London Activists Protest Economic Injustice by Projecting Giant Penis on Gherkin Building


Members of the art collective Shift//Delete have succeeded in projecting a wanking penis onto one of the most prominent fixtures in the London skyline. A video of the intervention, after the jump, testifies to a persistently successful partnership between radical politics and giant, public renderings of the male anatomy.

The intervention, titled Act of Parliament, is said to represent the artists’ disdain with the financial sector’s influence on the British government, and the government’s reciprocally lax treatment of banks and investment firms in the aftermath of the global economic crisis. The time has come, as Shift//Delete would have it, to loosen the grip.

Their object was 30 St. Mary Axe, also known as “the Gherkin building,” which has been mocked more than once for its phallic symbolism in the past (one blogger went so far as to name it the “Best Uncircumcised Building in the World”). Designed by Norman Foster and completed in 2003, the Gherkin is situated in London’s financial district, and is regularly chosen in popular culture as an emblem of corporate hegemony in the 21st century. In the 2006 film A Good Year, it appears frequently in the office window of a successful, Scrooge-esque banker played by Russell Crowe. The Gherkin changed hands in 2007; when the Evans Randal and IVG Immobilien purchased the building for £630 million ($970 million), it was the most expensive real estate sale in London’s history.

“We have turned the Gherkin into the worlds tallest dick,” reads an artist statement. “We have created this art work for all those that are suffering cuts to budgets, public services, benefits, rights, libraries, freedoms and quality of life as Parliament perpetuates the age old practice of taxing the poor for the mistakes of the rich.”

One could potentially draw a link between this latest instance of public dick-drawing to a similar act, carried out by Voina, a Russian art collective with ties to Pussy Riot. There are nevertheless some technical differences: whereas the Shift//Delete intervention was driven by lasers projected from the back of their van, the Voina project, titled Giant Galactic Space Dick, was executed with white paint on the Liteiny Bridge in St. Petersburg. The Shift//Delete team also appears to have gotten away with it, unlike Voina, whose members eventually landed in the hands of the police.