Cultural Hijack



The Exhibition runs daily at the Architectural Association School of Architecture, 36 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3ES from  25th April - 26th May 2013.

Cultural Hijack presents a survey of provocative interventions which have inserted themselves into the world, demanding our attention, interrupting everyday life, hijacking, trespassing, agitating and teasing. Often unannounced and usually anonymous, these works have appropriated media channels, hacked into live TV and radio broadcasts, detourned billboards, re-appropriated street furniture, subverted signs, monuments and civic architectures, exposed corporations and tax loopholes, and revealed the absurdities of bureaucratic behaviours. 

The exhibition positions itself at the intersection between art, politics and social justice in an historical moment, as we witness a rising tide of global resistance to neoliberal capitalism through an expanding ‘movement of movements’, from Zapatismo to the Arab Spring, from alternative G8 summits to Occupy Wall Street. In the shadows of this moment, artists are joining in the writing of alternative histories, the reclamation of our rights to the city and the unfinished project of the revolution of everyday life.

In attempting to house these ideas together in an institution, we are mindful of the Architectural Association as an influential zone, where the physical future of Architecture and Urbanism is significantly shaped. We propose that the dissemination of the ideas and practices gathered for Cultural Hijack, might similarly shape the possibilities for us to occupy as yet unimagined futures, where user-generated cities and systems, that support individual and collective empowerment, become more prevalent.

Do small acts of resistance and creative disruption, build muscle that encourages an appetite for real alternatives to neoliberal capitalism or do they end point and sate such an appetite? And what of ‘commissioned resistance’, is it implicitly flawed, sponsored by the system it seeks to critique, or can it, despite its origins, have impact?

These questions & more, as well as yours, will be picked over in the CONTRAvention24th - 26th April 2013.

EPOS 257 (Czech) like many artists in the exhibition, works under a pseudonym. He sits at a table making oversized polyurethane paint-filled bullets to be fired from a giant shooting instrument at commercial billboards and antagonistic architectures in a gesture of reverse takeover. In response to Czech Republic’s first direct presidential elections EPOS cut out the heads of candidates from giant billboards and reinserted these ragged portraits in libraries and other public spaces.

Street artist Zevs (France),renowned for his liquidation logo series, used invisible ink (visible only under UV light) to paint the silhouettes of Mohammed Atta and Abdul-Azzia Al-Omari in the room they stayed in the night before the 9/11 attacks. In Visual Kidnapping the artist removes a giant 40ft woman from a Lavazza advert in Alexanderplatz, Berlin and subsequently running a three year campaign to ransom his kidnapped icon. The video in the show documents the ultimately successful pursuit of 500,000 Euros.

The interventions of Wermke & Leinkauf that explore urban infrastructures and architectures are translated into playful and poetic films of trespass and civil disobedience. „In Between“ („Zwischenzeit“)documents their exploration of the inner workings of the Berlin subway at night. Using homemade collapsible handcars that transport as backpacks they infiltrate the U-bahn and journey along its tracks at night.

Alan Dunn (UK) responds to familiar locations, intervening in his own daily commute to offer free art to people he shares buses with, station platforms and the streets he walks. Dunn collaborates to create multi-artist projects including billboards and a series of soundtracks for road tunnels and bus journeys, the color grey and music for a revolution. Artists' uses of the word revolution explores the phonetics of the word re-vo-lu-tionacross history.

Michael Rakowitz (USA) an artist of Iraqi-American decent explores the political discourses and public perceptions underpinning the West’s relationship to Iraq. In “Spoils” (2011) Rakowitz took over the menu of a haughty Manhattan restaurant to serve up traditional iraq dishes on rare pieces of fine China from Saddam Hussein’s personal collection. In a dramatic conclusion a cease-and-desist order resulted in the repatriation of the dinner plates by the Iraqi government. Rakowitz also creates a range of design solutions that exploit residual spaces for alternative city living. In his ongoing project paraSITE; Rakowitz works with homeless people to create custom built inflatable shelters that attach to ventilation ports.

