Tuesday, July 27, 2010
The SMSL Slingshot is an interesting tool for public communication and appropriation of media space from the good people at VR Urban. If somehow the SMSL virtual paint balls could be shot at active commercial billboards, hacking the display to present the unauthorized SMSL messages, this would be the most amazing piece of gadgetry ever invented. Either way I love it.
Because of the increased commercial interest of paving public space with digital advertising screens the need for an accessibel intervention devices seemed obvious and necessary. The wish and habit to comment (tag) the surrounding world is also an ancient and still vivant phenomena we try to preserve. Our concept of VR/Urban aims for claiming back urban space and and give the inhabitants a tool for occupiing urban screens. People shall not only remain as a passive audience, they must obtain the privilege and beside that the right tools to create their own multimedia content in the streets. The more and more mushrooming media facades, LED supplied walls and huge projections are interesting and worthy technical innovations for the people, but in contrast to the old fashioned posters in the streets, it is nearly impossible to create own content for these facades or even hang up your digital video. [More Here]
Boris Johnson's London Cycle Hire scheme flogs our birthright to Barclays
Monday, July 26, 2010
Dystopia Filter Group Show
I am very excited to be a part of this upcoming group show. If you are around I highly suggest joining us for the opening and checking out what is sure to be some fantastic work.
By the way it is me and my gorgeous roommates 6 year anniversary. I will be accepting sympathy cards at my home address.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
A Brief History of West 13th and Washington Streets
I walked by one of my favorite street art/commercial advertising corners the other day and realized I had a post backlogged that I was supposed to put up weeks ago. So without further ado.
Often I am asked, quite abrasively, why I stubbornly abhor the presence of commercial messaging in our shared public spaces. My answer, often a meandering rumination on advertising motives, community values, and my personal thoughts on how our society would benefit from a more open outdoor media landscape, is met with resistance to say the least. Changing private property laws and decriminalizing symptomatic displays of visual communication (graffiti/street art) are not high on the list of civic priorities, nor those of public space activists for that matter. And yet I continue to pursue my interests in understanding advertising's relationship not only to public space, but to our society in general, and how its presence might be incompatible with a properly functioning shared environment which serves our larger societal goals and those particularly important to the cosmopolitan. (community, identity, realization of ones expressive potential and its ability to integrate you within your community and larger social structure) This line of thought is often without a lighthouse to guide me along its shores and I admit, I am tossed haphazardly by the tide with few stable examples to guide my thinking, often causing misunderstandings and hypocrisies, I understand. Never without a sense of humor though.
That said, the corner of West 13th street and Washington in NYC has been a focus of my attention over the years and has recently become an interesting backdrop upon which to discuss my concerns about public space and its relationship with outdoor advertising. If you are unfamiliar with this location in NYC, briefly it was once a neglected corner within the commercial meatpacking district, has recently been the focus of street artists and public muralists, and even more recently been targeted by the outdoor advertising industry as the Chelsea neighborhood has developed into the new gallery center of Manhattan and the associated tourism and subsequent hotel traffic has followed suite. This post is prompted by the recent wanton destruction of a 2 year old Conor Harrington mural at this location, but is informed by a 2 hour conversation I had with Sol Joseph of Critical Massive, an outdoor media company interested in supporting painted mural arts in New York. Initially it was my belief that Critical Massive was the responsible party for the atrocious act, but a more complex story unfolded which I will recount here.
A little History:
Critical Massive started about 6-7 years ago as marketing companies looked to new strategies to reach younger audiences that grew up with a relationship to the painted wall through rampant graffiti in our metropolitan cities. I was told they began by employing local artists, often graffiti artists themselves, to produce relatively small scale murals that were done with the landlords permission and sometimes input. I am told artists were paid well for their work, although I was not offered any numbers, and that they often had critical roles in the design and production of certain aspects of most murals. I can corroborate this story after speaking with several Critical Massive employees while they worked on the streets of NYC.
As Critical Massive secured locations around the city, an interest in maintenance and general respect towards the property is how they approached each location, "attempting to invigorate the spaces as opposed to taking from them" as Sol explained. Indeed the time invested to create each advertisement or mural lends itself to a sense of respect for the property, if not simply to protect their hard work and profits. This investment of time and energy in the production of visual art on the street I have always believed creates a sense of physical and psychological responsibility to public space, although I have never considered the production of advertising along those same lines. Nonetheless, Critical Massive through their investment of time and energy seems to have a deep respect for their locations and this city, even if the copy does not follow suite.
