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Brandalism: liever kunst dan reclame

Foto Bill Posters

In het Verenigd Koninkrijk is er een beweging die reclame op billboards vervangt door kunst. Reclame is volgens hen ‘visuele vervuiling’.

Inside the anti-advertising movement that’s recruiting ad agency workers to destroy billboards and replace them with art

To understand Brandalism — a movement that illegally replaces outdoor ads from billboards and bus stops with art — you need to look back to the UK summer riots of 2011.

For five days that August, thousands of Britons demonstrated their frustration at the establishment by rampaging through city-centers, looting or destroying whatever consumer trinkets stood in their way. Overall, across the country, the rioters caused around £100 million ($142 million) of damage.

One of the people who participated wrote in The Guardian that the riots resulted from anumber of frustrations: at the politicians for their greed with expenses, at the media for hacking phones, at the government for bailing out the banks, and at the police for abusing its powers to stop-and-search black and ethnic minority citizens. And, of course, there were simply some opportunists who simply wanted to join in to be part of the moment or to steal goods.

However, Brandalism founder Robert Marcuse says that the advertisement and marketing industries were also partially to blame.

Marcuse told Business Insider: “Advertising tells us we want and need these goods. Mixed with Britain’s class structure, social inequality, and financial exclusion, the riots became an opportunity … so it’s not as simple as to say ‘Oh, advertising caused the riots,’ but it’s one of the factors,” he added.

Out of this anger, Marcuse and a group of his artist friends spawned Brandalism: a movement dedicated to reclaiming the outdoor, visual realm from corporate control.


According to Marcuse, it’s not very hard to “brandalize.” All you need is a high-visibility jacket,  a “H60″ allen key, and a correctly-sized piece of artwork. Brandalism’s first major project came in 2012, in an effort to undermine the “brand mania” surrounding the London Olympic Games.

“By and large, we’ve been able to use globalization and standardization to our advantage in that all the models in the advertising cabinets are largely the same,” Marcuse said.

But why outdoor advertising in particular? Marcuse explained that when buying a magazine, or watching a particular TV channel, the consumer is to some extent consenting to being shown ads. By contrast, in the outdoor space, there’s often no choice.

Marcuse said: “It’s part of the rebellion against corporate control of the visual realm, meaning those with the most amount of money can put their messages in front of everyone, without our permission. This particularly applies to outdoor advertising, so the bus stop, and road-side billboards.”

Brandalism takes inspiration from Sao Paolo, Brazil, which banned outdoor advertising in 2007.

“They deemed it visual pollution, just like exhaust fumes polluting our airwaves or industrial pollution in our rivers,” Marcuse said.