Eduardo Moises Penalver & Sonia Kaytal Property Outlaws: How Squatters, Pirates, and Protesters Improve the Law of Ownership
Barbara Ehrenreich Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy
Lewis Hyde The Gift, Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World
Geoffrey Miller Spent: Sex, Evolution, & Consumer Behavior
Sharon Zukin The Cultures of Cities
Miriam Greenberg Branding New York
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Billboard Blight: A Gallery Of Shame
People have been commenting that removing outdoor advertising from the public environment would result in a huge loss of jobs for the city, something we can't afford right now. In the short term this is true, but reading a post on Ban Billboard Blight reminded me that a healthy city is far more important than a few short term jobs. In response to the potential job loss, BBB writes.
"Perhaps the question to ask these companies is what they do to harm the visual landscape of the city, and how this makes it a less desirable place to live and do business, and what that means for jobs and the economy"
At last week’s City Planning Commission hearing on proposed revisions to the city’s sign ordinance, representatives and lobbyists representing behemoth corporations like Clear Channel and CBS Outdoor argued that stricter regulations on outdoor signage would harm the city’s economy and result in the loss of jobs, although they offered no facts or figures to support these assertions. Perhaps the question to ask these companies is what they do to harm the visual landscape of the city, and how this makes it a less desirable place to live and do business, and what that means for jobs and the economy.The billboards in the photos belong to Clear Channel, CBS Outdoor, and Lamar Outdoor (formerly Vista Media). Want to let them know what you think? Send an e-mail to the following:
This piece went up at 13th street and 6th avenue today, January 29th, just a hundred feet off the avenue towards 5th. I had installed two of the sides late last night so that I would only need to install one side in front of the class of students I was talking to about art and practice in New York City. I'm very happy with the outcome, though its a little bright for my tastes. The weaving is a direction I'm enjoying. Its three dimensional nature makes it stand out from advertising which is always a concern when working within an advertising frame. The public has trained itself to ignore whatever content is shown in these spaces and I have to break that habit in order to convey my message.
I will be talking to a class of students tomorrow studying applied disciplines that are fundamentally engaged with society and culture within the art context. These pieces will be used as examples of my discipline in an effort to visualize the way an artist works within the confines of a given pre-described system. I am intending this work to pinpoint a distinction between medias reliance on the two dimensional and the common practitioners need to engage the viewer on a more physical level. Normally I would tell you where this is happening but given the recent hatred perusing this site I will have to keep my happenings off the radar.
Dangerous Illegal Art? How About Some Dangerous Illegal Billboards
So with all this talk about illegal art I thought we should all be reminded of the other illegal image making that goes on around the city, outdoor advertising. There is a stark contrast between the two processes which needs to be noted, and one which has not been acknowledged by those commenting on this blog in regards to PosterBoy's illegal and destructive billboard takedown.
Above is an illegal billboard I found recently that I called in to the Department of Buildings (complaint #1247134). I am one of a group of diligent citizens that runs a site called illegal billboards that keeps track of illegal signage in the city, and is a forum for the discussion of billboard rules and regulations. We also keep track of the billboards we are responsible for getting removed, like this illegal sign at the corner of 34th street and 9th avenue. Illegal signage is nearly as prevalent if not more prevalent than legal signage in our public environment. Companies like Fuel Outdoor, (illegal signs' dirtiest billboard company) and NPA Outdoor, remain in operation despite conducting almost no legal business whatsoever. The fact of the matter is that both illegal artists and advertisers are operating vigilante style in a battle to gain the public's attention for their own cause.
With that said, the social deviance and danger associated with our illegal public projects pales in comparison to equivalent outdoor advertising activities. The most obvious difference being that their deviance creates an environment rife with illegal activity for profit, and ours creates an environment which promotes deviant activities in pursuit of social justice. The former is an environment where profit is paramount, and the public is silenced in order to keep quiet the illegal activities being perpetrated by private forces. The later is an environment where the public is rewarded for outing illegal activity in the public at the cost of our very own safety and well being.
Another difference between the two types of illegal image making taking place in our public environment has to do with the dangers associated with each. Recent PosterBoy activities were looked at as being especially dangerous to the public's safety by recent commentors. Yet the danger caused by PosterBoy is dwarfed by the incomparable danger that outdoor advertising poses to our public safety, both mentally and physically. This article details the safety concerns posed by outdoor advertising's illegal use of scaffolding around the city a few years back.
The above images are from a sidewalk shed which collapsed after strong winds got hold of a giant Helio advertisement wrapped around the shed. This eventually caused the structure to collapse, destroying several cars and potentially risking the lives of the public.
Therefore when we talk about illegal art and public destruction of property let's all remember that our efforts to press our issue by illegal methods do not veer too far from the operations of industries which have strangled a vital lifeline to our city, our ability to protest by any means necessary, while perpetrating the exact same crimes.
I made an observation a few days back about the financial crisis possibly hitting outdoor advertising companies in New York. I made it because there seemed to be a few billboards without any content around my studio and I hadn't witnessed that very often. Sure enough one of our diligent commentors told us what's up by posting "I know you hate billboards & etc, but Jan-March are THE WORST MONTHS for outdoor advertising no matter what." I was glad to have been informed of the slow season in outdoor advertising.
It seems that the season this year might be a little slower than usual. Driving along Houston street west of Broadway, one of the most advertising rich sections of NY outside of Times Square I know, looked like the above. Eight outdoor advertisements were missing from Broadway to Sixth avenue; that's a mere 6 blocks. Call it a coincidence if you want to "anonymous" but I think I was right.
