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
Friday, July 31, 2009
Abandoned 7th Ave. building bane of neighbors’ block
A recent article in Chelsea Now bemoans the dilapidated building at 210 7th avenue. Since the building went vacant in 2002, complaints have included the illegal advertising that has adorned the building for as long as I can remember. Reporter Sheila McClear writes "But even the ads, the only bright spot on the otherwise derelict property, may be illegal." A simple jaunt to the Department of Buildings website clearly shows this address has no permits which would allow outdoor advertising. In fact the advertising itself might be the very thing that is keeping this building derelict. In the article the Deborah Fenker, speaking of the landlord, is quoted as saying, 'He told me that he got good money for having those ads up in the windows,'. If this building wasn't pulling in revenue from advertising there is a strong chance the landlord would take the initiative to rent the ground floor, which would then require the other maintenance that is drawing so many complaints from local residents.
This makes me think of the conversation I had with the CEO of InWindow, Steve Birnhak. One of his justifications for operating his illegal advertising business was that his ads hide unsightly closed storefront conditions. In this way he suggested his advertisements actually helped fight of the broken window theory from coming to fruition, preventing neighborhoods from slipping into states of decline. It would seem from this article and the conditions at 210 7th avenue, that these streetscape ads might also make it easier for landlords to neglect their properties, actually facilitating neighborhood decline.
I ran across this piece of paper taped to a phonebooth on Canal Street. Bemused, I took one of the phone numbers and promptly called. An answering machine immediately picked up and said the following before the familiar beep telling me it had begun recording. How Bizarre.
"Free yourself from your burdens. Record your confession or secret after the tone. There is not limit on the number or the length of the messages, And its completely anonymous."
Up until two years ago, this Louisiana-based billboard company had virtually no presence in L.A., although it was the largest owner of billboards nationwide. Then it shelled out $100 million for Vista Media, a company with some 4,000 signs, and just like that became the largest owner of billboards in L.A. Now it wants to trade almost all of those signs—remove them, in other words—for the right to put up brand new billboards, some digital, and many on city-owned property in exchange for the payment of a fee to fatten starving city coffers. [More]
A while back it was suggested that I look into the etymology of the word Vandal. I never found a good enough reason to post my findings until now.
The word Vandal originates from the name of the Germanic tribe "Wandal" or "Wanderer." It seems they were held responsible for the sacking of Rome in 455 A.D., "and were notorious for destroying the monuments of art and literature." As with much of history, this isn't the only accepted view. In fact it seems some attribute the fall of Rome at this time to economic troubles and less to wanton destruction caused by roaming tribes.
Some believe the Wandal tribe was integrated knowingly into the social fabric of Rome as the city became less powerful and unable to keep others outside of the city walls. Ultimately, "Although they were not notably more destructive than others, the high regard which later European cultures held for ancient Rome led to the association of the name of the tribe with persons who cause senseless destruction, particularly in diminution of aesthetic appeal or destruction of objects that were completed with great effort." [source]
The word Vandal has changed over the years and today has less to do with the destruction of our sacred cultural objects and more with defacement of public and private property. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law defining the noun as "a person who willfully destroys, damages, or defaces property belonging to another or to the public."
Graffiti is often regarded as vandalism and I have been confronted with many occasions where this was the case. Just the other night I was on Grand street in Williamsburg when I came across an Atlantic Maintenance crew buffing graffiti one door at a time as they made their way through the Grand Street Business Improvement District. Clearly local shop owners as well as residents had agreed to the large scale removal, a clear indication of their feelings on the subject. No more than two blocks away I came across a man on a ladder outside his house spray painting the side of his house white, trying to cover a large black throw up. Not really knowing what to say, I asked what he was doing and he answered very quickly "Removing this fucking graffiti and I'm fucking pissed."
An act of vandalism is destructive, not constructive and yet despite little evidence otherwise, I can't say graffiti is vandalism. I started testing my notion of this by paying a lot more attention to the scrawl on the streets. What I have begun noticing is a lot of tags which I can only describe as heartfelt attempts to communicate feelings of sincerity. Below are some images I have found to support this notion.
