“Advertising billboards are like huge windows, oversized paintings, hanging in the city,” OX once said about his billboard takeover practice. This April, Cologne has become richer for a set of street interventions executed by this renowned French artist and one of the most influential culture jammers today. We endeavored to this West German city and observed OX during his appropriation of ten billboards. This ephemeral project is meant to enliven the cityscape for however long it may survive, while it was created on the foundations both Street Art in general and OX’s unique expression.
Creating a Series of Cologne Billboards
As announced by the artist himself, the series of ten Cologne billboards is stylistically akin to his previous work. Some of the paste-ups are treated in a sculptural way, interacting with the environment both visually and physically, while some are “disturbed” even further by another layer – another image placed over the initial visual solution. The recognizable geometry and graphism of these works correspond with the city’s landscape, which served as an immediate inspiration to the artist. Bold colors and clear-cut geometric shapes form striking messages, at times supported with written words. These purified objects of visual communication emerge from OX’s creative process based on elimination and subtraction, conducted until the final result is cleared of excess pictorial weight. Although the visual impact of OX’s takeovers is their strongest aspect, works from series such as this are largely conceptual.
To Claim Locations in the New Cityscape
OX is known as a billboard hijacker, an artist who endeavors in illicit interventions in the public space. The creation of ten Cologne billboards, therefore, puts the artist in a new role, challenging him to think through the restrictions of a new cityscape and stay true to his practice. Working at a faster pace to devise ten artistic solutions, OX has considered every aspect of the given billboard locations. In this tense, energetic creative process, the artist successfully produced a legal series of works, but managed to keep the same conceptual approach he has while working elsewhere in Europe.
A Visual Shock to Provoke Thinking
Imposing graphic elements used by OX serve his goal to cause “a moment of discontinuity with the common surroundings.” Billboard has proven to be the perfect carrier of his interventions as a space normally used to deliver messages. However, OX does not use this advertising surface in the same way, but rather breaks it into absurd decorative parts and ironic imagery, provoking emotions and thought. Fleeting as an insightful spark, his works in the public space are always destined to be ephemeral, while their impact on the viewer is designed to linger for long after their removal. Emotions this French artist’s work usually awaken often start with humorous relief and appreciation for his wit, but after a very brief consideration, a viewer is confronted with more sophisticated and serious meanings. By juxtaposing the innocent and the bleak, OX diverts from the original content of the billboard “in order to integrate them even more in the moment“. Even though his work is not devised “to cause the fall of advertising“, OX does draw the attention to the disturbing effects of the advertising process, pointing out the contradictions and the lack of real substance. “I like the aesthetic of shock,” he says and indeed, his works are essentially designed to jump-start the thinking process in the most surprising fashion.
OX’s Billboards Against the Visual Pollution
On a wider scale, OX is definitely one of the artist-warriors coming to the public aid with a refined, yet powerful visual language. His billboard takeovers are meant to serve as artistic breaks, glimpses of the absurd or sublime, and triggers to altering the perception of the viewers about the deteriorating effect of visual pollution. Reaction to OX’s work is imminent, unavoidable, as they appeal to the human emotions on a universal levels. Clever superpositions of pictorial matter and witty graphic-verbal solutions are there to briefly entertain, yes, but also to start the meditative process on the broader importance of art, in the public space and outside of it.
Scroll down for images of OX in action and his final interventions.