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3rd June 2017

Rogue Propaganda: Darren Cullen's anti-tory artwork takes to the streets

It always seems weird to refer to the run-up to an election as ‘election season’, as if somehow there were a way of being seasonal about it; specific greetings and outfits to employ, the traditional election night feast to prepare, etc. We do get the decorations out though, the streets festooned with competing propaganda - and protest art.
This season the volume of responses from the art world has been overwhelming, as various tactics are employed to grab out at whatever/ whoever lies outwith our persistently referenced echo chambers. It comes as no surprise to find the work of satirical artist and tabloid fury generator Darren Cullen amongst those responses. Having produced a pamphlet detailing the horrors of Tory rule, Cullen went on to raise enough money to print 20,000 copies of the ‘anti-tory propaganda’ (his words) for distribution in marginal constituencies around the UK, but the project has since unfolded in an unexpected manner.
Having made the imagery available to download and print via toriesout.co.uk, the work has been adopted by the subvertising movement and is being illegally inserted into advertising spaces on bus stops and tube trains around London. Like much of Cullen’s work, the subvertising movement appropriates corporate and political advertisements, drawing on the cognitive dissonance experienced by the viewer to deliver a message in opposition to that which it parodies.
The artwork itself is brutal in its depiction of the consequences of Tory policy. “We’re not shooting the sick and disabled in the street, but it gets the same results” one says, referencing the 9,850 sick or disabled people found to have died after having their benefits sanctioned or removed. “Theresa May Would Follow Donald Trump to the End of the World” reads another, the terrifying prospect of being led by the USA into a world-ending nuclear war laid bare.
Cullen himself says he can’t condone the illegal methods being used to spread the project’s message, but he’s glad the realities of the political situation are being shared. Considering the implications of further Conservative rule, we can only agree.
Discover more of Darren Cullen’s tabloid-baiting work at spellingmistakescostlives.com.
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