This image was installed at 12th street and Avenue A on the North East corner. In case you don't know, NY Ghost contacted us regarding the instructional video on breaking into phonebooths and has been hitting the street since. Every time he hits the street he sends an image of his doings. We are meeting up tomorrow for some good old fashioned fun and to get to know yet another person in this incredibly large and wonderfully small city we live in.
As of today, InWindow has a new illegal streetscape billboard on 6th avenue between 37th and 38th streets. It has been added to the InWindow Map. With rear projections about 10 feet tall, this moving billboard is a fantastic example of technology used for the most tired visual display, while across the world in Germany they get this "Life-altering 3D projection". After meeting with InWindow over a month back on the suspicion they were sizing us up while attempting to prove their good intentions, they seemed to say they were all about bringing interesting content to the streets and working with the community. This Sprint ad is less than interesting and brings nothing of value to our city while breaking our laws and obscuring our vision with commercial messages. Hot air fills the room.
Reader Runs Into Illegal Pearl Media Streetscape In Miami
One of our readers found this illegal Pearl Media streetscape down in Miami Florida. He did a bit of research and found this company actually operates out of New York. Just like our old favorite, InWindow, Pearl Media seems to operate illegally as well. The fact of the matter is putting up advertising in empty storefronts is to temporary and fleeting to go through the laborious permitting process. By the time permits are acquired a storefront will have long been rented, making this business model impossible to run legally. The fact that businesses like Pearl Media, InWindow, or Application Unlimited exist at all highlights our cities' lack of enforcement as well as the disregard of outdoor advertising in general. I attached the reader’s email and images below. Thanks again.
I've never written you before, but I saw this on Miami Beach this weekend and thought you would enjoy it. It is a vinyl wrap on a vacant building down there for Ketel One. There was a citation for it already, but the city flat out told me that it was a company out of NYC called Pearl Media and they were already serving them court papers, good news. I also googled them, and found their website. http://www.pearlmediaus.com/Anyways, since it had fallen down I thought it was a good picture opportunity.
So we've got thousands of illegal advertisements of egregious proportions hanging off every damn surface in the city and this guy can't hang a 3'x5' protest banner from his balcony? My first home was right above the C in the Chelsea Hotel. The building holds a special place in my loosely pieced together history of my parents relationship and their experience as young adults in New York City. To watch the change in management tear apart the solidarity of the residents over the past few years is disheartening.
The Hotel Chelsea bloggers are reporting that the Bring Back the Bards sign that has been hanging on the facade of the hotel for two years has been forcibly removed. Tenant Arthur Nash had it hanging outside of his room, but at approximately 8:45 a.m. the "kinda-sorta manager Arnold Tamasar" took it down as a police officer and a security guard stood by. They report that "the cop’s explanation for allowing the sign’s removal was that only the owners of a building are allowed to hang signs on the façade. This is open to debate, and in fact it was being discussed with various city agencies. The cop further stated that, since Arthur didn’t have a door to the balcony (like many residents, he climbs through his window), he was not allowed go onto the balcony at all." Did the NYPD have a right to assist the hotel management in what the residents are calling "a suppression of Nash’s first amendment rights"?
I can't believe it took this long to review the most recent PosterBoy, Aakash Nihilani, Ibrahim Ahmed III show at the Jajo Gallery In Newark, but I wanted to see if my initial reaction changed with a bit of time to think. It didn't. Similarly to his last show at Eastern-District, PosterBoy's transformation of the gallery space doesn't address the underlying advertising and public space issues his work in public so effortlessly tackles. In this recent show you might not even know that the materials were in fact stolen billboards if you weren't aware of his process because the billboards he chose were obscure New Jersey based rug retailers. On top of this Aakash's work looses its spatial relationships, merely becoming a way to hold PosterBoy's billboards to the wall, albeit in an artistic fashion. I thought to myself, even more than most street art, this work just doesn't work in a gallery setting.
