How Détournement Was Used as a Weapon in 15-M Protests Favorite 



May 15 2011


Puerta Del Sol, Madrid, Spain

Just over a decade ago on May 15, 2011, a wave of social outrage began as the Spanish people collectively decided that they had had enough of the corruption, cuts, and inequalities affecting their country. 15-M was a movement that drew thousands of people out to the streets in 50 cities, where they camped out for over a month as they protested a multitude of issues including, but not limited to: evictions, labor rights, police brutality, corruption of banks, a lack of transparency within their government, etc. One of the major ways in which the people used art in protest against these institutional problems was through détournement. Détournement is a creative method that takes existing cultural material, media messages, advertising slogans, etc., displayed in public and modifies them—often with parody, satire—to subvert them with new, political messages.

Détournement takes place in 15-M, most famously on a billboard in the middle of Puerta Del Sol that was originally an advertisement for L’Oréal hair products featuring Spanish actress, Paz Vega. The poster advertisement was “defaced” in more ways than one. There was a play on words with the brand name L’Oréal as artists covered up the first two letters and put the words ‘democracia’ before it and ‘ya’ after it which spelt out 15-M’s acclaimed slogan ‘Democracia Real Ya.’ A poster of Nazi leader, Heinrich Himmler wearing Mickey Mouse ears was put next to Paz Vega representing a perceived connection that capitalism has with authoritarian regimes and the unruly way that the system controls people. There was a map of the world with red dots on the places which stood in solitude with the protestors along with the words “Este es nuestro apoyo seguimos creciendo” (This is our support we continue to grow). There was also a large banner hanging off the advertisement that had a huge red flame painted on it along with a long, red fire hose that did not spit out water that contained the words “Quemados con el sistema” (Burned with the system). These are four examples of the vast amounts of détournement that was showcased in Puerta Del Sol during the time period that 15-M took up.

Détournement is one of the many artistic actions that gave the 15-M movement power and allowed it to become the vigorous and massive act of political participation that it became. By taking a commercial advertisement in the heart of Madrid and manipulating it to speak out against the political, social, and financial concerns of the people is poetic in the way that it basically used the capitalist’s own words against them.

Posted by Emma_odo on

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