Ztohoven (Czech) are group of artists who expose and exploit the cracks in the system, exploring citizenship and identity in Citizen K and probing the deep illusion of reality generated and manipulated by the media in Atomic explosion - mushroom cloud in a public TV broadcast.For this TV hijack Ztohoven hacked a live camera feed used for automatic weather forecast, inserting an explosion into the pan across the Krkonose mountains. In demonstrating the possibilities to intervene in these systems the group operate with a constant threat of prosecution and have twice successfully defended their actions in court.

Cyber activists and artists EDT (USA) are known for their electronic actions in support of the Zapatista movement. The EDT apply the tactics of trespass and blockade from earlier social movements to a form of electronic hacktivism called Floodnet that creates virtual sit-ins to attack oppressors’ websites, including the Pentagon and the Mexican Stock Exchange.
A recent intervention, the Transborder Immigrant Tool hacks cheap GPS mobile-phones to install a device for helping Mexican immigrants cross the U.S.-Mexico border, providing them navigation, spoken poetry, the location of highways, border patrols and water left by Border Angels.

The current corporate hijack of Caymans Islands businesses by Paolo Cirio (Italy) reminds us of the recent ‘tax shaming’ and our outrage at corporations such as Amazon, Starbucks and Google exploiting tax loopholes at a time of austerity cuts under crippling national debt. Loophole for All exhibits the art of corporate identity theft by offering the audience the privileges of offshore companies through the purchase and hijack of company identities. Cirio uses interviews with major experts to exposes the mechanics of institutional crime and alert us to the economic injustice of siphoning capital as a form of institutionalised crime against the people of undeveloped countries and us all.

The gallery serves as both a repository for documentation of live-intervention as well as the site of production in which the notion of the artist as an agent of radical social change extends to others. Seated around the fireplace a group of pensioners are engaged in storytelling whilst knitting tailored balaclavas for selected public statues around the city. Artists Ben Parry (UK) & Peter McCaughey (Ireland) engage a process of crowning forgotten and invisible heroes whose acts of liberation and radical dissent are brought back to the fore in a gesture of global solidarity. The black balaclava is not to conceal but to transform and awaken monuments as live participants; ‘behind the balaclava is the we that is you,’ and ‘the face that hides itself to show itself'.

Based in the city of Mumbai artist Tushar Joag (India) takes the performative aspects of street theatre and activism and translates those tools and methods into his own form of interventionist art. Among the many methods is the artist’s mock corporation UNICELL that mimics many of the absurdities of government bureaucracy, designs utility products for the citizens of today’s over-populated megalopolises and challenges the processes and outcomes of inequitable development as part of the recent history of social-political resistance of India’s urban poor.

This year marks the 10thAnniversary of the Invasion of Iraq and the concomitance of the largest anti-war rally in history, in an unprecedented international co-ordination of demonstrations. The work of Peter Kennard (UK) is activated by and interacts with the politics of major events. @earth a haunting and poignant photo essay charts this periodto include the impending eco-crisis and the power structures dominating today’s world.It serves in grounding all the work in the show which has all been made over this time period.

In 1985 Krysztof Wodiczko (Poland) a pioneer of large scale public projection as political art hacked his own state endorsed artwork for Trafalgar Square, by projecting a swastika onto the pediment of the South African Embassy, in solidarity with the demonstrations staged below against Thatcher’s support for the South African Government during apartheid. Wodiczko returns to the Capital this May to make his first public work in London in almost twenty years. Wodiczko’s Veteran Project works with soldiers who fought during recent armed conflicts and are returning to civilian life. The War veteran Vehicle transforms the voiced testimonies of veterans into a mobile sound and projection vehicle as words are fired onto the desired surfaces of public buildings and monuments.

BGL (Canada) known for their playful reflections on consumer culture, nature and human behaviour have been described as urban pranksters. Their interventions provoke significant encounters as accidental gestures that can’t be explained. Subterfuge, trickery and chance create situations that lie between reality and fiction in which uncertainty provokes cognitive dissonance and anxious self- reflection.

