the literal message of the image is lost therein.

  • Trinity Alps

    I've always loved reappropriating public space. These are very good. Thanks!

  • Omri

    Pretty ironic to see an actual Ketel One ad prominently featured within the anti-ad slideshow. 

  • Syndicate

    Nice initiative, but the spokesperson's statement is almost absurd. What's the point of singling out the influence of advertising on western cultures/societies when this influence is universal? And since when was advertising supposed to usher sustainable bonds with the future or future generations?
    Brand bashing (regardless of its scale) is an opportunity for the individual/consumer to tinker with questions about his consumerism, maybe de-stress and laugh cynically. But to frame it as a grandiose vehicle of sustainability awareness is as ridiculous as you'd want to portray the brands you're bashing.