We are seeing a dramatic decline in outdoor advertising investment suddenly. One can only speculate that advertisers are unwilling to risk wasting money, knowing the consumer has lost confidence in the market and is therefor spending much less and therefore unaffected by advertising messages. If I can't afford it I definitely don't want to persuaded to buy it, in fact to do so almost offends.
The New York City Council will hold a public hearing next Monday, January 26, at 1:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall on Intro. 623 which proposes to allow advertising on sidewalk construction sheds for a yet to be determined permit fee. The Municipal Art Society will testify against this ill-conceived plan. [Read MAS press release here.]
Outdoor advertising and sidewalk construction sheds blight our city’s streetscape. The City wisely seeks to regulate outdoor advertising with strict zoning regulations and imposes design guidelines for sidewalk construction sheds, but the City Council now wants to combine these two eyesores with a permit that would allow outdoor advertising companies to advertise on sidewalk sheds in manufacturing and commercial zoning districts. Read coverage of this issue in Metro NY, January 27, 2009.
Sidewalk sheds are mandated by law and are intended solely for safety purposes during construction. They are unattractive and interfere with pedestrian traffic, but public safety is a priority no one can argue with. Allowing advertising on them, however, merely serves to provide an incentive for a building owner to leave a shed up and extend the advertiser’s presence onto public property — the sidewalk.
We know from experience that sidewalk sheds have been left up for years, even when no work is being done on a building. This has a serious deleterious effect on the pedestrian experience — by creating congested dark spaces on some of our most important avenues. The sheds also interfere with the business of street level retailers and destroy mature trees that cannot survive when these sheds surround their trunks (some trees are just cut down to make room for the sheds).
The permitted advertisement will by no means be discreet or subtle. The Council bill would allow the sidewalk sheds to be as much as eight feet tall (conveniently the length of a sheet of plywood) and the advertisement could run the full length of the shed, which on some construction sites can be a block long with the shed wrapping around the corners of the building.
Our campaign against illegal advertising has been very popular with New yorkers because it is so closely related to the issues of livability and the preservation of the city’s unique streetscapes. It would be a true shame if the City Council is allowed to legalize advertising signage that the public clearly does not want.
Seems like Van Wagner is having some hard times, or else PosterBoy is really going all out. (He tells me these aren't his handy work) I'm sure this is just fallout from the current financial madness but that doesn't make it any less sweet. Empty like this, a billboard's potential becomes much more apparent, and its expected use less determined.
The bad news is our web traffic has tripled because of PosterBoy, The good news is our web traffic has tripled because of PosterBoy. That said, I promise we will continue to bring you other content but until then this we continue to support PosterBoy in everything he is doing. Despite what I'm sure is a whirlwind of press and praise, PosterBoy seems to be keeping the public in his heart and mind.
When we first heard of Poster Boy it was for his subway ad "mash-ups." More recently a video came out showing him work on a much larger scale, above ground, and promising it's a sign of what's to come. Earlier this week we tracked down the anonymous artist to ask him about his plans, ideas and why he does what he does.
Do you consider yourself a street artist? Amongst other things, yes.
Did you start with the subway ad "mashups" or had you been working on other canvases before? I started with hand-me-down canvases in art school. Appropriation art was the excuse I gave. Without trying to sound pathetic it all started with not having the space and money to make art the traditional way. After a while the canvas work didn't satisfy my ambitions. I felt I had a lot more to "say" and it was eating me inside. Then one day out of frustration and curiosity I started tearing down the ads.
Recently there was video of you taking down a billboard and a hint that bigger things were to come. What's next? I have something planned that, if successful, will make the poster and billboard stuff look trivial. However, the process will take a few months maybe a year or so. For now, just advert takeovers and more collaborations. For people who're interested in PARTICIPATING please email firstname.lastname@example.org
How hard is it to take down a billboard?! Cutting them down is easy. I use the same razor in the subway. Having the nerve and competence to climb up is something entirely different.
Have you ever been arrested? Yeah. Never for art related crimes though. What have I gotten away with? That's the real question.
What have people said to you when they see you altering the subway ads? I get a lot of, "Oh you're the guy that does the poster stuff", and, "Hey, did you do anything on the such and such line?" Most of the time people stare. On a good day I have Vandal Squad officers hounding me for autographs.
What is your overall goal? The overall goal for Poster Boy is to inspire others. I'd love to see people take up the Poster Boy model and create change within their environment. I'd like people to interact with art, media, and public space a little differently. Attaching a copyright to images and ideas is petty. I don't subscribe to the idea of originality either. Whether you believe information comes from the collective unconscious or plain ole history there's always a precursor to your idea. The creative process is more like a perpetual collaboration with our predecessors.
Please share your strangest "only in New York" story. While walking through the LES one day I approached your typical NYC movie set. Before turning the street to avoid the hoopla I caught Woody Allen staring at me. So, while walking, I stared back. This went on for about a minute. Right before I turned the corner I grimaced the way a five year old would. He laughed then I laughed. I thought it was kinda cool that I made Woody laugh. Usually he's the one making people laugh...that is when he isn't boning his daughter.
Which New Yorker do you most admire? Amy Goodman from Democracy Now. I don't trust news from anywhere else.
Given the opportunity, how would you change New York? Ban tv, deadly weapons, and advertisements. Make public transportation, school, healthcare, and internet free. Make all energy free and renewable. Oh, and maybe change the NYPD uniform from navy blue to hot pink.