Tatzu Nishi (Japan)creates out-of-scale and out-of-place encounters in public spaces around the world, transforming street lights, parked cars and monuments, building new spaces around them and altering their setting. Stationed infront of the AA, Dig for Victory converts the everyday vernacular of building site with the expenditure of human labour power to create a sisyphian duration performance, as a worker loads earth onto contenated conveyor belts, relentlessly moving earth back round to the hole from whence it came.

Paul Harfleet (UK) continues his ongoing Pansy Project where the artist locates sites of homophobic abuse, and in a gesture of quiet resistance, takes soil from the nearest source and plants a single unmarked pansy.

During the night of 14 June 2010, actionists Voina (Russia) painted a giant 65 m long phallus on the surface of the Liteyny drawbridge leading to the Bolshov headquarters of the Federal Security Service in Saint Petersburg. Rehearsed in a parking lot, the action Dick captured by KGB, was completed in just 30 seconds before the drawbridge was raised. The group goals include the ‘rebirth of heroical behavioural ideals.. in the manner of Russian libertarian Decemberism, and the creation of lively romantic models in today`s soulless commercial conceptual art.’ With numerous arrests, some of the 20 or so criminal investigations into the group’s activities, are still ongoing...

Upper Space (UK) an organisation comprised of artists, academics, activists and community organisers engage issues of social, economic and environmental justice. Their arm of unsanctioned works explores alternative ideas of public space as a contested site of democracy. You can find them playing outside, around the edges of appropriate acts of citizenship...

Laura Keeble (UK) inserts her work in the streets and public spaces in the early hours when the workaday city sleeps. Nearly all of Keeble’s interventions are unsolicited, appearing overnight by necessity.

London-based street artist and subvertiser Dr D (UK) joins forces with situationist filmmaker and journalist Leah Borromeo (UK) in spontaneous street interventions designed to shock the viewer into questioning the injustice of public sector cuts across Britain and the repercussions of wanton capitalism.<p(Gallery / live / contravention) London based anarchitects Space Hijackers (UK), continue their battle against the oppressive encroachment of corporations, public institutions and urban planners in a bid to create a user-generated city determined by its citizens. Know for their Circle-line parties SH’s carnival approach to disruption means their lips are sealed on this one, though they said something about a cabin.

Yarnstorming from a secret underground wool-lined bunker in the heart of the busy metropolis of London, Knit the City (UK) Yarn Corps are a band of sneaky stitching graffiti- ‘knit and crochet’ artists with an ongoing mission to guerrilla knit the city of London, and beyond. They suggest their interventions encourage others to bring their own city to life in ways only they can imagine.

In ‘How to make a Happening’ Allan Kaprow (USA) lays out his anti-art thesis, in a call for others to attend to the meaning of experience in the places of everyday life through their own creations. Before his death Kaprow relinquished sole authorship of his scores whereby his initial versions were not seems as originals or permanent works, but ideas to be reinvented: [the reinventor]  is not copying my concept but is participating in a practice of reinvention central to my work.

With others [IPSS] will reintervention ‘Transfer’, ‘Calling’ and ‘Self-Service.’

The International Peripatetic Sculptors Society (UK+) makes instant unsanctioned public sculpture in the back alleys and forgotten spaces of cities across the world. Fusing the situationist tradition of dérive with Allan Kaprow’s invocation to reclaim the art of everyday life the society encourages transformation of the urban environment by small gestures of creativity.

The Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army [or CIRCA] (UK+worldwide) bring the surreal sight of a highly disciplined army of professional clowns to act against corporate globalisation, war and other issues.  In a carnival protest against the invasion of Iraq, CIRCA formed a welcome committee for 'arch-clown' George W. Bush on his visit to the UK. Rebel clowning is their own form of non-violent direct action and civil disobedience prominent at G8 summits. 

Zoe Young was a video journalist embedded with the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army from its inception in 2003. 
For Undercover Clown Cop: Lynn Watson Young filmed CIRCA's creation and operations from within, including a nationwide Ridiculous Recruitment Tour leading to the day in 2005 when hundreds of rebel clowns emerged from a yellow Scottish castle and onto the world's front pages. The full story must be seen to be believed...