Foka Wolf: The Power of Humour
Over the last few years, Birmingham-based street artist Foka Wolf has found his bold posters and flyers increasingly grabbing the headlines and going viral.
With his work appearing mysteriously and suddenly on street corners, in doorways, and even on public transport — where it’s quickly snapped and shared online — some have referred to him as ‘Brum’s Banksy’.
Using the language and style of advertising, Foka’s cheeky paste-ups publicise voodoo classes for children, the Conservative Party’s plans to “cut all homeless people in half by 2025”, and predict the arrival of Robocop-styled police units — all, it must be stressed, fictitious.
“I just like putting things up in the public domain, I think it’s a very powerful tool,” says Foka, who first began putting stuff up around the city back in 2012 before spreading out into other UK cities.
Typically setting his sights on large corporations, societal wrongs and greed, his work has become increasingly politicised in recent years - prompting social platforms to threaten to delete posts (and accounts).
And while many of his excursions have prompted angry responses from his targets - who somehow seem to believe that there’s a Satanic Bookshop about to open, and that 4x4 owners really can claim penis enlargement operations on the NHS - it’s clear to the majority that there’s a cheeky wit and playfulness behind the messages.
Discussing his work in an interview for Birmingham Comedy Festival 2020, the artist — who prefers to keep his identity secret, and insists on wearing a balaclava— cites the dark comedy of Turner Prize nominated Brit artist/ illustrator David Shrigley, and Chris Morris, from 1990’s seminal TV comedy series Brass Eye and The Day Today, as major influences.
Into that mix, you can also stir in the bold poster images of Barbara Kruger and Guerrilla Girls, Pop Art, graffiti/ street art, and a good dollop of Viz (in particular the adult comic’s consistently amusing letters pages).
Demonstrating the importance and power of humour in his work, he says: “There is a thing with humour where you can use it as a tool to change people’s opinions.
“Instead of alienating people, if you can get them to laugh, you can get an idea back into their heads.
“Humour breaks down barriers.”