Nonetheless, I found myself out at Jajo enjoying myself and rabble rousing with an interesting crowd of people, talking about street art, graffiti, and outdoor advertising's monopolization of our collective visual space. This was an unsuccessful gallery exhibition but a successful event which reinforced an open dialogue about important activist issues that are often left out of gallery conversations surrounding street work.
This fact begged me to rethink what I expected, or wanted from a gallery exhibition of street art and public space activist projects. Most importantly, whether the work exists on the street or within four white walls, I want the work to create conversation about whose ideas belong in the public and how as a public our communications are often illegal and transgressive. Whether this happens on the street or within a gallery isn't the issue, it just has to happen for the work to hold water. And in fact this kind of conversation was well represented the opening night. I just don't know if it needed to be up for a full month.
Charlie Todd of Urban Prankster sent me these images from Belgium. He knows how much I love seeing people all over the world reclaiming public space from the grip of commercial messages and outsider content.
Often street artists will hit the streets for a while until they gather enough momentum to find galleries which will show their work. Once in the comfortable nest of four white walls, those artists might not go back to the street. Not only has WK interact not given up on the public work, but he has taken his latest gallery exhibition at Jonathan Levine and brought it directly to the street in all its glorious complexity. The images he is posting now appear to be straight prints of the paintings he has on exhibition. Now if only he would take one of those amazing doors and install it at my house in Brooklyn. You can see more images here.
Last Tuesday I ran into a wild horde of teenagers posting their artwork over illegal NPA Outdoor advertising. After the last posting about my interactions with the artists at work, I found out this street takeover was a part of the MoMA Red Studio summer program. I spoke with one of the teachers from the program and it seems the class thought I should post some images of them at work.
I decided to go past the location again today as I walked to my studio. Lo and behold NPA Outdoor had come back to reclaim what isn't rightfully theirs, and did so illegally. The participants in the street takeover that removed this illegal advertising by placing art over it, did so with permission of the landlord. NPA Outdoor on the other hand not only illegally posted advertising, but illegally removed artwork at the property. As sad as this is, I hope it helps the students understand what they were doing, and how the advertising that they were covering is directly at odds with this type of artistic endeavor. By monopolizing public space and communication, outdoor advertising silences public use of public space by literally covering works of art. As well, it provides a singular view of what kind of messages and images should grace our walls and helps criminalize those other activities in the process.
Today I was coming back from the photo store when I turned down 9th avenue from 18th street headed north. I then came upon a construction shed being plastered with art by what looked like a roaming horde of young adults let loose on the city. They were aggressively posting their images over illegal NPA Outdoor advertising content. I immediately stopped to ask what was going on and was quickly told they were a part of a MoMA summer program that teaches young adults about the art world. This specific class was a response to a trip to a recent rock and roll exhibition that pays homage to New York's influential rock and roll culture. Punk rock, being a large part of NYC music history, has a rich DIY poster history itself. Many of the bands used public posting as a cheap media outlet when others were unavailable.
The students were practicing this process for themselves out in the open, in broad daylight. Not only this, but they were having what looked like a fantastic time, getting on each others' shoulders to reach the higher spots and generally enjoying creating their own public content. I asked them if they knew that the advertising they were pasting over was illegal, which they seemed unphased by, yet oddly aware of. Getting rid of advertising content using artwork, or publicly created content, suddenly seemed very natural.
I ran home to get my camera to take the group portrait you see above. Thanks to the two wonderful teachers for bringing their students into the rich world of public art and public interaction. Bravo!
A recent article from The New York Times talks about the rental of the newly formed public spaces on the Broadway Car-Free zones. I'm not against the rental of the space, I'm not even sure I'm fully against its rental to corporate America. This is in part due to the fact that like most other advertising mediums, a singular location like this can be avoided by pedestrians. What I am against is the idea that corporate sponsorship is the way to fund our public services. When we rely on this kind of funding to keep our public services running, we risk loosing the autonomy of those spaces.
MOMO sent me a introduction to the Flogo company recently and I couldn't help but look it up on YouTube. This video is just one example of recent Flogo advertising stunts and I couldn't help but be enthralled by the level of enthusiasm people seem to have. It's simply idiotic.
