<body> Public Ad Campaign: The Most Important Thing You Will Read About PosterBoy Yet Is A Lot Less about PosterBoy Than You Think
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Friday, February 6, 2009

The Most Important Thing You Will Read About PosterBoy Yet Is A Lot Less about PosterBoy Than You Think

I would like to thank Steve Lambert and the AAA for their last post on PosterBoy regarding his arrest. Sometimes I am so busy trying to keep the content updated on this site, I forget that some of the important issues this content brings forward are not as obvious to the rest of the world as they are to me.

That said there has been a flurry of activity around PosterBoy these days. Much of the activity has dealt with his recent arrest. Magazines and press that have run their opinions recently include, The New York Times, The New York Post, The New York Press, The New Yorker, The Economist, Gothamist, Gawker, and soon El Pais in Spain. I'm sure this list does not include half the content PosterBoy has been able to create in the last six months through his simple yet incredibly affective idea.

So they have arrested PosterBoy, or so the story goes. And yet we have all missed the point PosterBoy is trying to make.

PosterBoy like many activist public space artists is trying to challenge the current state of our public environment. The very fact that his activities are criminal at all is a result of the power that outdoor advertising exercises over our public lives, and the lack of power that is given to individuals for whom this public space should function. (This public project is a good example of the good that comes about through public interaction with public space) What's almost too good to be true is that unlike other public artists, graffiti and street alike, his project directly questions this tenuous relationship. And still all we can pay attention to is whether or not he's really Henry Matyjewicz, and did he or did he not get arrested.

By all means I will be there Monday morning at Henry's court appearance, and I undoubtedly am frustrated by the fact that he had to spend time in jail at all. The mere fact that the Anti-Vandal squad, (a task force of 75) or whatever branch of the NYPD that was used to pull off an undercover sting operation to arrest someone who has single handedly created more dialogue about the use of our public space, is astounding. But lets forget for one minute the issue of his arrest and think about why he is in this position, and who might be a better candidate to take his place.

The city runs a special task force through the DOB called the Sign Enforcement Unit. Headed by Edward Fortier, 5 individuals attempt to handle the overwhelming proliferation of illegal advertisements in the city. In fact their only task is to handle billboards, and yet they are swamped by the herculean task set before them. Often it takes them months to even get to illegal billboard complaints like this one, and even once they have located an illegal billboard, many more months of legal negotiations in order to finally have it removed. The cost of this task force as well as the legal battles which must take place, is paid for by YOU AND ME! PosterBoys activities cost you and I nothing, and instead of advertising content, he brings you critical issues.

The best part about this, and what makes us arguing over who we think PosterBoy is even more ridiculous, is that we know the full names of every landlord which operates illegal signage in the city. That's right, all you have to do is type in the address of a building with signage on it, and you can see if there is a permit for the sign. If there is no permit, you have the full name of the person responsible. And yet here we are arresting one of the only people in our city trying to make us aware of this fact.

What makes this whole thing even more absurd is that PosterBoy, for all his concerted efforts to bring to light this important issue, has made not a single dollar and remains committed to not profiting directly from any of this activity. Juxtapose the millions of dollars being made by the operation of illegal signage in the city by individuals whose names we know and for whom we need no sting operations and undercover detectives, and you quickly see for whom the public space is operating.

It is our duty to PosterBoy, and all those individuals who have put their safety on the line to bring you face to face with this glaring issue, to channel our frustration and energy to outing the real issue at hand. Henry Matyjewicz is not only not PosterBoy, but the NYPD, by his arrest, has failed the public at large by ignoring the real culprits, and the motivation behind PosterBoy's activism.

When discussing PosterBoy, let us not forget to talk about the other vandals operating in our city. This all just makes me think of the woman in the KCET Billboard Confidential video Part 3 saying, "It doesn't really seem like anybody cares and I don't really believe the city is capable of doing anything about it." PosterBoy has made you think about it, now lets make our city capable of doing something about it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cry me a river Jordan.

Somebody should report you to the anti-vandal squad.

Who will report you??

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Illegal signs posterboy is cutting up legal signs costing the city and the taxpayers huge ammounts of money..
You remove phonebooth ads costing the city and taxpayers money.Do you actually thinks its costing Van Wagner money to replace those ads they make money everytime they have to go fix what you do.The phonebooths are legal and provide a service to people who cant afford a cell phone or dont want one.Not to mention tourists from over seas.Advertising is beautiful and creative.

And the company you hate has the best looking boards in the city.They are well maintained some even have time and temp clocks on them.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jordan- I am reporting you to the anti-vandalism squad.

Best wishes to you my friend.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every single one of the posts above this one are absolutely immature and filled with misguided anger.

I even sense maybe some personal hatred in there at times....I wouldn't know, because every single post written by Anonymous is just the same thing recyled over and over again.


Yes, PosterBoy is defacing property that is not owned by him; therefore he should be punished for it. Do you really think that he goes out every night worrying about it? NO!

There is more to it than your ridiculous rants about Van Wagner and wanting people to be prosecuted for doing what YOU could obviously never do...HAVE THE GUTS TO DO SOMETHING EXTREME AND STAND UP FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN NO MATTER WHAT THE COST!

Geez, I mean really?

Anonymous Anonymous said...


There isn't any personal hatred for anyone here, just someone talking sense to a bunch of extremeists.So do something extreme stand up for what you believe in no matter what the cost.Sounds like something Bin Laden would say to his extremeist followers before going to suicide bomb a school or shopping mall.

If you don't like illegal billboards get them removed in a legal manner. But I believe the owner of a piece of property has the right to do whatever he wants to that property.

And not all the Anonymous posts are the same person!!!

Blogger Unknown said...

Jordan, this was one of my favorite posts; please keep it up! The difference in size between the Anti-Vandal Squad and the Sign Enforcement Unit is really striking. I've been wondering something: obviously you advocate a reduced advertising environment in the city but how does art play into this? Do you believe that art and advertising compete for space within the public environment or are the two independent?

To those who take joy in PosterBoy's arrest and "wish" and "pray" for Jordan's arrest, remember this: Jordan and PosterBoy are engaged in acts of civil disobedience. One of the primary strategies of civil disobedience is to get in "trouble" with the government and thereby attract attention to the issue in question. In this sense, PosterBoy's arrest was successful in that it has brought significant attention the issues surrounding advertising in public space. I suspect that Jordan fully accepts the possibility of his arrest and is well prepared to utilize his "day in court" to the utmost.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I guess I'm naive in thinking that all of the 'Anonymous' posters were the same people...(sarcasm)

Extremists? You're the first person to coin that term on this blog and I think your comment about Bin Laden was pretty darn extreme. Don't even try to compare these people to suicide bombers! That's just ridiculous!

Jordan does try to take down illegal signs the legal way! Do you even read any of this blog, besides commenting on it?


And no hatred, huh? Then don't call people idiots!

Blogger Jordan Seiler said...

yes art and advertising compete in the public space. This doesn't happen directly, but it happens nonetheless through the commercialization of the public environment. Once the walls of our city become a commodity, other social uses of that not having to do with money become nearly impossible.

My favorite example is the deli guy whose store is two blocks from a local public school. Without the wall outside his deli having monetary value, the owner may be inclined to offer that space to the school for a mural or community project. He does so willingly, and the result is a group of students who find themselves interacting and thus becoming physically invested in their neighborhood.

Once advertising is allowed to give that same space monetary value, we are hard pressed to expect the average citizen to do the right thing and pass up on the opportunity to cash in.

By setting our values about how public space should be used prior to advertising's abduction of that space, we insure the usages that we want over those that advertising creates.


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