Under what circumstance have you thought about leaving New York? If the MTA raises the fare again.
What's your current soundtrack? Charlie Parker, Dead Prez, Radiohead, Mos Def, old Beastie Boys, Chopin, and Santogold have been on heavy rotation lately.
Best cheap eat in the city. The Hare Krishna Temple on Houston & 2nd Ave. serves tasty vegetarian food to students for a small donation. For everyone else there's Oyama sushi on 1st Ave. & 11th St.
Best venue to see music. Central Park when the weather is right.
In case you don't read the comments on this blog, here is a recent diatribe from Ronnie that everyone should look at carefully. It is in response to some of the other comments on the "What's Left is the Idea" post, but makes some incredibly clear and incisive observations about advertising, its manifestation in the public sphere, and its effects on our social psychology. Thanks Ronnie.
Calling all critics!
1) Public property is subject to the authority of the majority. Any laws restricting the freedom of the people to express their views using public media are unconstitutional, whether these laws provide censorship, exact fees for the "service" of expression, or even require an application and identification process. MTA is a public benefit corporation, meaning that insofar as many aspects of their operations are concerned (for instance promotions), they reap both the advantages and responsibilities of any other public entity. If you don't adhere to such standards of liberty, then I suggest that you relocate to a place where the government more overtly overlooks the basic rights of the people.
2)Billboards are tools used to influence people's minds and gear them towards consumption, and it is very good at accomplishing that goal. If it wasn't an effective means of manipulation, then companies wouldn't collectively spend billions each year on advertising.
An individual with no background in advertising or psychology may make the mistake that the purpose of a billboard is simply to forge a memory of a product or company name. The truth known by most if not all who are educated on the subject is that advertising uses one or multiple "emotional appeals" to manipulate public opinion in favor of the product or company. Britney doesn't drink Pepsi so you'll remember Pepsi. You already know about Pepsi. Britney drinks Pepsi because you want to fuck Britney or you want to be Britney or you love to hate Britney like you love to hate your precious/detestable caffeinated corn syrup soda water.
This force of psychological manipulation DOES have a negative effect on society, since the vast majority of advertisements emphasize self-interest. You cannot emphasize self-interest without simultaneously de-emphasizing self-sacrifice. This means that those "buy zit cream and she may give you a hand job" commercials and even the helpful "if you smoke could look ugly when you're 40" billboards may help turn sweet little Timmy into a self-centered, self-loathing, self-improving-and-destructing Tim. Since this archetypal "Consumer Tim" is probably more likely to see the inside of the space station than his local soup kitchen or Habitat for Humanity office, anything to help slow the rapid production of Tims in this country is helpful, not harmful.
3) As for those of you who think that somehow this act is irresponsible, perhaps you should compare it to some of the "legitimate" artistic endeavors. http://blogofhilarity.com/tag/shit (look for the article "Giant Feces Destroys Swiss Town").
4) People are dying. The world is dying. If we don't do something about it, there will be nothing left of this beautiful thing we call life on this planet. One way for a skilled, creative person to make a difference is to help pull the plug on consumerist psychological manipulation, to remove us from the realm of the unreal and back into the world where your purchases and actions have real effects on you and everyone else on this goddamn rock. If you have a complaint, stop bitching at others who are trying to use their own abilities to make a difference and go do something about it yourself. Some day, despite your disapproval of his methods, you may even thank PosterBoy for drawing your attention away from the contents of a billboard and towards the issues that this world faces. With that I bid you good day. You are free to respond, but you will most assuredly receive no response. I limit myself to one blog response manifesto per annum, and it looks like I used mine a little early this year. Have a good day.
Ron English, the man behind the now iconic (although not quite as iconic as Shepard’s Obama Hope image) Abraham Obama image welcomed our new President to office in a unique (and eye-catching) manner: he and his crew of ad-busting minions took over a Clear Channel billboard in Los Angeles. So typical of Ron; always needing to be the biggest and best, huh? Well, we love it and suggest you sneak a glance if you’re in sunny SoCal, or peep his latest gallery work, which is now on display through January at FIFTY24SF Gallery.
This instructional video teaches you what you need to break into a phone booth, and how to do it. Remember it is illegal to tamper with private property even when it's in your public environment, assaulting your senses with messages you couldn't care less about for things you don't need.
Fuel Outdoor Suffers Huge Defeat as US Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Metro Lights Decision
Rami Tabello is a genius. This post chronicles the ongoing Fuel Outdoor drama which seems to have ended in Fuels defeat. We should see the removal of many Fuel advertising structures in New York and other cities as this decision trickles down. The end note regarding the stock price for the hedge fund that owns Fuel is amazing.
In addition to installing illegal billboards, Fuel Outdoor would oversell their signs. They would sell, say, 2,500 sign faces nationwide to a major media buyer, then actually install less than that. Pattison Outdoor does the same thing in Canada, although Astral and CBS are careful not to. (When CBS Outdoor acquired the TTC advertising contract from Urban Outdoor TransAD, CBS found that Urban was overselling quite a bit and CBS Outdoor officials believe thatIMA Outdoor currently oversells signs for its GO Transit franchise).
Fuel’s signature product is their “Metro Lights Panels” which you can see above. They were installed without permits first in Los Angeles, which has a street furniture contract; Fuel Outdoor than challenged the signs by-laws of Los Angeles, under the First Amendment. Fuel was quite successful in the lower courts,which ruled that Los Angeles cannot ban Fuel’s signs because it allows the same type of signs on transit shelters.
