<body> Public Ad Campaign: Vinchen Speaks About Why They Do It, Then They Did It
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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Vinchen Speaks About Why They Do It, Then They Did It

This images comes to us from Wooster Collective. While this is not an ad takeover, I have always been a fan of Vinchen's work and this piece talks directly about some of the motivations behind unauthorized use of public space for public expression that I like to champion on this site. Although Vinchen's aren't the only reasons people write on walls, the piece accepts the fact that the act of illegally writing in public might be a symptom of a need, or a feeling which compels the author to go out an commit a criminal act in order to express ones self. Something commercial media pays for and in doing so monetizes the spaces the public would put its own thoughts, thus further criminalizing their actions.

This cell phone video was taken by an old friend, Shandi Sullivan, the other night after a long karaoke session. While it may not be academically viable, I think it is a wonderful addition to Vinchen's piece in that it captures the potential for public interaction and communication that can be found around the act of marking ones public space. According to Shandi, after leaving karaoke late on Sunday night, her and a friend passed by one of the empty white NPA street level billboards that are still around NYC after NPA was forced to close shop and reopen as Contest Promotions in NYC. In their state of Euphoria, they decided to draw on this messaging board. Within minutes I am told that they were approached by another couple that wanted in on the action. It took some convincing on Shandi's part but the couple accepted that they were "allowed" to draw on this empty white board. In particular the girl in this video was unsure if she was allowed to draw in public, even if it was on an empty white board. Eventually she broke down and then furiously began to enjoy the act of marking in public space. Minutes later a passing skateboarder was called into the scene and he too was convinced that it was okay for him to draw at this location, outlining himself and his skateboard on the now very public space.

While this amateur, drunk interaction may be less than what we want to see as public expression in public space, the potential is obvious. The act of marking this board brought 5 strangers together in a public space, conversations were had, and ultimately a sense of public was built, however small. Expand this notion away from this late night rendezvous and you can picture messaging boards all over the city, ripe for moments of community, expression and public interaction. How grand would our sidewalks be if all of those NPA boards went white and became focuses of this kind of community behavior. When I argue against outdoor advertising in public space it is twofold. For one I abhor the manipulative and shallow nature of commercial messages, but as well I am saddened by the missed opportunities for a better use of our shared environment.

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