Art 23 November 2018 | 13:52

Activist street art highlights the dark side of Black Friday

23 November 2018 13:52

It’s Black Friday. This means that a piece of poverty porn video which looks like a cross between WWE Raw and Supermarket Sweep is probably starting to go viral right now. Which is fine because, you know, if people want to injure themselves over a discounted tele that’s their prerogative. We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in England, but that doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t be able to dive head-first into a riot of cheap deals if they want to.

But there was one person today who wanted to highlight another side of the valhalla of consumerism that is Black Friday. Bill Posters, a pseudonym used by the street artist and co-founder of activist group Brandalism, took to the streets early this morning to subvert the key marketing messages on advertisements in Manchester and London.

Aiming to draw attention to the negative impacts of consumer waste and ‘fast fashion’, he took aim at brands including Nike, Pretty Little Thing, Apple and Gucci. By keeping the branding the same but including his own anti-capitalist message, Posters believes that his work will make people think a bit deeper about their consumption this Black Friday.

One of the pieces of ‘subvertising’ that he installed was on a billboard outside a discount electronic store in Manchester City Centre. It depicts a photo-montage of young people from the world’s most infamous electronic waste dump – Agbogbloshie in Ghana, west Africa.

A place where young people make a living mining old computers and car batteries for raw materials. Over 15 million people around the globe – the majority women and children – earn their living as waste pickers, literally sifting through westerners waste to earn a living.

‘Instead of getting beaten up this Black Friday in shopping malls for a new TV we should probably be paying more attention to where the majority of our ‘recycled’ waste actually ends up,’ the street artist said today.

‘In low-income countries, 93 per cent of global waste is dumped due to inadequate urban provisions. Western countries can’t process their own waste, instead they sell it to other low-income countries in Asia and Africa. It wreaks of colonialism, we are literally taking a dump on millions of less privileged people with our waste.’

The controversial activist thinks that people just don’t consider the human cost of big marketing campaigns, which are ramped up into overdrive during this time of the year. ‘Like Nike’s recent marketing campaign,’ he says, ‘for people like Alhassan [a boy featured in the subverted ad] and millions more, there is no finish line: Each kilogram of copper or toxic precious metals that they retrieve from our e-waste buys their food, shelter and survival for the week with little hope of change.’

He added: ‘The devastating impact on the environment and the people that live and work in these mega-dumps comprised of our waste are far from the image and ideals that prompt us to take action and recycle in the first place.’ If Posters’ aim was to get us thinking about the environmental impact and human cost of this frantic surge of shopping, it’s hard to argue that he’s not achieved his goal.

Check out his video below.