As a small company, and one of only a few, the other being Colossal Media, Critical Massive's presence in our public space has been minimal. Surely there was friendly competition between the two but both of these companies had chartered their own unique approach, Colossal going sky high, while Critical remained at street level. It is interesting to note that as these painted mural companies grew, NPA, our favorite street level illegal wildposting company was throwing its own weight around, making huge land grabs which often didn't recieve copy but sent a clear message to other outdoor advertising firms that NYC street level was NPA's territory. The affects of these strong arm tactics extended to numerous small outdoor advertising firms including Eyegoo Media which was forced to comply with NPA demands after receiving bogus legal threats they could not afford to fight. I digress....
In 2007 Critical Massive began a relationship with the landlord who owns the meatpacking building at this now infamous corner. As Sol remembers it there were no murals, some tags and one large street level billboard operated by NPA down Washington street between 14th and 13th streets. (you can see this billboard in the distance in the above photograph) Critical Massive began hand painted advertising mural production at this location in the same year, allowing the 13th street side of the building to continue to receive street art and graffiti. Sometime after this, Critical Massive was approached by the Lazarides Gallery. They were looking for wall space around New York City for a Conor Harrington mural, and Critical Massive was an expert in what was available. From what I understand, Critical Massive secured 3 months of media time on the 13th street side of the building, as well as helped Conor get materials, a ladder and everything that he needed to produce the mural below.
This was not entirely out of the ordinary for the young outdoor advertising company whose roots lay in street art and graffiti from the beginning. The way Sol talks about it, they were happy to have the opportunity to help bring some culture to the city streets as their business model did not allow for a lot of their own artistic productions, although it was a goal of theirs. That said, the three month media buy came and went and to everyones astonishment, the mural stayed up for an unprecedented two years despite being a prime location for advertising. That said there was a week where the mural was covered by NPA goons with an illegal billboard, although PublicAdCampaign and DickChicken disposed of this monstrosity in a late night maneuver.
At this point, the Conor mural had not only stood the test of time but had also been diligently protected by the community. This mural is in fact a unique moment of mural culture in a city whose mural culture is exemplified by competing outdoor media firms. The presence of this mural over the past two years has helped define this corner through an internationally recognized artist. In many ways I would consider it a landmark, maybe not in the historical preservation sense but in our collective geography of the city it has come to hold its own.
And then suddenly the mural was gone, partially hidden under a painted advertisement. The black square so callously rolled over this beautiful artwork read with simple text, "does Manhattan cause hair loss?" I was incensed when I found out and immediately laid blame on Critical Massive because they had been operating at this location for so long. Within days of the news hitting the web, vandals came out and made their opinions known by buffing out the entire advertising text. In fact, the public outcry seemed more condemning than even Conor's own thoughts on the matter. To me this makes sense as the ones who had become truly attached to the mural were the ones upset with its loss, Conor on the other hand can create these anytime he wants.
I immediately phoned Critical Massive and in a self motivated move by both parties, we reluctantly agreed to meet face to face. Turns out both of us were happily surprised with the other and after a long discussion I have been informed that the landlord at this location was upset about the mural loss. As it turns out he had given permission to the unknown outdoor ad firm to put up an advertisement for a mere 2 week run. He was under the impression they would paint further west down 13th street. Instead the company, who through my myriad sources looks to be Massive Media, painted directly over Conor's piece. Since this happened, Nick Walker has wandered through town and in a loving move, reclaimed this location for street art and the public. In fact, Arrested Motion caught the whole process which can be seen here.
What I find incredibly interesting about this brief history is how it blurs the lines which I often see as so black and white, while illuminating the idiosyncrasies of media production in New York's public space. The larger question is how do we create a public space which champions public artwork and productions which invigorate our shared environment. To me this has always meant ridding public space of advertising companies and watching artistic productions fill in the void which is left behind. In this case, Critical Massive, although creating advertising at the same location, was responsible for aiding the public productions and therefor I cannot simply vilify their activities. In fact the company might provide a reasonable example of cooperation on our way to ultimately ridding public space of the negative affects of outdoor media.
So how do we negotiate the grey areas when some media companies are acting more altruistically than others? I don't think this question has any clear cut answers and as a public we must be aware of which companies are at least attempting to act in the public's interest at least part of the time. Although I do not believe there really is space for both artistic and commercial productions in public space, if a middle ground must be negotiated, this location can be held up as a good example of how that might be achieved and Critical Massive held at least partially responsible. Now lets wait and see what happens to the new Nick Walker.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Seems like the only time I ever post on pure street art, it is MOMO's work I am praising. That's because I absolutely adore it. In this video there are some works over empty billboards similar to those Sam3 did in spain a while back so I guess that keeps things related.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
New Mobstr Piece and Public Interaction
Just got an email from Mobstr with this new piece and a description of a public interaction. Love it.Thought you might like this. So, so simply but I could resist juxtaposing the sheer size of the billboard with a tiny piece. When I was photographing this an old lady approached me and questioned, "Do you mind me asking why you are photographing that?"
