Tuesday, December 3, 2013
I took the picture above because I noticed that after many years, an illegal billboard that once occupied this wall had finally been removed. It was, like hundreds of others around the city, operated by a company called NPA outdoor. PublicAdCampaign, along with the help of hundreds of other NYC residents, had challenged the legitimacy of these ads by painting them white and then covering them with public media in a civil disobedience project called NYSAT some years back. This action was only made possible by the fact that we had discovered that NPA was operating their locations illegally, never having obtained the appropriate permitting from the city of NY. Ultimately, this fact misconstrued the projects intentions in a way that I have never fully addressed, but as you can imagine, our actions were seen as anti-illegal advertising. illegal or not, our intentions were to question corporate media's supremacy in our shared public spaces and gain political agency in the process. The fact that these advertisements were illegal only made it easier to convince average individuals to take up arms against them with a sense of entitlement, instead of reservation. Private property boundaries tend to be incredibly effective invisible barriers, but if those boundaries are imposed illegally, barriers become invitations.
In the end, the focus on illegal advertising was disconcerting and we did not repeat this same mistake in the subsequent MaSAT and ToSAT projects. In Toronto we attacked both legal and illegal advertising equally, hoping for better public understanding of our larger grievances against a public media environment monopolized by corporate media. On some level this worked, and the discussion moved from the illegality of the advertising, to what we had replaced the corporate imagery with. To critics, it seemed we were now arguing for the replacement of ads with our artistic endeavors. As it were, those willing to participate in the illegal occupation of private property for a political statement about the current public media landscape, happened to be left wing nuts and artist types. But the point was not lost on us and the final large scale disobedience project in Madrid removed this ambiguity. Participants in Madrid were asked to simply submit text of their choosing. It was this final removal of individual identity that made clear our demands for a reevaluation of who has, and should have access to our shared public media environment.
While the first two SAT projects failed to be clear about what we were all up in arms about, the unintended demands that they suggested were legitimate, if only to a small demographic. In NY people were pissed off that illegal advertising was taking advantage of public space, making money while not playing by the rules. People got upset about it and it would seem by the timeline of city enforcement, that the cities own action against this company was in some part fueled by the injustice we had help reveal. In Toronto, those concerned with public arts programming argued for our re-appropriation as a meaningful request for public arts opportunities in the face of huge corporate media initiatives. This may not have been our intended goal, but citizens rallied around these interpretations. I have for a long time wondered what other injustice gleaned from these types of actions, could reach a larger demographic than illegality or the right to public art, while allowing our criticism to remain about corporate medias dominance of public space more generally.
Since these projects happened several years ago, I have read a lot about media literacy and media education in an attempt to understand my gut feeling that a public media landscape, monopolized by a corporate agenda, is problematic for our public environment and our democracy in general. I recently finished a book called "The Spectacle of Accumulation: essays in culture, media, and politics" which gave me new insights into how we might rally a larger public constituency against public media monopolies. Unbeknownst to me until now, we are all laboring unintentionally for outdoor media companies every time I step onto the city streets. It is this extraction of value from our own visual labor that we can all rally against by demanding compensation from those who benefit from its use.
Overly simply put, media corporations make their money by selling an audience to companies who wish to reach those audiences with goods and services. Cable television, movie production houses, news outlets and all other media providers remain economically viable by increasing their audience size, or by targeting micro audiences, both of which are of value to corporations with products to sell. In the case of TV, it is well accepted that the "cost" of television is the watching of commercials. Corporations buy advertising space which funds the production of programming with the understanding that you will consume those messages and in the process the products associated with them. Cost analysis has made this process quite refined and depending on the audience being offered, and the scope of their purchasing power, corporations are willing to pay very specific amounts of money for your attention. The value of your viewing labor has a very specific price tag.
If we accept this media support model, our next question should be how much does it cost to produce a specific piece of media so that we can determine how much of our attention, or labor must be given to commercials to make that programs production economically sound. It is here that we begin to see our attention, or our labor, beginning to be exploited. Like all capitalist endeavors, the media provider takes more value from your labor than it gives back in programming, or in wages as with other more traditional capitalist ventures. This really isnt anything new to most people, particularly when speaking about television. We know we get the short end of the stick when we are forced to watch 32, 15 second commercials for every 22 minutes of content we get in return. In fact we might pay extra money for cable channels which dont have advertising, preferring to pay for our content instead of to labor for it. However destructive this model might be to a democratic media environment, it is one we have come to accept as a society, for better or worse.