I made it to the beach last Friday to hang out and relax. Originally meaning to go to Jacob Riis park to beat the crowds, the rain changed my plans and led me to Coney Island where rain could be brushed off with heavy drinking. The rain ended up holding off and I set up a blanket 30 feet from the water. About an hour into my relaxation a helicopter flew up the beach and began to hover about 30 yards off shore directly in front of me. Half the beach got up and ran down to the water's edge taking pictures and shooting video as the helicopter released a ladder, presumably to rescue someone who was drowning. All the while more people were rushing down the beach to see what all the commotion was. Given the helicopter was only 60 feet above the water, making a ton of noise and disrupting the waters surface for a hundred feet in all directions, it was hard not to notice. After about a minute a guy dressed in army fatigues began to climb down the ladder. I kept trying to see if someone was drowning but couldn't see any reason that the helicopter should be running a rescue operation. It was then that I looked up at the helicopter again and saw the G.I. Joe logo plastered to its side. Once the man reached the bottom of the ladder and waved at the crowd, the helicopter began to slowly traverse the water front making sure every last beach goer looked up from his book or stopped applying sunscreen to their boyfriend's back. All in all it was a fantastic experience that unceremoniously took 5 minutes of everyone's life while simultaneously distracting every life guard on duty.
Nicolas Herve from the Debunkers collective was telling me about spying billboards in Paris when we meet last week. I haven't really heard much about them and didn't pay it too much mind until he sent me the article below from the New York Times.
Rick Rivera, left, and Nathan Lichon are drawn to an electronic billboard in Manhattan.
In advertising these days, the brass ring goes to those who can measure everything — how many people see a particular advertisement, when they see it, who they are. All of that is easy on the Internet, and getting easier in television and print.
Billboards are a different story. For the most part, they are still a relic of old-world media, and the best guesses about viewership numbers come from foot traffic counts or highway reports, neither of which guarantees that the people passing by were really looking at the billboard, or that they were the ones sought out.
Now, some entrepreneurs have introduced technology to solve that problem. They are equipping billboards with tiny cameras that gather details about passers-by — their gender, approximate age and how long they looked at the billboard. These details are transmitted to a central database.
Behind the technology are small start-ups that say they are not storing actual images of the passers-by, so privacy should not be a concern. The cameras, they say, use software to determine that a person is standing in front of a billboard, then analyze facial features (like cheekbone height and the distance between the nose and the chin) to judge the person’s gender and age. So far the companies are not using race as a parameter, but they say that they can and will soon.
The goal, these companies say, is to tailor a digital display to the person standing in front of it — to show one advertisement to a middle-aged white woman, for example, and a different one to a teenage Asian boy.
“Everything we do is completely anonymous,” said Paolo Prandoni, the founder and chief scientific officer of Quividi, a two-year-old company based in Paris that is gearing up billboards in the United States and abroad. Quividi and its competitors use small digital billboards, which tend to play short videos as advertisements, to reach certain audiences.
Over Memorial Day weekend, a Quividi camera was installed on a billboard on Eighth Avenue near Columbus Circle in Manhattan that was playing a trailer for “The Andromeda Strain,” a mini-series on the cable channel A&E.
“I didn’t see that at all, to be honest,” said Sam Cocks, a 26-year-old lawyer, when the camera was pointed out to him by a reporter. “That’s disturbing. I would say it’s arguably an invasion of one’s privacy.”
Organized privacy groups agree, though so far the practice of monitoring billboards is too new and minimal to have drawn much opposition. But the placement of surreptitious cameras in public places has been a flashpoint in London, where cameras are used to look for terrorists, as well as in Lower Manhattan, where there is a similar initiative.
Although surveillance cameras have become commonplace in banks, stores and office buildings, their presence takes on a different meaning when they are meant to sell products rather than fight crime. So while the billboard technology may solve a problem for advertisers, it may also stumble over issues of public acceptance.
“I guess one would expect that if you go into a closed store, it’s very likely you’d be under surveillance, but out here on the street?” Mr. Cocks asked. At the least, he said, there should be a sign alerting people to the camera and its purpose.