"Because its weird init," I replied.
"I think its stupid," the old lady stated, "It's a waste of space."
............my thoughts exactly.
International Street Art Festival in Atlanta
This recent interview with Blacki and Monica of the Living Walls Conference on Juxtapoz is a blast. I'm super excited to be a participating artist and lecturer.
A component in the all-around amazing time I had in Atlanta last weekend, I talked to Blacki Li Rudi Migliozzi and Monica Campana about Living Walls, a scrappy, grassroots conference of street artists, culture jammers, filmmakers, flash lecturers and even a Georgia Tech architecture prof. It’s all officially happening August 13-15. Artists are coming from all over the world (many will be in town as early as August 7, making this a weeklong event!) to paint, wheatpaste and discuss their work in terms of “urbanism”—or understanding the city at the level of the city. In Monica’s words, it’s “street art summer camp,” and EVERYONE is invited to participate. If you’re in Atlanta, come one and all—everything’s free and open to the public (check their website for scheduling details…also head over to Eyedrum’s website). If you’re not in Atlanta and want to participate, send art! Send a poster. Someone WILL put it up for you. [More Here]
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Get it Uncensored-Calvin Klein Campaign Has Interesting Ramifications for Public Space
I have been seeing these QR code based Calvin Klein billboards around town lately. In fact there is one directly across from my studio. I passed it off as another gimmicky way to get the public to ingest more commercial content than they could fit on a billboard. Turns out according to Gothamist, they are actually hiding a very racy video that is too hot to grace the walls of our city streets. Of course they aren't really hiding anything because a simple smartphone unlocks the 40 second video, but thats neither here nor there.
Interestingly enough the use of QR codes seems like a great way to edit commercial content in public space while at the same time allowing it. For the longest time the public been forced to look at commercial content in public space with the only other option being to ban outdoor advertising altogether. This is a highly debatable topic, but through the use of QR codes we could have a city riddled with outdoor commercial content and at the same time not. Each small black and white code marking a billboard with commercial messages without actually visually assaulting your senses. A person would be able to opt in on the outdoor media in the same way that one is able to opt in with magazines, radio, and television, something just not possible while traveling through public space in our current environment.
Obviously outdoor advertising firms would not be okay with this because they want every impression they can get, not just those individuals that choose to take the time to absorb some nonsense about the newest incarnation of tequila. In fact, OOH media has been one of the fastest growing traditional medias in the last few years precisely because it cannot be skipped like commercial content on other platforms such as TV. Interestingly as an activist whose interest is in finding any way to remove the very private concerns of advertising in an effort to allow public thought to follow more collective interests, this becomes a valid middle ground upon which to make my demands.
So it is in fact possible to allow both the public and private interests to have a place in our public environment, albeit without the manipulative and often demanding tactics that media has often employed in public space to capture our attentions. Yet if this was the case, I would imagine the medium of outdoor advertising would be much less affective as citizens, through laziness or disinterest, ignore the private messages now strewn about our public environment. And doesn't that fact speak to the true intentions behind advertising media in general and make you think twice about allowing so much of our public space, and our public minds, to be inundated day in and out? Why if we really don't care to look at these things do we allow our subconscious to be bombarded by them so heavily?
Maybe it is because as a society we don't really think about outdoor medias effect, or comprehend the options and we might have to restrict it. Although with such high stakes for the quality of our public spaces, I can't imagine why we wouldn't.
Calvin Klein has a new racy billboard on Houston Street, but according to Stylelist, the company has censored their own campaign this time around. So prudes, just don't aim your smartphone in its direction and you'll remain pure.
Here's the deal: "Using QR technology, Calvin Klein's billboards in New York City (on Houston and Lafayette streets as well as West 20th Street and Tenth Avenue) feature red and white ads containing codes that can be read with one's cell phone to unlock the racy content, which, in this case, is a 40-second, uncensored commercial featuring model Lara Stone and a quartet of male models." You heard right, free porn on Houston and West 20th Streets! Not that that's really a new thing.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
A Trap for Mosquitos, Ads Attract Unwanted Attention
I was just turned on to Lazinterruptus, a spanish based anti ad campaign. I emailed to get in touch and this is what they had to say about their actions. All I know is I have to get my ass to Spain.Luzinterruptus is an a Street Art Collective and we carry out installations in the cities. Our last anti ad campaign was misquitos but we have others like Deadly wounded Advertisements we carried out in april. You can check out all our installations in our blog www.luzinterruptus.com. We have the information in spanish and english.