Emboldened by the lower court victory in Los Angeles, Fuel Outdoor installed the same signs illegally in other American cities that have Street Furniture contracts including: New York, Boston (in very useless places), Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington DC and San Francisco. There are currently outstanding challenges by Fuel Outdoor to the signs by-laws in San Francisco and New York. Those challenges in San Fran were stayed pending the outcome of an appellate court ruling in the Los Angeles case.
Thankfully, appellate court completely destroyed Fuel Outdoor and said that municipalities can ban billboards even if they allow the exact same signs on transit shelters. This is the ruling [PDF]:
Fuel Outdoor can now be expected to lose the associated court cases in the rest of the country. One blogger, points to a particularly scathing paragraph in the opinion in which the judges slam Fuel Outdoor’s famous attorney Lawrence Tribe:
Not to be deterred, Metro Lights drew our attention to additional precedents at oral argument in support of a further variation on this allegation of unconstitutional favoritism. Upping the rhetorical ante, Metro Lights accused the City of “auctioning off First Amendment rights” to the highest bidder, in this case CBS. This is strong, if rather sloganeering, language, but after reviewing the case law on which Metro Lights relies, we believe it to be little more than a canard.
Och-Ziff Hedge Fund is currently trading at $4.85/share down from its $32/share initial public offering price in late 2007.
A regular reader and I have been in correspondence lately and his last email was so fantastic I had to share. I asked him a few questions about how he came upon the site and that required some history. Explaining some of his time in the advertising industry he says...
"I interned at CP+B an advertising giant, an interesting experience doesn't even begin to describe it. A slave ship, full of cultural and artistic titans, shackled with brands."
He then regales me with this quote from advertising giant David Ogilvy that I had never seen before. If anyone should not be talking like this, it's ad exec's like Ogilvy, yet here it is in words.
One of my favorite quotes from an advertising God:
"As a private person, I have a passion for landscape, and I have never seen one improved by a billboard. Where every prospect pleases, man is at his vilest when he erects a billboard. When I retire from Madison Avenue, I am going to start a secret society of masked vigilantes who will travel around the world on silent motor bicycles, chopping down posters at the dark of the moon. How many juries will convict us when we are caught in these acts of beneficent citizenship?" - David M Ogilvy
I was tipped off that LEETO hit the big blank canvas PosterBoy provided a while back and sure enough when I went to the site he had. One may not agree with the content that was provided by LEETO, a quick "throw up" (used by graffiti artists when they are in a spot which is dangerous and don't have time to execute a more intricate piece), but one can't overlook the public interaction and communication happening here. It should be noted that the criminalization of graffiti by the city is responsible for LEETO's inability to carry out something more elegant and earnest in this situation.
I could not be happier with the direction this project has gone. It is a crystal clear image of how the public space should be used and for whom it should be used. Thanks PosterBoy and thanks LEETO for taking the time to talk to us through your environment. We are listening.
PosterBoy has been getting amazing web traffic lately and I love it. People are clearly responding to his work and I think it's an amazing opportunity to really push the issues surrounding outdoor advertising's control of the public environment. After all this is about change, and that requires a public consciousness growing. One of the things I've heard him reiterate time and time again is that this project is not his art as much as a form of protest that anyone can participate in. My work happens over public advertising as well so this isn't new territory but I thought I'd try my hand at his process. I gotta tell you it wasn't as easy as it seems on those videos of him. If you make a subway alteration please email it to me and I will post it immediately.
Oddly enough I missed my momma's birthday and she can't do dinner this Friday cause she has a date. Happy birthday momma, I love you. We can do Thursday.
I'm reading Walter Lippman'sPublic Opinion and came across some interesting quotes. The chapter they come from is called The Buying Public and talks about the tenuous relationship between advertisers, newspapers, and the buying public.
"It would be regarded as an outrage to have to pay openly the price of a good ice cream soda for all the news of the world, though the public will pay that and more when it buys the advertised commodities. The public pays for the press, but only when the payment is concealed [by advertising]."
Unlike those comoddities we are willing to pay for, the news is expected to be open, fair, truthful and above all free, in many ways a right in democratic society. It is in the end how we shape our understanding of the world we live in and then function as informed citizens.
"The real problem is that the readers of a newspaper, unaccustomed to paying the cost of news-gathering, can be capitalized only by turning them into circulation that can be sold to manufacturers and merchants."
Our inability to accept the cost of running what we want to be a democratic and transparent endeavor, the news, results in the sale of this institution to advertising and inevitably corporate interests.
The public environment we live in is not so dissimilar. In an effort to create a space true to the publics interest we must be willing to accept the cost and not rely on corporate sponsors to fund our public spaces, be they advertising, Business improvement Districts, Park Conservancies, or any other type of public institution funded by private monies.
This post is in response to the comment string left on the last post regarding PosterBoy's illegal billboard takedown.
The fact of the matter is attention needs to be drawn to this issue. With such amazing work being done and little attention being paid outside the art community, maybe it takes something outside of conventional means like PosterBoy's billboard takedown to actually address the problem. Here are some examples of illegal work that openly challenges advertising's messages and more importantly use of public space, yet hasn't managed to get your panties in a bunch.
One last post for the day and then I'm getting to my work.
PosterBoy and I have talked at length about the process of ad removal and rearrangement. The merits of destruction lacking artistry and finesse in a world of aesthetics and colors. Even graffiti stands on legs made strong by highly developed aesthetic codes. In light of this what can you make of such a wanton disregard for property and civil laws, conceived as an artistic endeavor. Maybe it is being misrepresented as art and is closer to activist projects. I returned to the scene of the crime where PosterBoy removed a large vinyl billboard and found something in the middle, an idea. No longer did Van Wagner control the message. What was left is the empty space upon which you can project your thoughts and desires about the place you want to be.
