This week saw the world's first collaborative 'subvertising' campaign on outdoor billboards across the UK, as twenty six top artists challenged the destructive impacts of the advertising industry. Thirty five sites in cities across the UK, including Manchester, Bristol, Leeds and London, were hit by guerrilla artists in a show called Brandalism - The Art of Self Defence.
Here in Salford, a wall hoarding at the site of the Liverpool Street gasworks, made famous in Ewan McColl's Dirty Old Town, was subverted with an ironic artistic comment on energy consumption and its affects on the planet.
The image, by an artist called Polyp and called Earth Candle, shows a polluting oil rig, with its flame melting the earth.
"The gasworks was a well chosen site as the artwork is about endless economic growth and how corporate interests are burning the planet, wrecking the eco system and contributing to climate change" Robert Graysford, one of the artwork installers told the Salford Star
"The project as a whole is about drawing attention to multiple social ills with advertising and consumerism and the resulting use of the earth's resources" he added "The advertising industry takes no responsibility for the messages they force-feed us every day. They claim to give us choice but we have no choice to 'opt out' from these intrusions into our public and personal spaces."
Street artists including Ron English, Robert Montgomery, Broken Fingaz, Know Hope and Banksy collaborator Paul Insect contributed art works which were timed to be displayed just before the London 2012 Olympics and commented on a range of social issues including debt, the environment, body image, consumerism, cultural values and last summer's riots. The Salford and Manchester hoardings followed on from a top piece of subvertising in January by the Manchester Climate Action Group (see here). Brandalism is the artist's revenge on (m)Ad Men…
"We're lab rats for ad execs who exploit our fears and insecurities through consumerism" said Robert Graysford "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".
* The Salford Star went back to the site of Earth Candle today, only to find it had been replaced, ironically, by a car advert…
To see all the artworks in Brandalism - The Art of Self Defence, beginning with Polyp's images click here and then click on the individual artists
For more details on Brandalism see http://brandalism.org.uk/