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So, Cats Took Over All the Ads in a London Train Station

It looks like a world where Egyptian cat worship is still in vogue.
Images courtesy Glimpse Collective

Inside one London train station, larger-than life cats gaze from walls normally dominated by cacouphonous advertising campaigns. It's like entering an parallel reality where Egyptian feline worship never went out of style. Seeing the familiar setting subsumed by fluff is a surreal experience in the ballpark of Yayoi Kusama's Happenings of the 60s, but with paws instead of polka dots.

This dimensional shift is the Glimpse art collective's inaugural effort, which founder James Turner calls Citizens Advertising Takeover Service (CATS). The collective turned to Kickstarter for the funds to photograph cats from the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and Cats Protection, then buy all 68 poster spaces in the Clapham Common station for two weeks.


"Instead of focusing on the problem, we create 'glimpses' of a world where things are getting better," Turner explains in a Medium post about the project. He clarifies that Glimpse is "not against advertising," but the satisfaction from CATS clearly comes from the sense that the public is reclaiming a public space normally dominated by large corporations. Groups like Brandalism have executed this sort of takeover before, although its leaders chose to operate outside of the system rather than buying into it for their 600-poster Paris anti-ad campaign. Hackers like NO AD and Brand Killer have taken the fight to the digital realm, using augmented reality apps to create real-time ad blockers that blur corporate messages or replace them with independent art.

The sweeping response to CATS is no surprise—Turner says himself that, "We wanted this to become famous, so we needed something the internet would love… Cats." It's not insignificant that the Glimpse approach involves the audience in a way that other happenings and anti-ad campaigns don't, allowing them to feel responsible for punting the alluring images of fantasy vacations and picture-perfect models. But at the end of the day these are still ads, both for the animal rescue charities whose cats are in the pictures and for Glimpse.

The collective is already working on its next project—a crowdsourced poll is currently suggesting a 'dog' theme—a fact Turner doesn't shy away from. "We want agencies and brands to be mindful of the power they wield and to use it to encourage positive values in society. Things like empathy and tolerance, community and togetherness deserve to be at the heart of our culture," he says.


Does CATS empower the public, or simply reinforce the dominance of the current advertising economy's hold on our streets? Let us know on Twitter at @CreatorsProject. Keep an eye on Glimpse at their official website.


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