I don't usually post street art. It's not that I don't love it or pay close attention to it, I simply want the focus of this site to be the challenging of advertising's control of the public environment. Outdoor advertising criminalizes street art and other such activities by privatizing and commercializing the public environment. This happens to be a perfect example of proper public use of public space being subjected to the overbearing visual control expedited by the commercialization and privatization of the public environment.
The NY Post's report on the former Artkraft Strauss headquarters located at 57th Street and the West Side Highway may have put the building on the fast track to getting buffed. Currently owned by the Durst family and occupied by Anita Durst's Chashama, one artist who rents a studio inside tells us: "we wanted to cover the entire building with art but because of an article in today's Post, the building owners are going to buff it unless we can convince them otherwise." The paper called the building "a symbol of neglect and a magnet for petty crime," and reported that "the planned artwork on the side of the building has sprouted and begun to attract unwanted graffiti and ugly 'tags.' A number of windows also have been broken." Patting themselves on the back, they declare "when we pointed this out yesterday, action was taken." Indeed, the building owner told them, "In several weeks we will refurbish it."
Ron English has been taking over billboards for a long time. I've always understood his work to come from the political side, taking his issues with outdoor advertising based on its content and marketing tactics which often take advantage of the under represented. The beginning of this interview says otherwise. Ron talks about the freedom of speech as well as the control of public space issues with clarity and earnestness. Its a great look into his thoughts and process.
I am unfamiliar with READ's work and was happy to have been sent this post. It seems I'm not the only one taking matters into my own hands and reclaiming advertising space to express my ideas and discontents. Street artists and activists alike are doing similar work more than ever. Looking forward to the future and a movement which challenges not only the use of public space but who is using that space and for what ends.
“It’s around election time here in Israel and the campaigns are as crappy as ever (it’s funny but a lot of the parties are using distorted versions and misused slogans ‘inspired’ by the Obama campaign),” street artist READ wrote us. “I thought the billboards would be an interesting medium to use to say what I feel about the ‘09 candidates.” In a refreshingly bold move, READ literally rips apart political billboards and then recreates a new sign (above) to fashion his own form of propaganda. Take a look at the in-process video below and then peep READ’s Flickr here. Don’t understand what the billboard says? That’s okay, as READ quipped: “I know all the signs are in Hebrew but they make about as much sense to Hebrew speakers as well :)”
In this video PosterBoy tests the ease of removal/alteration of billboard sized vinyl signs. It's my understanding that he was attempting to release the vinyl in a way that would have allowed the top half to fold over the bottom half, leaving a blank canvas. On this new white wall he could have written whatever he chose. It was 27 degrees out and ice had covered everything earlier that evening. At the end of the video you can see instead of folding over, the right hand side of the vinyl was frozen stiff and dragged the bottom half down with the top as it came undone. This is a big hit, and if PosterBoy makes it work you will be seeing some of the largest ad takeovers I've ever seen happening soon. Stay tuned for more to come as I'm sure this isn't the last we will see of PosterBoy.
A flat surface (as of a panel, wall, or fence) on which bills are posted. Specifically, a large panel designed to carry outdoor advertising. This is the definition of “Billboard” from Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. Other dictionary definitions vary slightly, but the central idea is the same, that a billboard is a surface or panel upon which outdoor advertising is placed.
Contrast that with the city planning department’s latest definition of billboard as “Any sign structure that accommodates a sign larger than 40 square feet that is erected or affixed to one or more poles, columns or posts, or is attached to a building or structure, but excluding an Integral Electronic Display Sign, Supergraphic Sign or Wall Sign.”
Where does this definition come from? The word billboard doesn’t even appear in the L.A. municipal sign code, which only distinguishes between on-site and off-site signs (ones advertising goods and services available on the premises versus those advertising goods and services sold elsewhere) and defines specific types of signs, such as pole signs, monument signs, ledge signs, and so forth.
Do we really care about this parsing of definitions? We ought to, because limiting the definition of billboard to exclude such things as supergraphic signs, digital signs, and wall signs is allowing developers to claim a reduction in “billboards” at the same time they seek entitlements for enormous amounts of new advertising signage. For instance, a lobbyist speaking on behalf of the Figueroa and Olympic Sign District last month told the city planning commission that adoption would actually result in billboard “reduction.” He was able to make this claim because some of the conventional variety on poles would be removed to make way for development, even though the proposed signage in the district would total almost 50,000 square feet.
Some of the topics I choose to address may seem a little far off base but negotiating a common public space is a complex issue with many facets. The removal of outdoor advertising from the public environment is negotiated everyday by our interaction with the market and our streets.
Zip Car is a rent by the hour, membership based rental car company throughout the United States. They offer cheap access to cars in major urban centers and have become a smart way to "own" a car in a congested and expensive city environment. Social responsibility and the removal of cars from the road is part of their mission statement.
It turns out they are paying attention to other urban concerns as well. At the end of a customer survey I came across an interesting multiple choice question.
How would you rate the value of the following services? from High-low.
A car with advertising on the exterior or interior (whether electronic or traditional) offered at reduced rates
Reduced rates subsidized by advertising on zipcar.com (e.g. you would see ads when you went to make a reservation)
Instead of just placing advertising on the cars and charging the same rates, Zipcar is offering the public an opportunity to weigh in on how much driving around an advertisement is worth in savings.
