John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
A public apology from Volkswagen: “We’re sorry that we got caught.”
Travel around Paris this week and you might run into some unusual public ads: an Air France billboard proclaiming, “We’ll keep on bribing politicians and emitting greenhouse gases”; a Volkswagen promotion saying, “We’re sorry that we got caught.”
Is the world’s worst marketing agency on the loose? Actually, the 600-or-so altered ads are the work of street artists working with Brandalism, a shadowy group that since 2012 has replaced European billboards with activist messages and art. Their latest hack from this weekend takes aim at global-warming denial and the corporate forces opposing climate action, right before the Paris climate talks (known as COP21) are scheduled to begin.
From the group’s website:
Following on in the guerilla art traditions of the 20th Century and taking inspiration from Agitprop, Situationist and Street Art movements, the Brandalism project sees artists from around the world collaborate to challenge the authority and legitimacy of commercial images within public space and within our culture.…
All the artwork is unauthorised and unsigned. This is not a project of self-promotion, and none of the artists names… or websites appear on the works: we believe there are already enough private interests taking ownership of our streets.
Here’s a sampling of what’s popped up in the city; for many more images, visit Brandalism’s gallery.