No Blood For Oil: ChevWrong poster bombs

June 1, 2009 at 5:35 am 8 comments

I will not complain about my asthma, downloadable poster, truecostofchevron.com, 2009

I will not complain about my asthma, downloadable poster, ChevWrong Inhumane Energy series, truecostofchevron.com, 2009

Just a quick shoutout to a couple well-placed guerilla art pieces spied around town here in San Francisco in the past week or so. In anticipation of the May 27 Chevron shareholders meeting in San Francisco last week, some enterprising artist/activists last week bombed the city with printouts of the downloadable subvertisements from truecostofchevron’s ChevWrong Inhumane Energy ads. The poster brigade, which plastered the city with hundreds of the alternate ads, decided to take matters into their own hands after CBS Outdoor refused to sell billboard space to truecostofchevron, claiming that it didn’t accept “negative” advertising. The Inhumane Energy series cleverly skewers Chevron’s current greenwashing ad campaign that speciously utilizes earth-friendly taglines such as “I will leave the car at home more,” “I will finally get a programmable thermostat,” and “I will replace 3 light bulbs with CFLs.” As if.

I will try not to get cancer, downloadable poster over Chevron ad, truecostofchevron.com, 2009

I will ignore the toxic waste pits in my village, downloadable poster over Chevron ad, ChevWrong Inhumane Energy series, truecostofchevron.com, 2009

Truecostofchevron’s slick little numbers nimbly mimic Chevron’s fakey feel-good sentiments with lines including,  “I will not breathe when outside,” “I will try not to get cancer,” and “I will not complain about my asthma,” coupled with facts and statistics about Chevron’s environmentally unsound activities in Nigeria, the U.S., Burma, Ecuador, Iraq and other sites worldwide. As with any good detournement, the series simultaneously critiques, neutralizes and repurposes its source material, in this case simulating Chevron’s high-powered happy-smiley corporate propaganda in order to expose and deride the oil giant’s own hypocrisy.

No Blood For Oil, stencil, Bay Bridge lower deck, 2009

No Blood For Oil, stencil, Bay Bridge lower deck, 2009

I’ve also been appreciating the rawer but no less effective commentary on the link between big oil and the destruction of the planet that’s cropped up on the eastbound approach to the Bay Bridge. Stenciled onto a couple pillars on the Bridge’s lower deck is a simple image of a tank’s silhouette spouting a single a drop of blood. Direct, visual and to the point, the graphic needs no embellishment to gets its message across, even to the distracted driver speeding along the freeway. And though it may be ephemeral, its placement in the line of sight of thousands of drivers a day brings its message to where it’s most needed and where it can’t be ignored. Which is the most that anyone can hope for in combating the baldfaced corporate misinformation that bombards us every day.

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. mrpoopypants  |  June 1, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Chevron invented greenwashing.

    The very first greenwash ad was around 1971
    shortly after the first earth day.

    In the ad, chevron tells a sad tale of some trees dying around one of their refineries.
    Their heroic solution?
    They plant some trees that are more resistant to pollution.
    Do people care?

    This the company that had the biggest profit last year IN THE HISTORY OF CAPITALISM.

    Reply
    • 2. valeriesoe  |  June 5, 2009 at 5:09 pm

      Do people remember that campaign? People do! A particularly egregious example of greenwashing, I’m afraid. They started running in the mid-80s and ran for at least ten years. Apparently the campaign was pretty successful in turning around public opinion to favor Chevron, especially after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. Here’s some info:

      Polls which Chevron conducted in California two years after the start of the campaign showed that Chevron was the oil company which people trusted the most to protect the environment. Among those who viewed the ads, sales increased by 10 percent, while among the environmentally concerned target audience, sales jumped by 22 percent.

      Ad nauseum indeed.

      Reply
  • 3. chonk  |  June 1, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    How refreshing. Art that is purposeful, and requires quick feet.

    Reply
    • 4. valeriesoe  |  June 5, 2009 at 5:09 pm

      And that gets seen by lots and lots of people who need to see it.

      Reply
  • 5. B. Vergara  |  June 1, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    Hey Val — check out Joe Berlinger’s “Crude” (http://www.crudethemovie.com/) when it goes into wider release later this year (September in the Bay Area, I believe). Great, multifaceted, compelling stuff.

    Reply
    • 6. valeriesoe  |  June 5, 2009 at 5:43 am

      Thanks for the tip! I love muckraking & will be sure to see it.

      Reply
  • 7. ewaffle  |  June 7, 2009 at 6:25 am

    One forgets just how powerful something as simple as a poster on a wall can be–and then a campaign like this comes along to remind us once again.

    When I saw the “I will not complain about my asthma” with the Chevron logo at the top of this post I thought that it was a very strange way for Chevron to advertise itself. Another way it is delightfully subversive is that the superimposed headline and very earnest look of the asthma sufferer closely mimics some of the most egregious workplace “motivation” posters that simply won’t go away.

    As a person who slapped more than one poster on South Loop (Chicago) walls a long time ago, the simplicity of the tank stencil along with the audacity of the people who put it up on a very busy freeway. From the look of the concrete around the stencil it may be a popular place for political/guerilla art.

    Great post

    Reply
    • 8. valeriesoe  |  June 21, 2009 at 7:40 pm

      I knew you were an old revolutionary! Hurray for wheatpasters and stencillers everywhere!

      Reply

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