In an era of advertising overload this is a good lesson in economics. If zipcar reduces rates after selling advertising space, they will get nothing out of the deal. Instead they are presenting themselves as socially responsible, and in many ways integrating themselves into the public identity by allowing the public to make decisions for the company. They see profit from their services rising by possibly not selling ad space. How novel.
Steve Lambert just posted this on his site but did this piece in June 2007. He goes one step further and shows you how to make a quick tool to do the same thing he did on instructables.com. Not only is this a great simple project, but the Invisible Venue seems to be curating other billboard liberation's as well. Here is another example by Aaron Stienstra.
I recently began removing advertisements without putting anything back. This started around Christmas when I removed 50 ads as a gesture to the three illegal billboards LA received in their stocking this year. I have continued to remove ads without replacing them for a "how to" video involving phone kiosks that I am working on.
I noticed that every time I come back to a phone kiosk I left empty, the replacement ad is a public service announcement. It seems that the ad companies print a set amount of posters and once those run out the only thing to replace missing ads with is the overstock of public service announcements they have in the van.
Amazingly enough this fact has left several of the phone kiosks I worked on with all three sides bearing different public service posters. It seems here "The passion for destruction is a creative passion, too." Bakunin
I received an interesting email this morning asking me if I knew anything about blue tooth advertising laws in the city and whether or not it was banned. The email came from a man I will not name at a company called Street Blimps, so I was understandably a little wary. After deciding it was safe I made the call and realized very quickly I had nothing to worry about and wasn't talking to anyone suspect.
Apparently a Google search had returned my name and involvement with the illegal billboards site. funny. He seemed genuinely interested with our public space concerns and explained his disgust with the scaffolding advertising scandal that plagued New York a while back. He told me a client wanted to know about Blue Tooth advertising options and was curious about what I knew. I told him I knew very little except that the new Cemusa Bus Shelters were supposed to have Blue Tooth technology both for ad content as well as bus information.
He then began to tell me how only 25% of phones have Blue Tooth and that text for information was available on all phones, making it a much better advertising tool. He also made a comment we both picked up on regarding the privacy issues allowed through text for information advertising versus blue tooth advertising. I was happy to hear an advertiser talking about privacy issues and told him a little more about my work.
This got us in to a little social responsibility frenzy at which point he explained his prior job in environmental products ten years before entering the advertising industry. He talked about it with passion and interest. That is not to say that he wasn't talking about his current job with as much fervor. I only bring it up because he did. His unprompted explanation for being in the ad industry was responsibility, including children.
Street Blimps is an advertising company which specializes in the more avant-gard forms. Amongst its repertoire, sidewalk stickers, projection billboards, mobile billboards (billboards on trucks) street teams, ad balloons, Segways, vehicle wraps and "innovative ideas". If these were the products being pushed for the last ten years, who was the contradiction I was talking to, and why did it sound so familiar?
I think it is safe to say a large portion of people I know or have met in advertising had aspirations for other things. They may not have been on any grander scale or meant anything more to the world, I only say that they thought of other things and ended up with advertising. It seems many of us, myself included, have issues we fail to see or choose not to look at.
Lippman Says, "From father to son, from prelate to novice, from veteran to cadet, certain ways of seeing and doing are taught."
To This Day, Subway Mural Project Can Still Inspire
In the following NY times article it becomes very clear using public space and art to foster someones connection to their environment is always a good idea. It bridges gaps between the self and community and helps people not only understand themselves in relation to a space but in their ability to transform that space for greater purposes. This is always empowering and often is part of the reason street and graffiti artists do what they do.
I think it's important to take the ramifications of this article very seriously. If community use of public space is beneficial to the residents and therefore the community as a whole, why do we allow the public environment to be over run by advertising?
Some say because it creates much needed revenue for the city. The percentage of city operating costs that advertising covers, much of which goes to private landlords and real estate owners who provide the wall space, is a very small amount compared to overall city budget. Not to mention the question which no one seems to ask, which is how on earth has an entire city become dependent on public advertising revenue to cover even a portion of its operating costs.
Add to this that many Artists and eccentrics don't need an invitation to use the public space as a vehicle for expression, communication and ultimately as a way to understand thier personal relationship to the community. They are willing to do it for free. All the benefits of a community project sponsored by the city happening on a daily basis through individual participation.
It is in fact the health of the city we are talking about here. We are weighing the revenue gained through outdoor advertising against the beneficial process of community art making and civil visual interaction.
From left, Lisa Branch, Nitza Tufino and Kim Ferguson discussed one of the murals at the 86th Street subway station on the Upper West Side.
By MARTIN ESPINOZA Published: January 5, 2009
When the No. 3 train roars by the 86th Street station on the Upper West Side, the dingy platform becomes the noisiest, if not the most unlikely, museum in the city.
The station is the permanent home of 37 ceramic murals, mounted almost 20 years ago on the walls of the platform and mostly ignored by commuters waiting for the next train.
But every now and then, commuter indifference gives way to curiosity, just long enough for someone to take in a portrait of a not-so-distant Upper West Side past.
There is the mural of subway riders boarding a red No. 2 express train at the 96th Street station nearby, or the two Hasidic men pushing pink baby strollers in front of a Chinese restaurant. In another, two old people inch their way toward an M104 bus.
These are no masterpieces. Most of the young people who created them were troubled or struggling students trying to earn their high school equivalency degree. Were the murals to be removed and sold, they probably would not fetch anywhere near as much as the 200 subway art projects by professional artists commissioned since 1985 by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Arts for Transit program.
