<body> Public Ad Campaign: November 2008
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Friday, November 28, 2008

Jordan Seiler: The A's To Our Q's

Wooster Collective recently got back into doing their A's To Our Q's section. Along with some other very interesting artists I had yet to see, they asked me to participate. Thanks again to Wooster for their unending support of the street art movement.

from Wooster Collective

Age: 29
Hometown: New York City
Where do you live now?: New York City
Where would you like to live?: New York City
Who was your first hero in life?: Truthfully I've struggled with the hero concept for a long time. Often the sense of worship takes what I admire about people and places it out of context, and far out of reach. I prefer to see the people I look up to just as they are. The reasons I look up to them, their dedication, grace, sincerity, then become obtainable in my own life as well.What is your favorite thing to do on your day off?: I would like to go camping. I used to camp a lot and haven't for a long time.
What is your favorite color?: Black or White, depending on the lightWho or what do you love?: The gratification and purpose art brings to my life and to others around me.Who and what are some of your influences?: The city, its successes, its faults, and the overwhelming number of daily interactions that take place within it. Ralph Gibson whose photographs showed me how see line.

Wooster: What other artists do you most admire?
I admire those who are steadfast in their dedication to an idea.
Wooster: How would you describe your art to someone who could not see it?
I work on the street over outdoor advertising in an effort to illuminate the glaring incompatibility between advertising's use of the public space and individual's interactions with the public environment. Given the works use of the public advertising frame and the issues of visibility that arise from that relationship, the images are often simple, bold, and graphic. The ephemeral quality of the art lends itself to a website which chronicles my activities and thoughts on the subject.
Wooster: What other talent would you most like to have?
There are so many. Lets start with being able to write a book.
Wooster: What do you fear most?
Having to pay for all the advertising space I've destroyed over the past 8 years.
Wooster: What is your greatest ambition?
To facilitate the creation of a public space that is open to all forms of visual interaction by challenging outdoor advertising's abuse of the public environment.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Private Sponsorship and the Failure of Content

I recently watched The Black Press, soldiers without swords, directed by Stanley Nelson. It chronicles the rise and influence of African American run newspapers after the civil war up to the rise of the civil rights movement. Although only a small section is dedicated to discussing the types of advertisements shown in these newspapers, some glaring realities came forward. Chief amongst these was that the reliance on big advertising money to run operations was directly related to the nature of the content printed. I won't even get into whether or not the "nature" of the content changed for the better or worse, I only care that it changed. It seems this idea can be applied ubiquitously, including the public environment, which gives us reason to examine the "nature" of the change that outdoor advertising - by sponsoring our transit authority, financing our stadiums and public institutions as well as our public parks - has had on that public space. Like the newspapers relying on little to no private sponsorship, would our public space be similarly transformed into a more authentic honest and original representation of our collective social desires?

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Blocked in China

So a friend of mine has made me aware of the fact that the Public Ad Campaign website is blocked when you try to access it from China. Subversive yes, but should the government be worried about the risk of this poisoning the youth and leading to the eventual downfall of thier government? I really don't think so. But I am glad to know someone is paying attention.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Posterboy PublicAdCampaign Collaboration

I contacted Posterboy after I read the article in New York Magazine about him. He had some interesting ideas and after he answered a few informal questions I realized his thinking was similar to my own. We decided to do a small collaboration just to see if we could get away with working in broad daylight together. All in all we hit 6 sites in a period of about two hours and it went off without a hitch. Here are the photos to prove it. Both of us think this has potential for something much larger. Remember, these locations operated by NPA outdoor are completely illegal.