On nights of unbearable heat, mosquitos feed on even the handsome and perfect models, with smooth skin, that our exhibited everywhere in the advertising spaces in the city. And it is the beautiful and intense light what attracts them and makes them fall towards it-not knowing it will be their end for sure. [More Here]
Monday, July 12, 2010
Newest OX Advertising Takeover
Thursday, July 8, 2010
VRIRUS' and Grafitti-Finding Yourself In a Complex Network
Jennifer Jacobs, a friend, artist, and computer programmer, sent me an article on computer viruses and their potential for creating a better internet. In this article there is an interesting comparison between the intentions of programmers of viruses and graffiti artists that I thought was worth noting. It would seem, at least in the beginning, a virus programmers intentions were very similar to that of the urban graf writer, to let em know you're out there. Speaking about the infamous programer Hellraiser's introduction to virus' after a small career of graffiti in NY, the article notes his reaction.
"Street graffiti's ability to scatter tokens of one's identity across the landscape of an entire metropolis looked provincial in comparison. 'With viruses,' Hellraiser remembers thinking, 'you could get your name around the world.'"
I am always taken by individual needs to tag, infiltrate, and mark the complex systems that people are a part of in order to gain notoriety and or possibly something much simpler, recognition of their existence. The notion that programers and graf artists are trying to do harm to the streets, or large computer networks, is less clear when you become familiar with their often benign intentions of simple recognition. It begs us to see their actions as less of a crime to be dealt accordingly, than as a symptom of some larger social need in which we find ways of including everyone in the anonymous networks of individuals that pervade major metropolitan life.
Download Article [Here]
DeSlavio Playground in Little Italy was buffed by the City after being cited as Graffiti
Animal New York reports that the PLAY mural at the DeSlavio Playground in Little Italy was buffed by the City after being cited as Graffiti. The resulting grey wall is an eyesore and the dilapidated mural reminding people what the park was there for is a great loss. Oddly the mural was neither graffiti or art but a company logo for a music centric promotions group PLAY. As much as I hate hearing this, the mural fits all of my standards for appropriate commercial use of public space and was a welcome addition to the small concrete respite. See the Animal article and read the comments for more.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Advertisers and street artists swap tactics in Berlin
Sorry for the lack of posts lately. With no insurance and a possibly infected molar I signed over my right to my bottom left wisdom tooth last friday. 5 minutes later I was shaking hands with the "dentist" and then walking along 2nd avenue in Brooklyn with a numb cheek. 3 hours after that I was self medicating and have been in a large amount of pain ever since. I apologize.
I was recently contacted by Candice Novak to respond to questions regarding the intersection of street art and advertising. I'm always happy to give my opinions on this subject.
Something is not right with this iPad poster in a Berlin subway. Above the words "Easter Celebration," a topless blonde dons a risque bunny suit, legs spread wide. Above the label "Garden Party," there's a photo of two beetles mating on a leaf, then a couple doing the same on a bluff above the words "Hiking Trip." [More Here]
Friday, July 2, 2010
Advertising Agency Owes Cash-Strapped MTA $18 Million
Gothamist Reports on Titan Media's deadbeat behavior in the below post. To illustrate the outdoor advertising company's work they show a subway advertisement, but as far as I am aware Titan's contract is for our buses, while CBS takes care of the subways. Just a footnote, not more important than the company owing us enough money to keep the M and W lines operating in these hard financial times.In order to avoid far-reaching subway cuts that would eliminate the M and W lines and cause trains to become less frequent and more crowded, the MTA needs about $18 million—the same amount a deadbeat advertising company owes the transit agency. An MTA audit revealed that Titan Outdoor Holdings has come up short on its monthly payments for almost a year, but the MTA is afraid that recouping the money might bankrupt the company, causing the agency to net even less revenue. [More Here]
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Now That The Wildposting Has Stopped, What Will Take Its Place?
It is my belief that public art (or public communication for that matter) and commercial advertising cannot coexist in public space. This is mainly because they need to occupy the same real estate and due to commercial advertising's bloated budgets, public art finds itself pushed to the sidelines as the city is over run with content that promotes private concerns over community values. There are other reasons but for the sake of this post this is the most important concern.
With this in mind, NPA city outdoor made a business out of illegal sniping of construction sheds in New York, fully covering them with commercial advertising until recently. After attention was called to NPA's illegal use of New York's public space, sniping stopped leaving construction sheds a bare blue. Without advertising, these spaces are now free for other content, and other content they will get. The NYC DOB has inaugurated a new arts program to beautify these ubiquitous NYC structures now that advertising has relinquished control. They write...
"We are thrilled to launch the urbancanvas Design Competition, an innovative contest to develop creative artwork for construction fences, sidewalk sheds, supported scaffolds and cocoons in New York City.The development of the Urban Canvas design competition proves to me that when advertising disappears along with its interest in control and manipulation of public thoughts, art is often called upon to takes its place and keep our public spaces visually interesting. To deny advertising access to public space is to provide opportunities for artistic projects and public communications to take their rightful place in our shared environment.