Hogre, as well as being a well-known street artist, is also one of Europe’s most prolific ‘subvertiser’. He alters advertisements as a means to merge art with his thoughts on anarchism. His book, Subvertising, is the compilation of his work removing, replacing or defacing advertisements on billboards and bus stops over the last two years. Subvertising delves into a grey area to challenge political and social opinions.
We spoke to Hogre to find out more about Subvertising.
What is the book Subvertising, about?
It’s about an Italian immigrant in London with no cash, no home, and no job prospects of any kind. Mad skills in graphic design, but full of hate for the advertising industry and the images it produces. In short, it’s about me.
What was your process for creating the book?
I started by breaking open the bus stop shelters showing advertising, and then tried different graphic approaches to overturn the consumerist propaganda to something sharper. I used to do it by myself, and then supported by other people with a common attitude to sabotage: my friend Ilustre Feccia, Kay Cameron, the Special Patrol Group and others. As the subverted posters reinstalled under glass weren’t authorised, they generally had a short lifetime, so the book was created to document these interventions.
Why is subvertising so important?
It is like a thin little crack on an infinitely huge, eternally flat and unavoidably white wall. We live in a soft-dictature regime and advertising is its most direct form of propaganda. Subvertising, as an act of putting in discussion the mechanism of this propaganda, is potentially troubling for power, and consequently interesting for us.
What types of reactions do you see through your subvertising pieces?
There’s a range of reaction. There was once a couple obsessed by a poster that we installed, replacing an ad under glass. They were looking at it like it was the black monolith from Space Odyssey. They walked around it several times, studied the black frame and its glass from every angle. The subverted headline said, “Help Keep Your Neighbourhood Paranoid”.
What kind of impact do you hope to make through subvertising?
I think it can open a debate on the massive use of advertising and the management of public spaces. Just recently Bristol has started to talk about banning outdoor advertising, and that’s thanks to the action of lots of activists and subvertisers.
Why is typical advertising so detrimental to society?
Under the false appearance of constant innovation, advertising imposes a lifestyle that is always the same. It’s purpose is to create the perfect consumers. We are free to chose what to buy and what not to buy, but we can’t think of anything other than these two options. Just to make another example: we can quite easily boycott every fashion brand, but then, will we be able to consider ourselves “fashionable”?
How do you think subvertising will affect advertising, if at all?
If subvertising becomes widely spread, then advertising will be constantly overturned to something else until its basic function will be in vain.
Otherwise it can remain as it is now: a marginal movement useful to those who practice it as a psychic defense against the virus of consumerism. But it can also be transformed into something institutional (like graffiti has been, for instance), or even worse it could be reintegrated into advertising logics. In these cases advertising will need to change its standard aesthetic, and we will need to change revolutionary tactics to avoid conformism.
Do you consider your pieces to be legal or illegal?
We can say subvertising is unlawful. It is in a legal grey area that perfectly describe the context in which it is framed. Advertising is purposely presented as something harmless, like a little and marginal detail. You are not really forced to look at it, so you look at it. Oppression is more efficient when it doesn’t seem oppressive.
How has your artwork evolved to the creation of subvertising?
I started in 2007 with traditional graffiti and stencils. My approach to street art was correlated with the act of annoying private property, it was politicised from the beginning. Because of the recent evolution of this freak, I recognised it became impossible to communicate messages against our economic and social system with traditional street art. For radical art, the wall as a medium is fucked, every intervention (no matter if it’s legal or illegal) just increases the value of the property and contributes to the gentrification of the area. By moving to subvertising, I changed medium, but my attitude is still the same.
Thanks for talking with us, Hogre!
Images courtesy of Hogre
Find more of his work at: globalstreetart.com/hogre