Quividi’s technology has been used in Ikea stores in Europe and McDonald’s restaurants in Singapore, but it has just come to the United States. Another Quividi billboard is in a Philadelphia commuter station with an advertisement for the Philadelphia Soul, an indoor football team. The Philadelphia billboard was installed by Motomedia, a London-based company that converts retail and street space into advertisements. It installed the A&E billboard in association with Pearl Media, a Butler, N.J., company.
“I think a big part of why it’s accepted is that people don’t know about it,” said Lee Tien, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group.
“You could make them conspicuous,” he said of video cameras. “But nobody really wants to do that because the more people know about it, the more it may freak them out or they may attempt to avoid it.”
And the issue gets thornier: the companies that make these systems, like Quividi and TruMedia Technologies, say that with a slight technological addition, they could easily store pictures of people who look at their cameras.
The companies say they do not plan to do this, but Mr. Tien said he thought their intentions were beside the point. The companies are not currently storing video images, but they could if compelled by something like a court order, he said.
For now, “there’s nothing you could go back to and look at,” said George E. Murphy, the chief executive of TruMedia who was previously a marketing executive at DaimlerChrysler. “All it needs to do is look at the audience, process what it sees and convert that to digital fields that we upload to our servers.”
TruMedia’s technology is an offshoot of surveillance work for the Israeli government. The company, whose slogan is “Every Face Counts,” is testing the cameras in about 30 locations nationwide. One TruMedia client is Adspace Networks, which runs a network of digital screens in shopping malls and is testing the system at malls in Chesterfield, Mo., Winston-Salem, N.C., and Monroeville, Pa. Adspace’s screens show a mix of content, like the top retail deals at the mall that day, and advertisements for DVDs, movies or consumer products.
Within advertising circles, these camera systems are seen as a welcome answer to the longstanding problem of how to measure the effectiveness of billboards, and how to figure out what audience is seeing them. On television, Nielsen ratings help marketers determine where and when commercials should run, for example. As for signs on highways, marketers tend to use traffic figures from the Transportation Department; for pedestrian billboards, they might hire someone to stand nearby and count people as they walk by.
The Internet, though, where publishers and media agencies can track people’s clicks for advertising purposes, has raised the bar on measurement. Now, it is prodding billboards into the 21st century.
“Digital has really changed the landscape in the sort of accuracy we can get in terms of who’s looking at our creative,” Guy Slattery, senior vice president for marketing for A&E, said of Internet advertising. With Quividi, Mr. Slattery said, he hoped to get similar information from what advertisers refer to as the out-of-home market.
“We’re always interested in getting accurate data on the audience we’re reaching,” he said, “and for out-of-home, this promises to give a level of accuracy we’re not used to seeing in this medium.”
Industry groups are scrambling to provide their own improved ways of measuring out-of-home advertising. An outdoor advertising association, the Traffic Audit Bureau, and a digital billboard and sign association, the Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau, are both devising more specific measurement standards that they plan to release by the fall.
Even without cameras, digital billboards encounter criticism. In cities like Indianapolis and Pittsburgh, outdoor advertising companies face opposition from groups that call their signs unsightly, distracting to drivers and a waste of energy.
There is a dispute over whether digital billboards play a role in highway accidents, and a national study on the subject is expected to be completed this fall by a unit of the Transportation Research Board. The board is part of a private nonprofit institution, the National Research Council.
Meanwhile, privacy concerns about cameras are growing. In Britain, which has an estimated 4.2 million closed-circuit television cameras — one for every 14 people — the matter has become a hot political issue, with some legislators proposing tight restrictions on the use and distribution of the footage.
Reactions to the A&E billboard in Manhattan were mixed. “I don’t want to be in the marketing,” said Antwann Thomas, 17, a high school junior, after being told about the camera. “I guess it’s kind of creepy. I wouldn’t feel safe looking at it.”
But other passers-by shrugged. “Someone down the street can watch you looking at it — why not a camera?” asked Nathan Lichon, 25, a Navy officer.
Walter Peters, 39, a truck driver for a dairy, said: “You could be recorded on the street, you could be recorded in a drugstore, whatever. It doesn’t matter to me. There’s cameras everywhere.”
