On the night of July 10, a few days before Trump's turbulent visit to the UK, Dazed magazine teamed up with New York's Illuminator crew to project messages on to London landmarks including Nelson's Column and the Houses of (boo, hiss) Parliament.
'EVICT THE GOVERNMENT', 'CANCEL TRUMP' and 'PROTECT THE NHS' lit up the night, just a few of the messages the mag sought from its readers via its culture jamming-inspired #AddressTheNation program. They launched a short film about it today, which you can watch below, and we had a quick chat with the magazine's print features editor Jack Mills and head of video Bec Evans to find out more.
GOOD TROUBLE: Why did you do this? Why the Illuminator crew from New York?
JACK: I worked on this project with Dazed’s head of video, Bec Evans. Essentially, it was an experiment to see if we can successfully pull off a project that hits on all the platforms we work on at Dazed — print, digital, social media and video… For our politically charged summer issue, I wrote a piece on a darkly funny, situationist-inspired activist scene called culture-jamming which started in San Francisco in the early 1980s (the movement went onto to inspire Chuck Palahniuk's novel Fight Club).
Culture jamming is, essentially, about reclamation: taking back public space from corporations and propagandists and using humour and knowledge of the law to send a message. One of the newer culture jamming groups I spoke to for the piece were Illuminator, an unbelievably bold and creative guerrilla projection group from New York. To bring the print piece to life on our digital platforms, I thought it would be interesting to invite them to create original projections for us, to project onto the iconic London skyline. On the particular week they flew down, it seemed like London had reached boiling point: Trump was visiting the UK for the first time, there was a heatwave, football was (or wasn’t) coming home, and key members of Theresa May’s cabinet quit their posts. The timing couldn’t have been better.
BEC: From a personal perspective, I have been wanting to do guerilla projections around London for about eight years, since I lived in Cartagena, Colombia and found that projections in the barrios were the only way to get films to those who couldn't afford to get in to the centre of town. I realised that as a medium, projection allowed you to reclaim public spaces and communicate ideas and creativity that are inherently connected to people who occupy – or should be able to have a say in – those public spaces.
You solicited messages from young people about issues. What were the key issues that came up and why?
JACK: We knew it was important our readers fuelled the messaging, telling us what they believe are the key issues affecting their freedoms and future. We couldn’t second-guess our audience, and wanted to amplify their voices and offer them a platform. We collated all the #addressthenation feedback and aspects like NHS under-funding and mental health awareness, Trump’s visit, student debt, and rights for the LGBTQ community (especially in light of the anti-trans incidents that happened at Pride) came through as the prescient issues.
From there, we wrote powerful invectives that sought to put pressure on these power sources. We knew these statements had to be sharply original, bold and even a little cheeky, so workshopping them was a long process. Also, we used a cover-line from the summer issue to keep it tied to print and the Dazed tone — ‘Youth is Revolting’. I looked at the kind of history-making placards that are still being shared — like the anti-Vietnam war polemic ‘Drop Acid Not Bombs’ and the iconic ACT UP banner, ‘If I Die of AIDS, Forget Burial, Just Drop My Body on the Steps of the FDA.’ Also, it was fun to reclaim the call-and-response technique of famous corporate slogans like ‘Have a break, have a Kit-Kat’. Projections like ‘Evict the government / see how they like it’ played on this kind of rhythm.
Were you worried you would be apprehended and sent to Trump’s gulag? Did you have any adverse encounters while doing it?
BEC: I was aware it was a possibility but I wasn't worried by the actual thought of myself being apprehended, I feel like I've been in scarier circumstances and English police aren't as bad as they are in many other places around the world – I was just worried about not being able to complete the project and losing all of the time and money we had put in to pulling it off. We had a funny encounter with a couple of people in Trafalgar Square, a drunk man, a busker… For advice, we talked to a few legal experts and activists who have performed similar stunts. We all know we have a right to protest, but we were careful to avoid using language that is objectively offensive — such as swear words, which could be seen by the police as anti-social.
JACK: We had a few 'It's Coming Home' mad-heads check out our projector in Trafalgar Square, which brought out our skills of distraction. We also had the GLC tell us we should move back ten feet behind an invisible line of jurisdiction, but even they couldn’t agree on where it was. We projected on to the monument behind their backs when they were talking to us. Considering the taxpayer had contributed to Trump’s visit – which most people in London were against – they didn’t really have a leg to stand on.
Photography Turkina Faso
Read an interview with The Illuminator on Dazed
And check out the Illuminator's site for tips on how to go about your own guerrilla projections
Author account for the Good Trouble hive-mind.