But their value is measured in other ways, especially to the students who created them and a neighborhood that has grown accustomed to them since they were installed in August 1989.
Going on 20 years later, a number of these young people look back on a community art project that left a lasting impression on their lives. For some, it was a turning point. Others say they wish they had left a more personal mark on history. “When I see it now, I see all the love that I put in that work,” said Leeama Scott, 44, who was a teenage immigrant from Trinidad when she worked on the murals.
Some have left the Upper West Side, and some have fled New York City altogether. But wherever they ended up, most have become the subjects they portrayed: the office worker headed downtown, the parent playing with a son or daughter in the park, the community organizer, the teacher.
Guy Monpremier, 43, came to the United States in 1985 to escape political turmoil and violence in his native Haiti. For him and others, the mural project was a chance to explore the world beyond his immediate environment.
Grosvenor, an urban refuge of social service and education programs housed in a bleak rectangular structure that looks more like a compact jail, had been brought into discussions over how to spend $205,000 in amenity financing that had been promised by a developer constructing a high-rise condominium at 84th Street and Broadway. Some of the money went toward the project, which paid for materials and a $4-an-hour stipend for the 17 students who participated.
Carrying 35-millimeter cameras, Mr. Monpremier and the others were dispatched throughout the two-square-mile neighborhood to capture images of landmarks and typical urban scenes. The negatives of the best scenes were then made into slides, and the images projected onto a wall, where they were traced onto paper.
These drawings were transferred in reverse onto 23-by-30-inch linoleum sheets that were then stamped onto large sheets of clay. The large clay images were cut into pieces small enough to fit into kilns and fired, then painted with colored glaze, put back together like puzzle pieces, then finally mounted onto large frames.
Mr. Monpremier, like a number of students involved in the project, had plans to study the arts afterward. He attended Manhattan Community College for a time, but his studies were cut short. He is now director of security for a commercial real estate firm and lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
His contributions to the murals include a Broadway island bench scene, one of two older people getting on the bus and a street-corner view of Grosvenor.
A slight note of melancholy enters Mr. Monpremier’s voice when he recalls that period of his life. He has now invested hopes of a better future in his 10-year-old son, Joshua.
“He’s a good kid, I’m blessed with that,” Mr. Monpremier said. “I hope he’s able to do better than I have, as far as completing a college degree. That’s one thing that I’ve always wanted, as far as completing it. I never really had the energy to do it. But he’s also pushing me to go back.”
Clarisa Ureña started having children when she was 19, three years after she moved out of her parents’ home. She had two by the time she got involved with the mural project.
While Ms. Ureña studied for her high school equivalency exam, her children attended a day care program at Grosvenor. In the afternoons, she labored over a classic scene, the Lincoln Center fountain plaza. She lived one block away, on 106th Street, and Grosvenor had long been a part of her life.
“We had a responsibility, and if you didn’t meet the criteria you were out,” Ms. Ureña said of herself and the other students. “I was not the kind of person who could sit around the apartment.”
Her roles as wife, cook and mother supplanted her early interest in education, until the mural project came along.
Ms. Ureña, who moved to Garner, N.C., almost four years ago, said the project motivated her to go to college. She studied computer graphics and advertising at Bronx Community College, and after having a third child in the early 1990s, she received a bachelor’s degree in art education from City College. For a brief time she taught art to elementary schoolchildren in the South Bronx. In North Carolina, she works for Wake County’s food stamps program.
Mrs. Scott, then Leeama Blugh, attended equivalency classes at Grosvenor during the day and in the evening worked there as an assistant, helping younger children with their homework. She said the project had so inspired her that she thought seriously of pursuing a career in the arts. But her life took different turns. She attended beauty school and worked at various beauty salons in the city. Over the years, she has worked as a home attendant and an office worker on Wall Street. She now works in security.
Mrs. Scott said she had no regrets that her dreams of becoming an artist had faded. “When I look back and see all these things that I did, it makes me feel good,” she said.
Original plans for the mural project called for a less significant role for the students. A professional artist would design the work and hire students to do the manual labor, said Nitza Tufiño, 59, the artist brought in to direct the projectand teach the students how to make the tiles. Ms. Tufiño, the daughter of Rafael Tufiño, a prominent Puerto Rican painter and printmaker who died last year, said she viewed the project as an instrument for social change. Having the students work on an assembly line for another artist, for $4 an hour, would have had little impact on their lives, she said.
“How can you ask a young man, who could have $1,000 in his pocket selling drugs, to manufacture plaques that were created by someone else?” Ms. Tufiño said. “Think about what you’re competing against in el barrio.”
Inside her home in South Orange, N.J., Ms. Tufiño has kept dozens of black and white photographs, contact sheets, negatives and slides documenting the mural project. Many of the photos show the students in the Grosvenor workshop, a space no larger than a public school bathroom, drawing, rolling clay and carving linoleum.
Twenty years ago, Sandra Bloodworth, director of the Arts for Transit program, was new to the transportation agency, and the mural project was her first assignment as a supervisor.
“It’s amazing that it’s had such timelessness,” Ms. Bloodworth said. “No one thought anything like that would last. People thought it would be destroyed in a week.”
On a recent visit to the station, with Kim Ferguson and Lisa Branch, two participants who have remained close friends to this day, Ms. Tufiño reflected on the project.
“You know what’s weird?” Ms. Ferguson said as she walked down the platform, pointing to murals she worked on. “I still remember how to do the whole thing.”
