The London 2012 Olympics are less than two weeks away with the promise of crowds of people filing into the nation, taking in the games, as well as the UK’s celebratory decoration and giant billboards, of which there are over 100,000. Artist collective Brandalism has taken it upon itself to reclaim these massive advertising platforms, replacing them with their own artistic criticism of our consumer-based society that seems to be negatively fueled by ads. While many may argue that they are not swayed by advertising, it’s difficult to refute how exposed we all are to print ads, commercials, audiovisual promos, and product placements on a daily basis.
The collective, whose name is a portmanteau of “brand” and “vandalism,” consists of 25 street artists from 8 different countries that joined together in an effort to draw attention to the presence and adverse effects of advertising on the environment and human culture. Each site-specific installation, of which there are currently 33 in 5 cities, depicts a thought-provoking interpretation and commentary on what they creatively call “visual pollution” (more commonly referred to as print ads). Their form of “subvertising” seeks to expose the detrimental outcomes of ads overpopulating a nation and, thus, subconsciously affecting the people’s wants and purchasing decisions by creating “false needs and destructive desires.”
Brandalism expresses their belief that rather than engaging an audience in simply desiring a product, an advertiser’s job requires making people desire lifestyles and feelings that, if marketed correctly, leads people to believe that it can only be achieved by obtaining, buying, and consuming said products. “For while advertising tells us to treat ourselves because we’re worth it, it also implies that without the right mix of possessions, we’re simply not worth it,” the collective points out. “If owning the right clothes, shoes and gadgets means gaining the opportunity to find friends and lovers, success, popularity and status, the flip side is that those who lack them will face loneliness and marginality.”