As the French state cracks down on public protests, a group of artists has devised a creative—and clandestine—way to illustrate public outrage at what they call the "corporate takeover" of the ongoing COP21 United Nations climate talks in Paris.
Naming their campaign "Brandalism," over 80 artists from 19 countries have plastered the French capital with 600 unauthorized pieces of art taking the form of spoof advertisements to critique the role of multinationals, from AirFrance to Dow Chemical, in the summit.
The works were placed in real spots owned by the advertising corporation JC Decaux, one of the many corporate sponsors of the climate summit. One image, included below, takes aim at Vokswagen's large-scale diesel emissions-fixing scandal.
"Following the tragic events on 13th November in Paris, the government has chosen to ban the big civil society mobilizations—but big business events can continue," said Bill Posters, a spokesperson for Brandalism, in a press statement. "The multinationals responsible for climate change can keep green-washing their destructive business models, but the communities directly impacted by them are silenced."
"It's now more important than ever to call out their lies and speak truth to power," Posters continued. "We cannot leave the climate talks in the hands of politicians and corporate lobbyists who created this mess in the first place."
The city-wide installation includes the contributions of well-known artists such as Paul Insect and Kennard Phillips, some of whom were featured in Banksy's satirical "Dismaland" this summer. The public display, and the process of installing it on Black Friday, is captured in the following video released by Brandalism, which has pulled similar "subvertising" stunts in cities across the United Kingdom.
The public art campaign builds on mounting civil society concern that the same corporations that deny science and drive carbon pollution are sponsoring and participating in the climate talks.
A report released in November found that four major COP21 backers—fossil fuel corporations Engie and Suez Environment, global banking giant BNP Paribas, and French utility Électricité de France—have histories of using underhanded tactics to protect their financial interests in "emissions-intensive industrial practices."
The massive Brandalism display was timed to coincide with the arrival of world leaders and corporate representatives for Monday's official kickoff of the talks. It follows a separate visual display on Sunday, when tens of thousands of shoes were arranged in the Place de la Republique in Paris to symbolize the large numbers that were expected to march before France imposed a ban on the demonstration.
Meanwhile, roughly 10,000 people defied the ban Sunday to form a human-chain protest in Paris, while tens of thousands marched in over 2,500 demonstrations across the globe.
Brandalism artists say they hope their visual displays can make a positive contribution to these mass efforts by exposing false solutions. "By sponsoring the climate talks, major polluters such as Air France and GDF-Suez-Engie can promote themselves as part of the solution—when actually they are part of the problem," said Joe Elan of Brandalism.