Ms. Ferguson worked on the mural depicting commuters boarding the No. 2 train at 96th Street. In another mural, this one made by Ms. Branch, Ms. Ferguson is shown sitting next to two children on a brownstone stoop, wearing a yellow jumpsuit.
Ms. Ferguson, 41, is now a community organizer for the New York City Mission Society’s Minisink Townhouse in Harlem. She said the work she does today is a continuation of the help given to her at a critical time in her life.
Ms. Branch, 40, gave birth to her first child, Timothy, seven months ago, and until recently worked as a receptionist for Bear Stearns through a temp agency.
She brought Timothy along for the station visit, dutifully covering his ears every time a train roared past. In an interview before the visit, Ms. Branch said she had recently seen the tile murals from a passing No. 2 train.
“I said, ‘Wow, 20 years later and they’re still beautiful, just like when we put them up there,’ ” she said. “That’s something to show my son when he’s of the age to know what that is. So I can say, ‘Look, your mommy did that.’ ”
"The Dog Dies": Movie Spoiler Graffiti Hits Los Angeles
Having not seen this movie, which by the way is exploding box offices, I didn't realize the graffiti that has been showing up in Los Angeles is actually a movie spoiler. Given this, the messages are extremely disarming to the power the ad has to attract viewers. The ad may not itself be gone but the experience it is advertising is rendered useless through the added message by revealing the ending.
This is an interesting distinction for me that I have never considered, being adamant about total ad removal except in the most specific cases. If this graffiti were placed over an ad for Coca Cola, the product would suffer very little. Since Coca Cola's objective is brand recognition first and foremost and not the actual product, the fact that the brand is not obscured would mean the ad remains potent. In advertising for movies and other products or services which rely on the actual product to promote itself, total obstruction of the ad is not necessary. A detournement, or witty alteration may suffice to destroy the ad as well as point to the moment of interaction and communication taking place between viewer and individual.
This is not to say that any scrawl over an advertisement of this type will take the air out of the ad and turn the campaign on itself. The content of the alteration must speak to the product and displace whatever authority it might hold. This acknowledgment opens up a method of taking back public space from advertising content I have been very slow to recognize but have come to respect through this piece.
With that said, the objective of Public Ad Campaign is not to debunk advertising content, but rather to question its authority in the public environment and what adverse effects we are under because of it. Removal of the ad for individually created content is more to that point and speaks to an environment where the public creates content instead of reacting to it.
Bringing light to the Nike ACG Boots “The Strength Inside” campaign, Nike Sportswear partnered with a handful of high school teens in and around New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore to create a photographic journal representing the concept of “What strength means to you”. The Center for Arts Education (NYC) and the Peace and Love (Philly/B-more) organization brought over 250 kids together for the billboard campaign as one picture from the following neighborhoods/cities were chosen: Queens, Harlem, Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Baltimore. The winning entries from each city/borough will have their images displayed on billboards during the month of January in 2009. Two of the winners seen here include Brooklyn winner Kimone Napier (Billboard located at the corner of Flatbush Ave. & Washington Ave., Brooklyn, NY) and Queens winner Cindy Bencosme (Billboard located at the corner of Jamaica Ave & Sutphin Blvd, Queens, NY).
Giving children access to their own forms of personal communication in the public is a vital way to invigorate peoples investment in their community and public space. Not only do the children understand how their ideas can become a part of the public dialogue but also others within the community bear witness to alternative voices controlling the subject matter of visual communication. It can be extremely empowering to individuals and communities alike and should not be taken lightly. This video of Tom14 speaks to the importance of such community interaction.
How then do we consider this project, which is a stunt for Nike, but yet still a legitimate community project? I don't feel able to fully discredit this project solely on the basis of it being advertising because if all outdoor advertising was done similarly, the city would be a much different place. In fact this change in where outdoor visual content is taken from would result in the great businesses of our communities becoming the curators of our cities art and ideas. Instead of simplistic on way messages meant to steal your attention, companies would gain time in our thoughts by bringing the most interesting content to our city streets.
It's a novel idea and one which can make you imagine how other uses of our public environment might suite the city better without directly changing any of the more rigid power structures which exist in a commodity based market system.
“Masstransiscope,” a piece by the artist and filmmaker Bill Brand, can be glimpsed from northbound Q and B trains nearing the Manhattan Bridge.
Artist and filmmaker Bill Brand, created Masstransiscope in the late 70's in an attempt to reverse the cinematic convention of the image moving past the viewer, instead moving the viewer past the image. Initially "He wanted to change the images regularly, making a movie, in essence, that subway riders would see only in little segments of 20 seconds or so, like a crazily attenuated version of the serials that once ran in theaters." Slightly overambitious, this idea was dropped for a simpler version of the original concept.
No less interesting, this piece of work is a fine example of what happens when residents are allowed access to their public environment. These days Arts for Transit regulates which artists are allowed to access the NYC subway system and they do a good job of it, but it should be noted 'Bill’s work happened before Arts for Transit even came about. And that’s why it really is a part of New York history.'
These days not only would Bill find himself navigating through a much more complex process of application and permission in order to carry out his idea, but he would also be competing with an aggressive advertising platform which has come to dominate the MTA's visual landscape. Alongside the addition of hundreds of traditional platform level posters, recent advertising additions include, projection units, adhesive wall signs, advertising on the outside of train cars, advertising in the windows of train cars, digital ads on the sides of buses, on the backs of metrocards, as well as the plan to create ads using the same methods Mr. Brand used for his artwork.