Mr. Dimaggio and PublicAdCampaign Collaboration
A few days ago Mr. Dimaggio was in town. He contacted me about taking back some of the many illegal Contest Promotions signs around NYC. Like myself, he knew that the signs were slowly disappearing, but only at a snails pace for signage which so obviously flouts the law and is costing the taxpayer a hefty bill in legal fees. With a rainy forecast for the week ahead, we decided to brave the weather and put up a few quick billboards early last week.
We started at 19th street and 9th avenue, which is on a side street and less risky than many billboards in the neighborhood. What can I say but it's been a long winter. The whole thing took about 15 minutes and came out just alright. The text read Nobody's Perfect and it was by far the less eventful of our two postings. The second location was on 22nd street and 7th avenue. This location faced 7th avenue and was what I would consider a high risk billboard. On a side note, this second location once held two illegal billboards, one on the 22nd street side of the same corner, which has since been removed. The remaining billboard continues to exist under the dubious claims that the Pirates of the Caribbean posters currently being displayed constitute goods available at a small deli 3 doors down.
7th avenue and 22nd street (Currently Displaying Pirates of the Caribbean Posters)
As we approached 22nd street, cars packed the avenue and pedestrians ran a steady stream. With nothing better to do than get started Mr. Dimmaggio and I began this reclamation by pasting both of our layers at the same time instead of the weave first and then faces on top. This allowed for the faces and weaving to layer more organically, greatly improving the collaboration in my mind. Somewhere towards the end, a passerby stopped and began to chat us up for the remaining installation, snapping photos with his iPhone and generally being excited about the work. His are the only photos of this piece that were taken as the work would not survive its installation.
Literally as we were packing up our bucket and rollers the telltale sound of car doors slamming and a husky voice beckoning our attention rang through the air. We were asked very forcefully if we had a permit for posting signs at this location, which we obviously didn't. Oddly enough the OAC Contest Promotions that runs this location doesn't either, which I would go on to explain to the officer to little effect. I told him about the illegality of this sign and the history of NYC's battle with the company responsible for the billboard. He then asked why we were doing this. I explained as briefly as possible, my concern for illegal signage and the proliferation of advertising in general, the lack of public access to the street, and my concern for my neighborhood. No matter, our ID's were taken and we were told to remove our "posters".
Slowly we complied with this request, bemoaning our misfortune. If only we had packed up seconds sooner we might have been able to come back to this piece in the morning and watch peoples reactions, ask questions, and generally gauge the public's thoughts on how we should be curating our shared spaces. Instead we waited for our backgrounds to be checked.
A few moments later, with the billboard turned completely back into its old self, Geoofry Rush, Johnny Depp, and Penelope Cruz stood 6 feet tall at street level. We were handed our Summons' and explained our violation, illegally posting signs. I then took a moment to ask the officer if he found it ironic that the very signs we were posting over were illegal in the first place and that our actions drew attention to this fact. His response was to tell me that if that was the case, then my actions were vigilante justice. A complicated truth and yet somehow I wish he could have agreed, cited our action as vigilante, and allowed this to coexist with his duties as a law officer. Sometimes actions can be outside of current legal framework and yet possess an inherent rightness that can be weighed out easily if they are thought about for a brief moment.
I then pushed my luck and turned to the "good" cop, who incidentally had not spoken since they arrived on the scene, and asked him what he thought of the piece. His response was... I kid you not, "It was dope". I then turned to the other officer and asked what he thought, to which he replied, "It was weird." Amazing! A strange byproduct of doing work on the street is your interaction with people and police officers. It is odd how violations and summons' are handed out, people discouraged from different forms of behavior in public through a network of public policies that predict our actions in our shared environments. It makes you think about our expectations of the general public, our fear of others expected behaviors, and our lack of confidence in the our fellow citizens. It also makes me wonder why it is so hard to tell an illegal advertising company to remove its illegal signage and so easy to send a concerned citizen to see the judge for having the gall to question it. Oh well, I guess those are the breaks.
thank you David for taking pictures!!!!