What I find most interesting is that this same model of labor value extraction can be applied to public space where we are less inclined to see the personal benefits of our laboring for media companies that control our visual environment. Take for example, NPA outdoor, the illegally operating billboard company first targeted in the original NYSAT project. This company occupied a large amount of public space and sold that space to advertisers on the auspices that you would labor for them by paying attention to the messages without any compensation in return. Billboards and other non infrastructure related advertising venues operate under the same expectations, their right to exploit your attentions value is determined by their simple ability to pay for real estate within public view. Many other outdoor advertising companies at least attempt to disguise their labor value extraction by providing payphone service, or bus shelters, or other infrastructure related services which benefit the public generally. That said, like all other capitalist endeavors, they too extract far more value from your labor than is needed to keep said infrastructure operational.
As PublicAdCampaign continues to adress issues of public media inequality and the resulting problems that arise for our public life and democracy, it is this extraction of surplus viewing power that we can all take issue with. We might be willing to overlook our excessive donation of labor to the entertainment industry or media venues which are less crucial to our lives, but public space is uniquely important to our democracy and at the same time an inescapable part of our lives. It is not a service being offered but a integral part of our daily existence. To me it is an extension of our homes and a physical representation of our collective identity. To ask that we labor for corporations with very private concerns when traversing this public landscape is very different than asking us to labor for something less integral to our existence. The expectation that we consume advertising in our shared public spaces is tantmount to asking us to watch a commercial before water will come out of the faucet, and that is something I think we can all agree to fight against.
Monday, November 25, 2013
Condo Ads too Much to Bear for Torontonians
Sean Martindale and Martin Reis have graced this blog before with their community based activism projects in Toronto. The most recent being this ad takeover of sorts which reclaims condo ad sandwich boards for public imagery more closely connected to the community and of an entirely uncommercial nature. According to the artists, the sandwich boards advertising luxury condo develoments have over run the city and become an invasive species of thier own. By repurposing them for public communications they are challenging yet another form of commercial invasion into our collective subconscious.
-"Frustrated by obstructive sidewalk condo ads, Toronto artists get creative" - Via Spacing
-"Kidnapped Condo Ads Become Stealthy Art" - Via the Torontoist.
-Martin Reis Flickr set [HERE]
Thursday, November 21, 2013
A Recipe for Better Living
The always wonderful Luna Park sent me this little post on a small ad busting trend in Berlin. It seems the vandals are buffing fast food ads and replacing them with extremely simple, and yet infinitely more healthy food recipes. Fast food ads, through massive repetition, normalize fast food consumption and in doing so alter our eating habits for the worse. These little reminders fight that trend and in the process allow us to imagine a world in which public images of food work in our favor instead of overwhelming us with unhealthy options that we eventually succumb to.HERE]
Monday, November 18, 2013
Official Re+Public 1.0 Launch
Re+Public: Moto Wall Digital Mural from The Heavy Projects on Vimeo.
Friday, November 15, 2013
Public Access (Heavy Edition) in Public Data Explorer Group exhibition at HLP
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Iselin in Brussels 2013
New Ad Campaign Explains Drones to Skeptical American Public
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Peter Fuss: New Work 2013
Monday, November 4, 2013
Guerilla Joe Advertising Finds Another Public Surface
not so new advertising location.
Update: I asked one of the cart owners how much Guerilla Media pays for the right to deck out his ride, and was surprised to hear a full $250.00/month. If I operated one of these carts, that added revenue would be hard to resist, which is why we need full bans on commercial media in public space. The amount the industry is willing to pay for space simply undercuts any attempts at enforcement or restraint. Point being these ads lie in a legal limbo, not adhered to any permanent structure, they fall our of the purview of the DOB sign enforcement unit.
Monday, October 28, 2013
BR1 - Trofeo 2013 Berlin
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
A Space Called Public - Munich
The large-format billboard displays an impressive mountain-collage by Ed Ruscha: On the visually expressive panorama of a snow-covered mountain range, we read the inscription: "Pay nothing until April". Presented in the public space, the work with its combination of text and image is reminiscent of advertising posters in the city. By taking the stance of the neutral observer, Ed Ruscha is fond of using his lettered images to reflect the banality of metropolitan reality and the mass media. The motif for Munich is derived from an extensive series of paintings with which the artist does not wish to define any semantic fields or convey any logical messages. Instead, he provides space for inexplicable association and reflection in order to lend a poetic note to Munich – as well as some confusion.
More on the entire project [HERE]
Monday, October 21, 2013
What the Hell is Going On?
The always informed Dennis Hathaway over at Ban Billboard Blight sent me this image asking if I had seen anything similar pop up in NYC recently because he was at a loss to decipher its meaning. Having no answer I did a quick Google search and found this very informative article that doesn't answer the question but dives further down the rabbit hole than I expected to be lead. Enjoy the mystery [HERE]
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Iselin in DC and NYC Bus Shelters
Washington DC 2013
The last few months I've had some AR projects going that I will be launching next month, as well as some intensive studio work which I hope will be made public very soon. In the meantime I have managed to throw Iselin up in a few cities as I collect information on their outdoor advertising venues. Enjoy!
