Stated Search


Featured in Alltop



ART: Brandalism: Reclaiming the UK Visual Landscape

(Artist - Bill Posters (UK) // Site specific install, Primary School, Manchester. Image via

“Any advertisement in public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It belongs to you. It’s yours to take, rearrange and re-use. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.” 

- Paraphrase by Banksy of graphic designer/writer Sean Tejaratchi in Crap Hound no. 6, July 1999. 

This well-known quote neatly sums up the philosophy behind The Brandalism Project, a group of UK artists who have launched what they are calling, “the world’s first international, collaborative subvertising project.”

“We are tired of being shouted at by adverts on every street corner,” Brandalism state on their website, “so we decided to get together with some friends from around the world and start to take them back, one billboard at a time.” 

In the run up to the London Olympics, 25 Brandalism artists assailed over 30 billboards and other advertisements in Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol, and London and used them as canvases to create original art. Some Brandalists modify the text or visual elements of a billboard in order to turn its commercial message on its ear, as in the various “warning” pieces by artist Shift//Delete; others simply paper over the advertisements or install their work on blank billboards.  

Artist Dr. D describes the group’s project as “taking the piss with a purpose,” but this description belies the ambition behind Brandalism’s attempt to “[challenge] the authority and legitimacy of the advertising industry.” While quite different stylistically, Brandalism’s efforts to date all seek to call attention to what the artists see as the pernicious rhetoric of advertising, prompting consumers to consider the possible consequences should they accept or take action based on commercial messages without thinking about them critically. Individual works take aim at sportswear, fast food, and other megabrands, or comment on issues such as corporate greed, sweatshop labor, and the concept of copyright.

(Artist - Shift Delete (UK) // site specific install in East Manchester. Image via kind of culture jamming Brandalism practices is not new, of course, but rather belongs to a long and rich tradition of subversive art that has roots at least as far back as the Dadists and includes Adbusters, The Billboard Liberation Front, Andy Warhol, Banksy (who coined the term “brandalism”), and dozens of other influential artists, among them American Ron English of “Popaganda” fame, whose name appears on Brandalism’s roll call. Brandalism is noteworthy, however, because of its ambition and scope and because it is a collective effort that, moreover, brings together artists from both street art and conceptual fine art.

In an interview with CBC Radio, Brandalist Robert Montgomery, whose own art involves replacing billboard messages with politically charged poems, resists describing Brandalism as a group, but says it is instead, ”very organic,” and, “an exhibition, really.”

(Artist - Eyesaw (UK) // install in Central Bristol. Image via Montgomery points out, by virtue of the 30-odd billboards targeted thus far, it is reasonable for Brandalism to declare that it already has achieved its stated aim of being “the largest reclamation of outdoor advertising space in UK history.” What remains to be seen is what happens next—for instance, will new works continue to appear? Will brandalism extend its efforts outside the UK or perhaps prompt similar efforts in other countries? Brandalism promises regular updates via its website.

Photography is a necessary adjunct of street art in general and the galleries below represent the permanent visual record of the group’s pieces to date, most if not all of which will have been removed already by property owners or the authorities. 


Further Reading:

« PERFORMANCE: The Actors' Roundtable: "Rhythm" | Main | ADVENTURE: Mongol Rally: Launch Party »

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>