Subvertising is a ‘portmanteau’ of subvert and advertising. It refers to the practise of making spoofs or parodies of corporate and political advertisements. This can be any kind of imagery that essentially ‘takes the piss’ of something that already exists. It is a very big concept among ‘street artists’ for creating controversy and getting people talking about real issues.
London has always been a hub for new and inventive ways of producing graffiti. It has turned from something ugly that people hate to something of substance that depicts a piece of art. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that there is no ugly tags of graffiti around the streets because there is. I am saying that when it is done properly, it can be something of great beauty. There are always going to be people that hate it and want it gone but with the uprise of ‘graffiti permitted areas’ we are seeing a significant rise in general talent. With Banksy breaking on to the scene in the 1990’s and Mr Bingo following suit in the past few years, we have seen controversial pun inspired work appear around London.
Mr Bingo’s “Hate mail” Banksy’s “Policemen” Both Google images
2014 was no exception, it brought as he/she is most commonly known..”The decapitator of East London” onto the scene. This masked artist has taken it upon themselves to create controversy and “right a few wrongs” by ‘decapitating’ the heads of billboard advertisements. ‘The decapitator’ has made his subject “mainstream advertisements.” By eerily removing the heads of famous advertisements and replacing them with gory stumps he has managed to portray as idea that these advertisements are faceless and corporate as well as eluding to the larger concept that we are all followers of society. The most interesting aspect for me is that they are done so well, if you are walking past in a rush you actually might not notice the advert had been tampered with. It is only when you look back or see a stream of them all next to each other that it becomes obvious it is ‘vandalism’ and on a larger scale, a political statement.
“The Decapitator’s culture jamming pieces are reminiscent of the style of popaganda artist Ron English, whose seminal work in billboard subvertising involved covering mainstream advertisements with his own art.” Jenna Wortham, Wired online magazine
Unfortunately the irony of work like this is could work against them. The reason they are ‘decapitating’ and ‘subvertising’ these images is because they believe such advertisements are faceless. However, by doing this they could actually be giving these “faceless corporate brands” more air time. Is this something they want?