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Graffiti and litter lead to more street crime

Reports like this using the "broken windows" theory ran rampant in New York City at the height of the graffiti "epidemic" in the 80's. Two books, one by Miriam Greenberg called the Branding New York, How a City in Crisis was sold to the world, and Jeff Ferrell's Crimes of style, help to put this idea into perspective. Urban scrawl, one of the factors this research points to which can cause civil disobedience, is a symptom of the criminalization of visual street interactions carried out by public residents. In Crimes of Style Ferrell points out that once graffiti had been criminalized by the city, artists had far less time to do their work and as a result the large beautiful murals you often saw adorning the subway cars turned into the quick throwups and tagging. The use of the term to graffiti to define tagging is offensive to some on the basis that the true art is much more complex and has its roots in community mural painting more than it does in vandalism. To point out that scrawl is a cause of more civil disobedience overlooks the fact that those lawless areas are often a result of our city "protecting" us against the very scrawl that supposedly creates this lawlessness. If we open our city to public interaction on all levels, much of the blight will be taken care of by those individuals who are credited with causing that blight in the first place.

10:17 21 November 2008 by Andy Coghlan

People become more disobedient in environments plagued by litter and graffiti, research has shown.

They can be tempted to trespass, drop litter, and even steal money if they perceive from their environment that it's OK to break rules - such as when "no litter" signs are flagrantly ignored.

"[It's better to have] no rule than one that no-one complies with," says Kees Keizer, head of the team at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands which conducted the latest experiments.

The research is the first to confirm experimentally that disorder and disobedience grow in neighbourhoods where rules are openly flouted, a phenomenon dubbed "broken window" theory.

"Broken window theory says that if there are broken windows in houses, it will lead to more disorder and a degrading neighbourhood," says Keizer.

Keizer says that despite the theory dating from 1982, no-one had conclusively proved it's true, so he and colleagues Siegwart Lindenberg and Linda Steg set up six practical experiments to put it to the test.

In each of the experiments, the researchers set up real-life situations in Groningen in which random citizens would be tempted to do something unruly, illegal, or antisocial. Then, they discreetly watched what happened, without the passers-by realising they were under observation.

Increased theft

In the most striking experiment, Keizer left a €5 note protruding from a fully addressed envelope that itself was poking out of a mailbox. The team discovered that people were less likely to steal the money if there was no graffiti or litter on or around the mailbox.

With no litter or graffiti, 13% of the passers-by stole the money. Thefts doubled to 27% when the mailbox was daubed with graffiti, or to 25% when it was surrounded by litter. "It's quite shocking that the mere presence of litter doubled the number of people stealing," says Keizer.

In another experiment, motorists returning to collect their cars were three times more likely to trespass through an illegal, 200-metre short-cut to the car park if bicycles had been illegally locked to railings next to the forbidden entrance.

A massive 87% took the short cut when they saw the illegally parked bicycles, despite a police sign saying "No Trespassing". This compared with 27% trespassing when the bicycles were not locked to the fence.

Another experiment in a cycle park bearing a clear anti-graffiti sign, revealed that cyclists were twice as likely to leave litter if the researchers had daubed graffiti on the walls. The team attached bogus flyers to the bikes' handlebars to put the owners in a situation where they had to decide whether or not to litter.

'Declaring war'

The researchers conclude that one type of antisocial behaviour leads to others, because people's sense of social obligation to others is eroded. "When people think they can get away with it because other people already have, they do," says Keizer.

The other major conclusion is that signs probably make things worse if it's clear that people are ignoring them. The trick, says Keizer, is to persuade citizens that other people in their own community will suffer if they fail to observe norms of responsible behaviour.

"You're calling on people's obligations to others rather than saying: 'Don't do this'," he says.

A good example, says Keizer, is a smoking ban introduced during the summer in Dutch restaurants. There was huge opposition to it, he says, because the government failed to explain the objective of the ban in terms of protecting other people from the damaging effects of passive smoking.

In places like Ireland and Scotland, by contrast, the bans were accepted because the potential for harming others was made much more explicit.

Keizer says that the research is the first to explain and demonstrate experimentally the "broken windows theory", but he adds that it would be a mistake to see it as vindication of "zero-tolerance" policies, like those deployed to clean up New York in the mid-1990s.

Zero-tolerance policies can be counterproductive, he says, because people simply see them as declaration of war and carry on offending.

