As part of an ongoing mission to optically energise major cities throughout Europe and the U.S., UNCLE is sponsoring artists, activists, designers and writers to originate visually striking image and/or text-based posters for display on the streets. Italian visual activist Biancoshock has come up with the goods…
Biancoshock’s poster features the Amazon logo cut in half and so made to look like a row of felled trees. It rankled the Milan based interventionist that ‘mention of’ or ‘searches for’ the word ‘Amazon’ nowadays doesn’t garner the world’s most important rain forest – lungs of the planet, but the ubiquitous delivery service.
The run up to Xmas is obviously one of the busiest times of the year for Amazon, the fifth richest company in the world. That wealth is rooted in global tax avoidance, questionable working conditions in factories, nigh-on slave labour in supply chains and a cataclysmic impact on our environment.
Biancoshock is famed for making incisive, thought provoking and wry critiques that address individual trauma as well as broader ecological and socio-political concerns. For one street project he offered small, medium and large swatches of bubble wrap to passers-by so they could choose which size to take depending on the degree of stress that needs assuaging. He’s built tiny rooms in Milan’s manholes and ‘dressed’ fissures in the city’s architecture with oversized Band-Aids.
He can even raise a droll smile even when advocating for downtrodden bike couriers. The Heavy Meal series of interventions – huge concrete roadblock cubes painted with various food delivery companies’ liveries – manage to look both preposterous and doleful. Imagine couriers’ bulky, cumbersome food delivery backpacks were made of concrete! It’s an apt representation for workers whose employment rights and conditions again amount to a form of contemporary serfdom. Except nowadays these bike couriers are subject to the whims of an algorithm, shackled by poverty and precarity rather than eking out a subsistence that’s beholden to landowners.
Biancoshock refers to himself as an ‘ephemeralist’ because, while his interventions always have a compelling visual, material and conceptual impact, they tend not to hang around for very long in physical space. As sources of critical light on matters of concern, however, they continue to glow bright in the memory.
The Amazon poster for UNCLE was originally intended for display in his hometown. However, it turns out the municipal crew who install street posters in Milan were panicked by Biancoshock’s plainly packaged protest. It’s hardly contentious to say – as the poster subtly does – that the ‘price’ we pay for Amazon’s is ‘deforestazione veloce ed illimitata’: ‘rapid and unlimited deforestation.’
So, after some wrangling, public display of the work was relocated to London. Milanese authorities explained that before they would consider displaying the poster in their city UNCLE would need to get written permission from Amazon. Well, as they say in Italy, that’ll happen when donkeys fly!
But hey, the show goes on… Biancoshock’s more than happy to see his work feature on the streets of London. Especially as the display coincides with the annual retail frenzy that is Black Friday. And UNCLE is thrilled to be working with such an inventive, astute, playful and principled individual.