Application Unlimited is another company operating street level vinyl storefront wraps in New York City. I was walking through the subway this morning and saw them installing vinyl ads in the 14th street ACE station which I believe is still operated by CBS outdoor. The image above, taken from their website, shows what they can do.
I have an architecture friend who follows BLDG blog at least close enough to send me related posts once in a while. Their recent comment on the renaming of the Atlantic/Pacific station in Brooklyn to the Barclays station is well worth the read. Quite understandably, the post talks about the absurdly cheap price this station was sold for, something we also commented on a few days ago after reading the New York Times article.
It's rare that I simply post street art on this site that doesn't in some way address outdoor advertising, but I couldn't resist myself in this case. The few times I do post street art are meant to illustrate more healthy uses of our shared spaces, and juxtapose the nature of public communication versus private advertising in our public environment.
That said, I just met Know Hope this past Sunday working on a project I'm not at liberty to talk about. He is currently showing at the Carmichael Gallery in L.A. Though he is originally from out west, he has lived in Israel since he was very young. An incredibly talented artist as well as poet, the combination of his characters and text leave me somber but hopeful. It is just this sort of poetry and communication that grounds me in the moment, and allows me to step back from the wonderful mind bending insanity that is New York City.
Last night I sat down with the Debunkers Collective, or the déboulonneurs, which I was told roughly translates to unhinge, unseat, or unscrew. I met with Nicolas Herve who gave me an inside rundown on their operations in Paris and across France. They are an amazing force working both outdoors over advertising, as well as motivating people behind closed doors to listen to the public's wishes. They are meeting with the Minister of Landscape this upcoming week in hopes of helping to refocus the changing of billboard law in France which after 20 years, is being rewritten. They are a powerful force in France and now a friend of PublicAdCampaign in New York.
Their Manifesto is extremely similar to my own, including the deep felt conviction that advertising should be presented in a way that gives the viewer the option to take in the message. In most mediums, like television, radio, magazines, newspapers, the viewer has the option to turn off the advertisement, flip the page, and generally make a conscious decision. As outdoor advertising stands now, the public has little options and are often forced to focus their attentions on private messages and commercial concerns. The Debunkers, not particularly interested in the messages presented in advertising but rather with the way in which they are presented, hopes to change outdoor advertising in France to reflect their interest in a viewer with options.
The way they propose to do this while still allowing outdoor advertising is to limit the size of the outdoor advertisements. They suggest 50x70cm which oddly enough is the restriction that's already placed on political advertisements, NGOs, and union organizations across the country. Nicolas explained that by limiting the size of the advert, those who want the message must actually approach the poster because of its size. A interesting idea for a group trying to work within the law to create an honest debate about outdoor advertising's viability in a major metropolitan city.
InWindow is back at 113 University place with larger than life digital projections. I Posted it to the InWindow Map, which shows this location's "ups and downs" if you will.
A while back I reported on this illegal advertising location when a large Snickers advertisement preceded what is now and ad for Sprint. The DOB seems to have issued a summons for the unpermitted illegal street level billboard, and yet this new copy is going up in broad daylight. The front door was open when I passed by yesterday and so I poked my head in to see what was going on. A team was setting up the digital projections and so I asked if they worked for InWindow. They explained that "they were from a different ad agency but were working with InWindow on this project." I asked them if they realized the billboard they were working on was illegal, at which point a woman stepped in and said that "They had heard that." I wasn't surprised that "They had heard that", or that they would bold face lie about knowing they were illegally posting outdoor advertising in broad daylight. If "They had heard that", don't you think a smart company would look into such an important potential business catastrophe?
I then proceeded to step outside and take some pictures of the property. They followed me out and talked amongst themselves until one guy pointed to me and said, "He's going to complain." I responded briefly with "of course I'm going to complain", which begged the question from them, "Why?" My simple answer, "Because what you are doing is illegal and the city doesn't want to look at this." didn't seem to sit well. Sorry guys, just looking out for the health a viability of our shared streets and public culture.