Geraldine Pettersson, a consultant in London who co-authored a 2003 report on graffiti for the UK Department of Transport agreed. "You make it sound like a battle, and it becomes a challenge to them," she says. Pettersson says that the results do indeed support the broken window theory. "People associate the presence of graffiti with a lack of social control and management of their neighbourhood or environment, and it relays the message that no-one is 'in charge'," she says.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On Destruction and Rebirth

I have wanted to write about destruction and rebirth for some time because my work is often seen as having unnecessary disregard for private property and a generally destructive motivation. Recently my computer died which I have used as an excuse for putting this task off longer, but while writing a paper arguing for a project proposal I have in the works, I came across some quotes which forced me to find a working internet connection and speak briefly on this topic. Enjoy.

In Jeff Ferrell's book, Tearing Down The Streets: Adventures in Urban Anarchy, he often refers to Michael Bakunin's quote "The passion for destruction is a creative passion, too." He uses it over and over again to frame the many illegal activities he chronicles in the book including graffiti, pirate radio, and critical mass gatherings. I wasn't sure how to use this quote until I found some other descriptions of destruction in Mikhail Bakhtin's writings.

Bakhtin talks about the medieval carnival and the "temporary suspension of all hierarchic distinctions and barriers among men and of certain norms and prohibitions of usual life." that was the trademark of medieval carnival celebrations. Rules governing behavior seemed to fly out the window at these events and any person or institution were fair game for scathing parody. In this atmosphere of open degradation, he argues that "an ideal and at the same time real type of communication, impossible in ordinary life, is established." Parody in an accepting and open environment like this was then creating channels of discussion where none were available before.

What was essentially accepted civil disobedience to him was a way of degrading things openly, but not without the degradation creating something in its path of destruction. "degradation digs a bodily grave for a new birth; it has not only a destructive, negative aspect, but also a regenerating one."

Seen within the context of the medieval carnival where critical discussion of important issues is acceptable without regard for power structure, destroying public advertising is merely an act of creation. The destruction is simply the tool I must use in order to facilitate the communication of my ideas and the creation of new understandings about our relationship to our shared public space.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

City Will Try To Untangle Public Art Murals From Billboard Legal Battles

Via Ban Billboard Blight

Murals have long been an important part of visual landscape of Los Angeles, particularly in their illustration of the city’s cultural and political history. Unfortunately, murals on private property have been caught up in the recent legal battles between the city and the outdoor advertising industry, which has argued that the city cannot enforce its sign ordinance, including the 2002 ban on new billboards and other forms of “off-site” commercial advertising, if it doesn’t apply the same enforcement to public art murals. As a result, the city has been forced to cite owners of properties with murals for violation of the ban.

But now the city Planning Department has proposed a way to allow these murals, and a joint committee will be discussing the proposal this coming Wednesday, Nov. 19. This proposal essentially allows private property owners to donate an “art easement” to the city for a wall with an existing or proposed mural, thus turning that piece of the property into a public space exempt from the city sign ordinance.

Anyone interested in this issue should plan to attend the hearing and/or send comments to the committee members. See the committee agenda and planning department report here.

Posted under Billboards, L.A. City Government, Supergraphics

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

White On White Project

This is the 11th White on White piece located on the SWC of Spring street and Bowery for the second time. I put this one up in front of a class of PACE University students and i think they enjoyed watching the process.

More Here

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What's The Difference?

One is done free of charge by residents who by participating in the production of their city space become concerned and involved citizens. The other is paid for by non existent corporate entrepreneurs hellbent on convincing you that the products they are pushing are worth paying attention to. You be the judge of what serves us better.

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More Malfunctioning Taxi TV Screens Are Always On

Is this public space? Should taxi riders be upset with being forced to digest advertisements while they ride through the concrete jungle?

