Beyond wallpaper: street art works

August 16th, 2016 | By | No Comments »
Photo courtesy of Hyuro

Photo courtesy of Hyuro

Note: This post is in adaptation of what I presented last month at The Art Conference in London. So if you were curious about that talk, here you go.

As Rafael Schacter has argued, street art has moved “from dissident to decorative.” We’ve gone from politically radical drawings in New York subway stations to decorating music festivals so that attendees are a bit less bored while they sip beer and wait for Kanye to take the stage.

That safe public art is what I call wallpaper. Wallpaper is what when you mix street art with plop art, those huge, random, mostly abstract or minimalist sculptures that show up in semi-public squares as a result Percent For Art programs where a developer is legally required to install some public art in front of their building, so they just go for something big, expensive, and (most importantly) benign. Wallpaper, like plop art before it, reinforces existing power structures.

We live in a world of wallpaper. Mural festivals provide plenty of examples. When I see yet another mural by a globe-trotting artist who does most of their sketching on transcontinental flights, I have to ask, “Is this wallpaper productive?” There’s only so much funding for murals each year. Artists only have so much brainspace to create. Maybe more wallpaper isn’t the best use of our resources. Wallpaper is like sugar. Good in small doses, terrible in large doses, and we tend to overdo it.

Lady Aiko at the Coney Art Walls (2015). Photo by RJ Rushmore.

Lady Aiko at the Coney Art Walls (2015). Photo by RJ Rushmore.

Take the Coney Art Walls, a project that I actually do enjoy. In many ways, the Coney Art Walls are a prime example of wallpaper: concrete slabs installed solely for the sake of murals, high-end food trucks that the murals are meant to get you to eat at, a neighborhood that functions as an amusement park, funding from a controversial property developer… But unlike most wallpaper festivals, the Coney Art Walls are well curated, there’s a wide range of artists who are well paid and allowed to take risks, and many of the murals reference the historic neighborhood. Still, if the Coney Art Walls is among the best that the street art festival model can offer, it’s safe to say that festivals and similar mural projects generally do not live up street art’s radical roots.

On a good day, what can street art do, when we think beyond wallpaper? It can transform and empower. It can bring people together. It can propose better versions of public space.

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600 climate change ad takeovers blanket Paris

November 29th, 2015 | By | No Comments »
Paul Insect

Paul Insect

This past Friday in Paris, over 600 posters by more than 80 artists and designers were installed in bus shelters managed by JCDecaux. The posters were installed on the occasion of the COP21 conference on climate change, which starts today. Participants in the campaign include Barnbrook, Bill Posters, Fra.Biancoshock, Jon Burgerman, Listen04, Paul Insect, Revolt Design, Stanley Donwood, Unga, and many more.

Seeing as JCDecaux is an official sponsor of the COP21 conference, it makes sense that they would open up their bus shelters to messages about climate change. Of course, that’s not what happened. This was an unauthorized action, a mass ad-takeover organized by Brandalism, who say that the posters “highlight the links between advertising, consumerism, fossil fuel dependency and climate change.”

Here’s a video of the action:

And of course, more posters:

Fra.Biancoshok

Fra.Biancoshok

Barnbrook

Barnbrook

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Brandalism returns to the UK

June 4th, 2014 | By | No Comments »

About two years ago, a group got together to take over about 50 billboards throughout the UK in the course of a few days. It was the Brandalism project. And they are back. Last month, Brandalism brought together the work of 40 artists, including a few very big names, to replace 365 bus-shelter ads in 10 UK cities. The results are beautiful and impressive. Here are a few of my favorites (okay, it’s a lot, because there’s a lot of great work in this project):

Escif in London

Escif in London

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Brandalism: Mass-takeover of British billboards

July 17th, 2012 | By | 9 Comments »

Paul Insect in Leeds

Brandalism is a large-scale billboard hijacking project up right now throughout England. The organizers have put artwork over ads in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and London over the past few days, and they’ve worked with dozens of artists from 8 countries to do it. So far, about 35 billboards have been taken over and replaced with art, but there may be as many as 50 when the project is finished. The project calls itself the “the world’s first international, collaborative subvertising project,” which is not true, but it is still very exciting and a high-impact way to show what could be in our public spaces instead of advertising. Some fantastic artists have contributed to the project including Jordan Seiler, OX, Ron English, Cleon Peterson, Paul Insect and Know Hope.

You can read more about Brandalism in The Independent or on the project website.

Check a bunch more disruptions from the Brandalism project after the jump… Read the rest of this article »


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