See How Artists Are Striking Back Against Corporate Greenwashing in Paris
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris, French police have discouraged mass protests over the COP21 Climate Conference. But thanks to hundreds of satirical billboards popping up around the city, no crowd is needed to call out some of the conference’s corporate sponsors for their unsustainable business practices.
A Volkswagen poster with the message “We’re sorry that we got caught” is just one example of the more than 600 posters that have been installed across Paris by the guerilla artist collective Brandalism. The creatively minded activists hijacked the city’s advertising spaces on Friday ahead of the climate talks, which began on Monday.
Though Volkswagen admitted in September to cheating vehicle tests that measured carbon dioxide emissions levels, the German car giant is listed as one of the conference’s sponsors—and they’re one of many corporate giants Brandalism accuses of hypocrisy.
“The multinationals responsible for climate change can keep greenwashing their destructive business models, but the communities directly impacted by them are silenced,” said Bill Posters, a U.K.-based Brandalism artist, in a statement. “It’s now more important than ever to call out their lies and speak truth to power.”
Other corporate sponsors being parodied by the ads include the French airline AirFrance and American chemical corporation Dow Chemicals. The posters also target world leaders, including President Obama, French president Francois Hollande, and British prime minister David Cameron.
The unauthorized artworks from over 80 renowned global artists were illegally placed in advertising spaces owned by JCDecaux, one of the world’s largest outdoor advertising firms and an official climate talks sponsor. Brandalism artist Lindsay Parker says the advertisements have been received positively with the Parisian community and even people across the world.
“I believe that anything that allows us to speak up for climate justice has been welcomed,” Parker, who lives in Maine, wrote to TakePart. “They have attempted to hush our voices, but we won’t stand for that. We are a part of a movement! We’re holding hands with thousands of like-minded people around the world who are gathering, writing, spreading art, and speaking out.”
Though it’s unclear whether Brandalism will put up more posters, artist Joe Elan said the collective hopes to highlight the corruption in modern advertising.
“We are taking their spaces back because we want to challenge the role advertising plays in promoting unsustainable consumerism,” said Elan in a statement. “As is the case with the climate talks and their corporate sponsored events, outdoor advertising ensures that those with the most amount of money are able to ensure that their voices get heard above all else.”