Dear Progress – Micah Purnell’s Art to Make You Think

You may have noticed over the summer that Cardiff was plastered in a series of unusual billboard posters. Unusual because they were not

photoadvertising anything other than ideas.

Award winning street artist Micah Purnell’s work “Dear Progress” is a series of short letters that question what he sees as the relentless human search for progress.

Thought-provoking slogans emblazoned across 70 citywide billboard sites included “Put down your phone and talk to me”,  “I need (want)” and “My eyes are pixeled”.

Micah, who is a long-time friend of the band Elbow and the cover designer of their first album Asleep In the Back said: “Facebook, Twitter and YouTube connect people. Films, online gambling and computer games entertain. ebay and Amazon provide click-quick shopping to your door and the iPhone has it all but are we missing something?”

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“My work has been influenced by Oliver James’ book Affluenza. The Affluenza virus, as described by James, is a set of values which increase our vulnerability to psychological distress: placing a high value on acquiring money and possessions, looking good in the eyes of others and wanting to be famous – all encouraged by mainstream media and advertising. Many studies have shown that this increases our susceptibility to the commonest mental illnesses: depression, anxiety and personality disorder.

“For all the time-saving, life-giving consumables available, it seems that it is actual life that we are missing” he says.

Arts and events producer Laura Drane brought the project to Cardiff after moving to the city last year from Manchester and lamenting the lack of street art.

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She said: “We live so close to Bristol, which with the Bansky connection has to the be the UK’s spiritual home of street art. But why is there so little on Cardiff’s streets?

“I was so profoundly struck by its absence that I vowed to put it right within my first year of residency in the city.”

The work itself is produced using a 1960s Smith Corona Corsair typewriter, “a nod to its decline in the 70s and the introduction of the technological revolution which, with spell checks and predictive text, brings with it a growing concern for the grammatical abilities of younger generations,” said Purnell.

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But that is not Purnell’s main concern. “Dear Progress was devised to encourage a conversation about how to manage the incessant overload of desire eliciting nature in mainstream media” he added.

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