Friday, October 11, 2013
BR1 in Italy
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Ed Ruscha - the "Your Space" Series
These Ed Ruscha drawings aren't ad takeovers, but they reminded me of a series of photographs that I want to take, but likely never will. In NYC, billboards along the BQE have been in legal limbo for quite some time. In fact I think at this point they have actually been abandoned by the ad companies, although im not positive. The structures sit empty, giant black or white blank canvases on the horizon. Some of them aren't even faced, and their skeletons loom large as you drive this major thoroughfare through Brooklyn. The landscapes these empty signifiers create by juxtaposing themselves against the dense background of the city is beautiful, and ripe for your imagination. Happy to drive by them when chance permits, I'd like to capture their power over the landscape before they finally disappear.
I found this example of someone else's take on the empty beauty HERE
Monday, October 7, 2013
OX + Rero 2013
OX's site you'll find the rest in this series, and of course his amazing body of work. PublicAdCampaign readers might not know Rero's work but it is definitely worth checking out his site [Here]. Indoors, outdoors, over advertising, Rero's work uses text to make fantastic meaning and connections with the viewer.
Friday, October 4, 2013
Peter Fuss - The Pope Smokes Dope
Friday, September 27, 2013
Mobstr - HA!
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Ron English Bus Shelter Work in Brooklyn and Manhattan
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Iselin in St Louis Bus Shelters
I spent the last week in St Louis working on a Re+Public project with MOMO. We will be launching the Re+Public mobile app once we finish a video to be released alongside it. In the meantime I took a night off to put up some bus shelter pieces around town. I've been putting Iselin up for a while now over billboards, phonebooths, and now bus shelters. While the image is atypical of my recent work, I have for a long time used women as my subject. This image was made on a fashion set and yet the degradation and isolation of the character reminds me a lot of how much commercial imagery makes me feel.
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Clay Butler's Sidewalk Bubblegum
Monday, September 23, 2013
AN ART EVERYWHERE LOST OPPORTUNITY
Barbara Celis wrote an article for El Pais on the first NYSAT project way back when. Her deep understanding of the ethos of that project is reflected in her article on the recent Art Everywhere project in the UK. It's not about a moment of reflection but a fundamental change in our attitudes towards how we adorn our public environment and what types of imagery we deem safe for consumption. Have a read below.HERE]
Friday, September 6, 2013
Reject Violence - Sal'D Ad Takeover?
Thursday, September 5, 2013
FOLKE KOEBBERLING / MARTIN KALTWASSER - Haltestelle/Stop 2009
Monday, September 2, 2013
Illegal Wildposting on My Way To Lunch
On my way to lunch today I came across an old familiar face wildposting in broad daylight. I have come across this particular person several times in the past, the first time being when he helped implicate my friends for the "crime" of protesting his companies illegal use of public space. As you can see by the blue painted posters, the construction company is doing all it can to keep the construction shed blue so they don't incur fines for the "work" he is doing. To him it must seem as if I am wandering the streets looking for illegal posting perpetrators 24 hrs a day. That couldn't be further from the truth, and should be an indication of the frequency and impunity with which wildposting happens. As you can see, I keep my distance in these situations due to past circumstances, but this man and I always exchange a few tense words. He asked if "I ever get tired of this" and I responded "No. Seems like you don't either." To which he responded "That's because they pay me." I asked him "If he was working for Contest Promotions or NPA still?" A question he smartly avoided before getting into his car.
I don't particularly like the fact that I end up F*%#ing with this guys life by continually catching him breaking the law, but I do know that the proliferation of consumer messages in our daily lives and especially on our streets where we have no option but to ingest them, is a detriment to our collective health that he continues to help perpetuate. Maybe one day we can have a beer and laugh this whole thing off, but until then I feel a duty to question the proliferation of commercial media in our shared public spaces, be it illegal or not.
One Off's in Saint Louis After MOMO Mural for Re+Public
MOMO's upcoming augmented mural for Re+Public. Most of my time was spent making a timelapse, shooting video, running to Home Depot, on the lift with MOMO painting, and generally producing the project. That said, I dont go somewhere for 10 days without figuring out how to break into at least one type of outdoor commercial media venue. Lamar outdoor rules the bus shelter scene in Saint Louis and the key to open them is only a slightly altered hex key. With only a few minutes to paint some bus shelter ads I had found a few days earlier, these two images are the result. I thank MOMO for inspiration on the above image and I definitely had Posterboy on my mind for the second. Enjoy!