Gothamist by John Del Signore

It seems that more and more taxi TV screens are losing the "off" or "mute" button, turning NYC cabs into hell on wheels. Incensed reader (and big band leader) Gregory Moore writes:

I made the very unpleasant discovery this weekend during a $20 cab ride downtown that those hideous backseat televisions are being re-designed so that they can no longer be turned off, muted or have the volume turned down. As I tried to conduct business on my mobile phone, I continued to be barraged with the same horrendous commercials over and over. Please notify your readers to file a complaint with the Taxi and Limousine Commission over this revolting new "innovation".
Moore goes on to rail against other modern abominations like "dungarees" and "intendos," (kidding) and adds that the driver "said people have actually been stiffing him because they're so pissed at this 'innovation.'"

Ira Goldstein at the Taxi and Limousine Commission assures us the screens are not being changed to eliminate the "off" or "mute" buttons and explains that it's simply a case of technological malfunction. "We have had reports of a handful or less situations such as you're describing and we're currently investigating that. The reports seem to be isolated to one of the three authorized vendors [who manage the TV screens]."

That would be Creative Mobile Technologies, who broadcast NBC and Clear Channel content in over 5,500 cabs citywide. Jesse Davis, the company's president, tells us that "in very small instances, if the touch screen becomes a problem the area can become non-sensitive. And when that happens the car is brought in for service because you can't use it for payment either." Davis insists the malfunction is "very infrequent and quickly remedied."

We started getting jeremiads like Moore's back in July; has anyone else encountered a similar problem? Moore is urging everyone to file a complaint here; the furious rant he sent to the city is after the jump.

"The new forced advertising inside of taxis is no less than being held hostage and made to listen to unwanted noise. Now that the TLC has determined that most thinking riders choose to turn off these backseat televisions, they have made it so that one is FORCED to watch/listen, with no access to on/off or volume. I conduct business from taxis in New York, and this is no less than a violation of my privacy and ability to choose.

"I made a list of all the advertisers that participate in this "innovation" and am going to actively boycott their products, starting with WNBC. Absolutely the worst invasion of privacy I've been forced to be subjected to. I plan to ask the driver if there is an on/off button before entering a cab and will refuse to ride in a cab that does not have one. This is absolutely shameful, in light of rising taxi fares. You should all be ashamed of yourselves for thinking this was acceptable."

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Volunteer Billboard Inventory in Council District 11: We’ve Got the Results

This is the kind of community involvement that is needed to even begin to take on and disarm the outdoor advertising industry. I applaud those who volunteered their time and efforts on this project. As one of the comments to this post stated, "We now have something measurable to take to our Neighborhood Councils, Neighborhood associations, the CRA, Planning Commission and to our City Council members." One of the major problems fighting illegal signage is the lack of public awareness and veil of secrecy surrounding the illegality of so much of outdoor advertising.

It seems LA has been over saturated by outdoor advertising, and is seeing a strong community response. A recent New York Times article speaks to the outrage that prompts the kind reaction we are seeing come out of that city. Tensions are high enough to move forward a proposed citywide block-by-block survey and inspection of the estimated 10,000 billboards beginning February 1st. Ban Billboard Blight is skeptical whether or not this will happen "because an assistant City Attorney has said that he expects billboard companies to go to court to challenge whatever fee the city decides to levy to pay for the program."

Via Ban Billboard Blight

Beginning a week ago, more than 30 volunteers have been going through the streets of L.A. City Council District 11 and cataloging billboards. Volunteers Catalog Billboards in City Council District
Forms Used For Billboard Inventory

Forms Used For Billboard Inventory

The district, represented by Councilman Bill Rosendahl, runs from the 405 freeway west to the ocean, and includes Brentwood and Pacific Palisades on the north, and LAX on the south. Here’s what they found:

  • Total Number of Billboards: 563
  • Number of Digital (Electronic) Billboards: 17 (a number that may be increasing as you read this)

And what is the most billboard-infested street in the district? The clear winner is Lincoln Blvd. which runs from the Santa Monica border south through Westchester, with a total of 84 billboards. Here are the other streets that qualify for the billboard Hall of Shame.

