Thursday, 5 February 2009


Art for the Masses

Taking their name from Douglas Coupland’s Microserfs, London collective [deletia] replace ads with art.

With advertising concepts becoming more subversive, and ‘advertorial’ filling the pages of fashion mags, these days it’s tricky to tell what is advertising and what’s editorial. Our visual landscape is crowded with mass produced images from magazines, newspapers, TV and billboards, and -lets be honest- this landscape is mostly commercial. Doing their best to remedy this mass malady, London based radical art collective [deletia] have been buying up advertising space and replacing it with art since 2004.

Mancunian born fine artist Paul Stanley started [deletia] as a way to use our visual landscape, and the canvas of the mass media, to circulate original, non-commercial artworks. Texan born Lynn Harris joined Paul in 2006 and the collective is now 9 people strong. “Fundamentally [deletia] subverts advertising by giving away a free and original experience of art”, says Lynn, "which an ad could potentially achieve if it’s main goal was not to coerce you into buying product or brand.”

While it sounds like Lynn and Paul were bitten by the ad bug one too many times, Lynn’s experience project managing in the design and branding industries gave her insight into the motivations and processes of the commercial creative industries. This knowledge became “frames of reference and tools to unpick the making of the advertised surface. And while we understand the nature of advertising is that it eventually re-appropriates all opposition, we still feel it is our duty to try and test these limits.”

[deletia] have published their ‘editions’, as they’ve dubbed the artworks, in high profile magazines such as Art Review, Art Monthly and US art publication Cabinet, and more recently, magnificently plastered across billboards. Their most recent, ‘Point of Difference’ and ‘First Moment of Truth’, are both terms used in the design industries. (POD) Point of Difference refers to product or packaging asset(s) that set you apart from the competition and (FMOT) First Moment of Truth was coined by Proctor & Gamble to describe the first few seconds a product on shelf has to make an impression on you. (FMOT) is an image of a billboard turned to blackboard with the play on words ‘first moment of truth’ eclipsed by a sun flare, suggesting a dark revelation.

“We’ve changed the surface from a selling face to a reflective, learning space. The play on words can also be used to describe a religious realisation, a grand experience.” Explains Lynn, “By removing the motivation of the ad to sell product, to do something, more universally provocative or reflective with the space, to try to create more socially relevant messaging, we are trying to offer something new.”

The [deletia] billboard brings to mind the work of South London situationist collective Cut Up, who in 2006 bombed the city’s east end, slicing and rearranging billboards to create striking and meaningful works of art for the public’s pleasure.

“During the Paris riots of 68 the situationalists made posters saying Under the Pavement, The Beach! Perhaps [deletia] is trying to say Under the Advertising, Art!”

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