Street Communications Workshop and Panel Discussion Results
Saturday, April 9th I was at Haverford college doing a workshop with 12 students as well as speaking on a panel with Gaia, and Marc and Sara Schiller of the Wooster Collective. The topic, Street Communications: Art and Advertising in Public Spaces. When RJ Rushmore from Vandalog and a student at Haverford, first spoke to me about the panel he had suggested running a workshop as a way to engage the student body. I was obviously excited about this opportunity but knew that what constituted a workshop for me was an illegal ad takeover to others and potentially to the college which had invited me to speak. After a lengthy discussion, RJ and I decided to move forward despite the potential issues that might arise, both of us knowing full well that the most explicit example of public space interaction is the one where you get your hands dirty.
The workshop was scheduled for 3-4 hours which is a lot less time than one would think. I decided that prepping 12 posters to fit 12 railway advertisements was a good idea to save time while providing an interesting surface for students to work with. We began by talking a bit about public space and its ability to illuminate issues about our social structure. We talked about advertising's use of the public environment and how that use reflected a specific agenda, and not necessarily one which had the broadest appeal. This lasted for close to an hour at which point we had to get to work.
Each student was given their own blank poster on which they stenciled simple sentences hopefully inspired by our previous conversation. After the recent MaSAT project, I have come around to the power and simplicity of text, particularly in the ad takeover format. The students seemed to embrace the text as well, all of us enjoying an hour of stenciling outside in the beautiful, if not slightly windy weather.
At this point all that was left was the installation. As a group we set out towards the first of two train stations that our 12 posters would takeover. While removing advertising on this rural Pennsylvania line wasn't dangerous in the way it may be in a major metropolitan city, the act itself is subversive enough to get your heart going if only a few more beats a minute. Everyone, installing their own posters, were given an opportunity to cross invisible boundaries in public space. This act, however small it might seem can be profound and open up a world of interaction and participation that can change your relationship to not only the space, but to the people that surround you. After taking a picture of the entire group standing in front of one of their newly adorned locations that read "You can touch" I thought to myself…That was a successful workshop.