  • Santa Monica Blvd. 61
  • Pico Blvd. 44
  • Wilshire Blvd. 32
  • Sepulveda Blvd. 28
  • Century Blvd. 28
  • Olympic Blvd. 24

And what company owns most of these signs? No surprise that two of the largest outdoor advertisers in the country take that prize Here are the numbers for the five companies with the largest number of billboards.

  • Clear Channel 143
  • CBS Outdoor 136
  • Vista Media 49
  • Regency Outdoor 47
  • Fuel Outdoor 43

There were a total of 34 billboards that had no identification, although the city’s sign ordinance requires all off-site signs to be clearly labeled with the name of the sign owner, the city permit number, and other information.

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PACE University Street Walk/Talk

Tomorrow at 1:30 I will be meeting Stephanie Diamond and her Pace University Class at the SW corner of Wooster and Grand. Stephanie was an unexpected collaborator with one of my first public projects back December of 2000. I only found out about the conversation our work was having through a small article in the New York Times City Section. Stephanie has been kind enough to ask me to lead the class and her on a quick jaunt to see and discuss outdoor advertising and street arts relation to each other, and the public environment in general. Please feel free to join us.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Remy Martin Gate Advertising

Many forms of outdoor advertising structure that are located on private property in New York City are illegal because they do not conform to city regulations determined by the Department of Buildings. These rules require permits for advertising structures, which allows the city to keep tabs on outdoor advertising and make decisions about when, where, and how they go up. In the City illegal advertising venues operated by NPA outdoor are overlooked for more pressing issues the DOB must deal with everyday. Provided we had the manpower these illegal advertisements would be removed, though probably not before a major battle was fought over their placement on private property, something the city cannot control. Great examples of this are the NPA outdoor wildposting locations throughout the city.

This new form of advertising I ran into tonight shows the ways in which outdoor advertising can circumnavigate its illegal tendencies in our city space. Being on a private pull down gate, and not a structure in need of a DOB permit, this advertisement is completely legal. Without recourse, the public is expected to endure the onslaught of outdoor advertising which can take advantage of these legal channels.

This raises an important issue for me, and that is the definition of private property when it is in public space. Without a doubt, outdoor advertising effects our public environment, and without being able to control it we kneel before its imposing will. Should we not make an attempt to more thoroughly define how our public space is used in general and declare private property in public, public property. Decisions about how that private space is used, which effects the public, would be left up to all of us, as opposed to the property owner. If as a public, we decide that outdoor advertising is unacceptable, the public would have the right to demand its removal despite it being legal because of its placement on private property, permitted or not.

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Long-Awaited Citywide Billboard Inspections to Begin in February: But Will Billboard Companies Sue to Stop It?

Wouldn't it be nice to know definitively how many billboards exist in New York and whether or not they are legal? Los Angeles is proposing to do such a thing and pass the cost on to the outdoor advertising companies. This kind of transparency is unheard of in the world of outdoor advertising, something I found out first hand when attempting to get numbers on subway, phone kiosk and other outdoor advertisements in NYC. This kind of research or public information is exactly what is needed to call to arms the average individual who doesn't contemplate how overwhelming outdoor advertising is. Upon receipt of this information I would expect the average citizen to have a much stronger, and visceral reaction to public advertising in general.

Via Ban Billboard Blight

Almost seven years after the L.A. City Council voted to conduct a block-by-block survey and inspection of the estimated 10,000 billboards in city, the Department and Building and Safety is proposing to start the program on Feb. 1 next year. Whether or not this actually happens is open to question, though, because an assistant City Attorney has said that he expects billboard companies to go to court to challenge whatever fee the city decides to levy to pay for the program.

And what is that fee the deep-pocketed billboard companies might find so onerous? The building department proposes to charge $186 per billboard structure for a three-year inspection period. This would pay for three field inspectors to conduct the actual survey and enter the information into a billboard database, plus a supervising inspector and a clerk. The information gathered would be compared to permit documents submitted by the billboard companies, and any billboards erected or altered illegally would be ordered taken down or brought into compliance with their permits.

