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A small case of Subvertising in Rome
In the last few weeks we have traveled through centuries and styles, cutting diametrically across the field of artistic practice and its meanings. When we talk about art history, the past, archaeology or museology, typical areas of artistic investigation, often come to mind. We often forget about the present, because it is clearly in front of our eyes, imminent and not yet digested by anyone, alive (even if I believe that all art in some way is or should be). So it happens that we pass by contemporary works and do not notice them, or do not linger or observe them, do not get lost in them, because they are well camouflaged, and they do not seem to adhere to the (pre) “concept” of art that we have always been taught: art in the museum, art listed, art managed by a curator, art that we pay for, art of an elite, art made by…
If we talk about history, the same thing often happens; we see history as a past and elapsed event, over which we no longer have influence and can only examine. In doing so, we forget a fundamental detail: our history is the history we live now. My history and your history will be studied by posterity, but we are living it now, creating and shaping it. This makes us active players in historical processes, characters who enact and perform historical actions. The same applies to art and its history. The art of today is the art we live in our social context, with our contemporary protagonists and needs. It doesn’t mean that what we do today (or what was done yesterday) won’t also matter in tomorrow, and that all the art of the past isn’t also admirable and important as a process. The question is to remind ourselves to look around, at what is happening today, at how artists express themselves and create, because that reflects and tells about the society we share with them and co-create together and can tell us a lot about ourselves.
What is necessary for today’s art
It is increasingly evident that the places of art, the styles and above all the necessities that drive one to make art, have changed and will continue to do so as times change. For this reason, today, the art in museums is not sufficient to represent the artistic spectrum of the contemporary era. Many phenomena have emerged in the last four decades, first of all street art, which has slowly deformed and transformed the concept of art, in the direction of new horizons. Today’s art has invaded the social fabric more than ever, in a horizontal form that perhaps in the past had never been so extensive. It is as if the banks of what was defined as “artistic” in previous centuries have been broken and the need for expression at all costs, in all its forms, has taken over. Contemporary art, today’s art, we find it in the streets, in ordinary people, in communities and absolutely even in the ether, in the internet, today more than ever a real space in the real. Today’s art, and this morning’s art in particular, needs to question and challenge the historical context in which it exists. To question daily how the world is structured and how it is experienced.
Artistic attack in Prenestina
At dawn this Monday, Rome woke up under an artistic attack, one of those provocative and liberating at the same time. One of those silent actions that try to move the daily routine of the city, from which we are often addicted, so much so that we forget that it belongs to us and not vice versa. We go on like automatons, we no longer look for error, diversity, rupture. Art takes care of this, as always a cultural earthquake, because if we didn’t think sometimes about the superfluous and beauty, life wouldn’t be worth it.
So an attack of Subvertising has shaken Piazza Vittorio, and then Manzoni, San Giovanni and Prenestina, and the thing is incredible, because we of Open Art Images have been made protagonists.
Subvertising is the encounter between urban art and activism, an active critique of reality, mediated by art or at least creativity (subvert: to subvert and advertising: advertising).
“…creative vandalization of advertising posters and a form of culture jamming (cultural sabotage) employed by various collectives and movements against the consumerist system of society and the monopoly of advertising in urban visual space.”
This art form is fundamental because it is immersed in our history. It represents the spontaneous reaction to all the changes in mass society and mass media. It makes us understand how the creative practice has entered popular culture and has become a means of expression of different social subjects who seek new forms, freer and more focused, of storytelling, protest and aggregation around specific issues.
Steal This Poster
The action was carried out by anonymous activists, but the graphics were circulated on the digital platform Steal this poster https://stealthisposter.org/ .
This platform, an archive of subversive posters, was created with the intent to facilitate the spread of Subvertising, creating awareness in individuals about their potential for action and reaction to events. “Clean walls, dumb people” is the saying that best explains the need to intervene in reality and not passively submit to it. The city is the battlefield, the microscope for understanding global macro-trends. The city is our space, it belongs to us, we must live it and use it as a means of understanding and change. Regaining the spaces stolen by the intesive advertising is what Steal This Poster wants to do. We became the protagonists of their campaign because they have understood the importance that a platform like Open Art Images assumes in the cultural context of our century: a step towards the liberation of art and the sharing of knowledge. As I’ve already said, the languages of today always pass through the web, and many projects are born and developed through digital platforms. Culture is now everywhere on the web, and counterculture must respond appropriately to this invasion.
Art is Yours, search and download it
The posters that appeared around Rome say: “Art Is Yours, search and download it”, the art is yours, the art is everyone’s, search and appropriate of it! Then the link to the Open Art Images platform, as if to say “Easier than this”. This sentence is a hymn to action, to cultural independence with respect to all institutions and especially to the phenomena created by crippling socio-political dynamics that control, manage and speculate on the world’s cultural resources. The most positive thing about internet is the discovery of accessibility and what is still often considered a crime, today more than ever should be a right to make the web a horizontal place: download, share, access. The art system has to adapt in order for information to circulate and in this sense the recent global pandemic has facilitated access to cultural resources via the web. Open Art Images has also made this objective one of its key points and Steal This Poster wanted to pay homage to it and bring this message to the bus bench where everyone waits.
Where advertising generates visual pollution, invasive graphics, sensory overstimulation, Subvertising tricks the brain and forces the eye to stop, slow down and pay attention (captured by a short circuit in the “normality”, contradictory and subversive), something that in the last century we are gradually unlearning.
Let’s remember that art is always an action, most of the time it is an action aimed at beauty, and of this beauty a part must be protected from speculation and inequality because for everyone it is the right to have a little poetry in their lives. For everyone it is the right to interact with the environment and urban space but also to decide what kind of entertainment and cultural influences we want to accept around us. Over the years, collectives and realities such as Guerrilla Girls, Brandalism, Guerrilla Spam, but also Banksy, Theatre of the Oppressed, Keri Smith and artists such as Francys Alyd, investigate action and art as a detonator for social consciousness. All that is public art, understood in public space and for people, is contemporary and chronicles, often with shocking and simple intensity, the disintegration of a world and perhaps the creation of a new era.