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):
It’s a shortish link-o-rama this week, but with some really good stories and great walls…
ICHABOD is one of America’s great freight train writers. He also has Asperger’s Syndrome. This article by Caleb Neelon gives rare insight into the mind of a great graffiti writer and an artist with Asperger’s. It is a must read.
OX has the very admirable ability to look at the city and see the potential for art just about anywhere. He finds billboards, looks at what’s around them, and uses those surroundings to inspire his takeovers of billboard spaces. For OX, even things as seemingly mundane as a concrete wall can provide inspiration. If street art is about making people look at the city differently, OX has most other street artists beat. Here’s some recent work from him in and around Paris.
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.
This is one of the most perfect ad disruptions I’ve ever seen. OX did this takeover at the Bien Urbain festival in Besançon, France. Here’s why I think it’s nearly perfect:
It’s possible to not notice it. The piece can fade into the background of the environment (not just because the billboard matches the sky in this photo, but because it doesn’t try to grab your attention).
For the people who are familiar with the billboards and do notice the change, the takeover is something for them to think about.
It’s photographed well for online distribution.
The billboards themselves aren’t at ground level.
Now, that last pro and the con might not make immediate sense. In the case of billboard takeovers, I think that many of the best ones make it clear to viewers that they too can do exactly what the artist has done; that it’s not only OX who can or should cover up public advertisements. So on the pro side, this takeover is beautifully photographed and people who see this photo are probably more likely to be inspired than it it were a quick snap from OX’s camera-phone. As for the billboards not being a ground level, this sort of take over would probably have required a ladder or a long pole. Those aren’t particularly difficult things to get, but ground level billboards are even easier to disrupt, so photos of those takeovers might inspire more people to take action themselves than a more difficult billboard takeover.
Some of these thoughts about what makes a good ad takeover are based on similar ideas by Jordan Seiler, so definitely check out his site as well if this is interesting.
OX‘s billboard takeovers are site-specific and often draw on the environment around them. OX has hit this particular spot in Paris at least twice, so these are pretty good examples of his thought process when designing a billboard takeover for a particular spot.