When artists and designers respond to the commercial, political, social or physical world around them, they don’t always play by the rules.
Mat introduces us to five creatives/collectives who ‘step over the line’ to make work.
“It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”– Grace Hopper, computer programming pioneer and US Naval Officer
As an audience, we understand the rules by which media plays, with messages originating and carefully transported through familiar channels – publishers, galleries, TV, and advertising – at great expense. But there is a long tradition of artists, designers and groups of people who disobey and blur the borders of accepted channels and permissions to make us question the messages we receive.
From the Dada and Situationist International movements of the 20th century, to the “culture jammers” of the 21st, people have intervened in public and corporate spaces to make their voices heard. To learn more about culture jamming (the manipulation of corporate advertising to challenge consumerism) check out infamous culture jammers Adbusters on their website.
Sometimes these challenges are made to make a socio-political point; to question authority; or make ourselves visible. Sometimes they transgress just for the joy of playing in the spaces between what is expected. In doing so they help us appreciate the everyday world around us. Below are a few creatives who represent this approach in their work.
Featured image credit: ‘Our Pink House’, a public art project by Olek.
Yarn Graffiti: Craft Activism
Also known as guerrilla knitting or yarnstorming, yarn graffiti is a type of street art which uses knitting and crochet to reclaim and humanise public spaces – literally wrapping the city in a blanket. Participants take pre-knitted swatches, sculptural pieces and amigurumi figures (Japanese yarn creatures), and use them to adorn anything from street lamps, letterboxes and fences to larger objects like buildings and vehicles. Although less permanent than spray graffiti, it is still technically illegal.
Guerrilla Girls: Art Activism
This group of female artists formed in 1985, concealing their identities behind gorilla masks. Defining their mission to be “the conscience of the art world” they use wit and interventions to highlight the disparity in representation, salaries, prestige and exposure for female artists.
Led By Donkeys: Media
“Lions led by donkeys” is a phrase originating from the First World War, describing the soldiers sent to their deaths by incompetent generals. Over 100 years later, it’s the name adopted by an anonymous group of “four men with a ladder” who use billboard advertising hoardings to remind the public of contradictory statements made by leading politicians about Brexit.
Another billboard campaign that drew attention was the “Are You Beach Body Ready?” advert for Protein World. Although the Advertising Standards Authority defended the adverts against accusations of body shaming, a public backlash resulted in posters being defaced (often in creative ways) and the slogan subvertised from “Beach Body Ready” to “Each Body’s Ready”.
Jevh Maravilla and Christian Toledo –Art Direction
Eating at McDonald’s in Pearland, Texas, students Jevh Maravilla and Christian Toledo noticed that there were no Asians represented in the lifestyle posters adorning the walls. Seeing a blank wall in the restaurant they realised they had an opportunity to change this.
Jan Vormann:Public Art
Some of these artist’s work feature adult language and nudity.
Take these artists and works as inspiration but please bear in mind that the boundary between legal protest/public art and illegal vandalism/trespass is often unclear.