For those who are familiar with the street art scene in Birmingham, the name Foka Wolf conjures up scathing but humorous social commentary. His subversive parody advertisements, which are displayed on billboards, windows, and walls, draw attention to political and social issues. He will participate in a gallery exhibition for the first time with new work that aims to give voice to the voiceless. He discussed the reasons for doing so in an interview with the BBC.
The city-based artist claimed that when working as an illustrator, he had chosen "just an offensive name." His works are displayed all over the UK and are shared even more widely online. The artist, who keeps his true identity a secret, said, "And it stuck.".
Four or five years ago, the trend toward subversive street posters began. It all began with a parody advertisement for penis enlargement that was picked up and circulated widely on social media.
After his work attracted so much attention, he realized that he had the ability to draw attention to some social and political issues.
Humor is important, the artist continued.
"You get them with the comedy if you can make them laugh and then make them think about their actions later. ".
His new endeavor, which raises awareness of the plight of disabled and autistic people trapped in the hospital system, is anything but comedic.
He claimed that some "voiceless" patients had been imprisoned for many years.
Why Are We Stuck In Hospital, the installation and accompanying billboards, were developed using research done at the University of Birmingham in collaboration with the rights group Changing Our Lives.
According to the study, there are currently about 2,000 autistic or learning disabled people being held in specialized hospitals throughout England, with hundreds of them having been there for more than ten years.
Despite the fact that autism is not a mental health disorder, the National Autistic Society claims that the Mental Health Act of 1983 is used to make the majority of detention decisions.
Foka Wolf remarked that some of the research the group presented "blew me away.".
"I couldn't believe it was the 21st century based on the information they were giving me about these people. ".
A BBC Panorama investigation in 2021 revealed 100 individuals, including Tony Hickmott, had spent more than 20 years in institutions.
An impossible maze with no start or finish will be part of Foka Wolf's installation to represent how invisible patients are.
The artist explained that while a lot of his work is humorous, he felt unable to add any humor to this subject because it is so serious. As a result, he produced a very literal piece.
The exhibition also included a theatrical component in an effort to "spread it around.".
The problem is surrounded by a lot of statistics, he continued, "but I wanted to add a human element to the installation.".
They are attempting to rescue these people's babies and children from an improbable situation. ".
Additionally, a trail of billboards promoting the Ikon Gallery exhibit will appear in Birmingham's downtown area.
The artist has also recently displayed a "for sale" sign outside Birmingham's City Hospital.
Noam Chomsky, a controversial intellectual and activist, said that the "standard technique of privatization" was the inspiration for the piece.
The sign said, "Defund, make sure things don't work, people get upset, you turn it over to private capital.".
The artist's work was also featured in a January campaign by the group Brandalism on hundreds of billboards that criticized the auto industry's lobbying practices.
In order to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the European Motor Show, the group purchased more than 400 advertising spaces in 15 European cities and towns.
The artist claimed that the campaign had been a "big success" in drawing attention to the problem.
In response to criticism at the time, Toyota stated that it had been making efforts for decades to lessen its impact on the environment in areas such as greenhouse gases, air quality, water use, reduction of materials, reuse and recycling, and biodiversity.
Foka Wolf frequently posts his posters during the day while dressed in a high-visibility jacket, despite the fact that his work is illegal.
He said, "About 10:30 is a brilliant time in the morning. "Nobody has ever looked twice at me. ".
The works then take on a life of their own online, he claimed, with more than 57,000 Instagram followers and 10,000 Twitter followers.
It's amusing to see things that have been alive in a sketchbook or in my head come to life in the outside world. ".
According to the artist, Birmingham has recently experienced a "big push of creativity," with figures like Cold War Steve and comedian Joe Lycett breaking through on a national level.
"I believe that everyone is emancipating themselves.
"Due to the current sense of confidence, people are now proud to identify as locals. ".
The University of Birmingham's School of Social Policy is working with Changing Our Lives on a project called Why Are We Stuck in Hospital.
The exhibition will run from March 7 to March 19 at the Ikon Gallery in Brindley Place, Birmingham, with a free event taking place at The Exchange in Centenary sq\. on March 7.