The four companies that sued in 2002 to stop the program–Clear Channel, CBS Outdoor, Regency Outdoor, and Vista Media–have already agreed to the fee in a 2006 lawsuit settlement. According to inventories submitted by the city, the four companies own 6,581 signs, which leaves an estimated 3,500 signs owned by other companies that would be covered by the latest proposal.

What will the inspectors actually be doing in the field, to complete a process estimated to take 2.7 years? According to Frank Bush, chief inspector of the Code Enforcement Bureau, inspectors will be “measuring the distance from the property lines to the sign structure; setting up a measuring device to determine the height and size of the sign; actually measuring the height and size of each structure; logging the measurements; comparing the actual measurements against information on a permit or documentation supplied by the sign company; and inspecting each sign structure in terms of code compliance for structural safety and adequacy of the electrical installations for lighted signs.”

What if billboard companies fail to provide copies of their permits? In that case the department will research its own records, for which it will bump the fee for the three-year inspection period to $342. Why so much for a minor task? The answer, apparent to anyone who has attempted on their own to comb through records in search of billboard permit information, is that it’s not minor at all, but a daunting, often frustrating job.

Bush says as much in a detailed memo laying out the proposed terms of the inspection program:

“Locating relevant permits is a tedious and time-consuming process. Not all billboards have been assigned their own separate and distinct address. Some billboards have been assigned a separate address based upon historical practices for the convenience of the Department of Water and Power and other purposes to allow for billing and a dedicated electrical meter to the billboard company. Many other billboards have permits indexed to the address of the property on which they were initially constructed, which address often changed over time as areas developed and lots were split. Many others have permits indexed to a commercial development address which includes dozens and possibly hundreds of permits in cases where the billboard is constructed upon a large commercial property or mini-shopping center. Thus, to locate a billboard permit LADBS must frequently search permits over a range of addresses.

“To view actual permits a BMI [note: inspector] must physically pull the corresponding microfilm reels, search the reel for the permit desired and review the permit to determine whether it relates to the sign structure in question. Assuming that the correct permit is located, the information on the permit (type of sign, dimensions, single or double face, orientation, sign location and plot plan) must be interpreted. Often, the information is handwritten and the record of poor quality. This information can now be compared with the field conditions and any differences noted. These decisions must be made in order to decide if violations exist and whether to issue any enforcement orders for code violations.”

The fees and related approvals for hiring inspectors now go to the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee and then to the full City Council. Will this program which was a critical adjunct to the city’s 2002 ban on new billboards actually get underway in February? Will the billboard companies sue and tie it up in court for another half dozen years, in the meantime putting up digital billboards and enjoying other concessions handed them by the 2006 lawsuit settlement?

Stay tuned.

Read the Sign Inspection and Fee Proposal

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Monday, November 3, 2008

White On White Project

This is the 10th White on White piece located on the SEC of 4th street and 1st avenue. The cops rolled by me every time I attempted to do anything to this phone kiosk after the initial install. I had to come back at 2am just to put some propoxy 20 in the screw holes. More Here

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Dr. D Doing Good Things

London based artist Dr. D, contacted me with a website change which prompted me to take another look at his work. Although I don't care much for signatures, his work ethic is incredible, and often his art removes the advertising completely. This series seems to acknowledge its placement within the advertising frame even when the advertisement is completely gone. The interpretation of what ads might actually be saying is poignant and worth a look.

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      Sharon Zukin
      The Cultures of Cities

      Miriam Greenberg
      Branding New York

      Naomi Klein
      No Logo

      Kalle Lasn
      Culture Jam

      Stuart Ewen
      Captains of Consciousness

      Stuart Ewen
      All Consuming Images

      Stuart & Elizabeth Ewen
      Channels of Desire

      Jeff Ferrell
      Crimes of Style

      Jeff Ferrell
      Tearing Down the Streets

      John Berger
      Ways of Seeing

      Joe Austin
      Taking the Train

      Rosalyn Deutsche
      Evictions art + spatial politics

      Jane Jacobs
      Death+Life of American Cities