The Scottish artist, Robert Montgomery, like countless street artists who came before him, hijacks billboards and bus stops to display his melancholic verse. For ten years, he’s been replacing ad pitches with poetry and presenting commentary on culture, ranging from consumerism to beauty in bold white type set against a black background. Though not really a street artist, Montgomery takes inspiration from the Situationist tradition of 'détournement' – capturing the audience’s attention in unexpected ways within the public realm.
In his latest show, at London’s KK Outlet, the featured work references the Occupy movement, Capitalism and its moral failures, as well as what freedom means in the city today. Promoting ideas that strike a chord with each passerby, Montgomery seems an artist very much aligned with the struggles of this generation. And in describing the straightforward nature of his work, Montgomery shared his thoughts on advertising, his writing process, and the Occupy movement.
Share with us how you feel about advertising and its place in society?
Advertising is the collective unconscious, the “group mind” of our society. Unfortunately it is often too stupid for its audience, and worse than that sometimes evil, although it can be used for good (John & Yoko’s “War is Over” billboard in Times Square for example).
In your current show, you have created a series of three large poetic billboards referencing Capitalism, the Occupy Movement, and the idea of freedom in the city. Can you address what you hoped to convey to the public with these pieces?
I wanted to convey that our current very narrow and extreme version of Capitalism, which is based on over-simplified Reaganomics and relies on the wealth of the investment banking class “trickling down” to everyone else instead of investing in free healthcare and free education, which we could do very painlessly, is a historical mistake. And I wanted to convey that Occupy is good and positive and should be listened to and not marginalized.