<body> Public Ad Campaign: Sante Publique - Participatory Civic Media and the Pursuit of a Collective Will
This blog is a resource for ad takeover artists and information about contemporary advertising issues in public space. If you have content you would like to share, please send us an email.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Sante Publique - Participatory Civic Media and the Pursuit of a Collective Will

Santé Publique_Film from Clément Fessy on Vimeo.
Lately I have been thinking about the term Participatory Civic Media and what that would look like in practice. For years my work was a reaction to the misuse of our shared public space by advertising. Taking matters into my own hands I practiced a righteous form of civil disobedience in which I allowed myself to trespass on the private property rights of outdoor media companies in order to air my grievances in the court of public opinion. I still very much agree with this type of direct action tactic and feel comfortable advocating for a more lenient understanding of public visual space usage and rights. The PublicAccess project is a good example of my thoughts on the matter. In stark contrast to the broken windows theory, I believe a little anarchy on the streets is a far better scenario than the pristine walls of an over policed well controlled city.

While I would love to convince everyone to participate in the curation of thier shared environment without care for the consequences, I must admit that most people don't see the value in breaking the law to put up pictures on the street, and many people aren't compelled to do so even if it were legal. And yet I truly believe that placing something you have made onto our shared city streets is a worthwhile exercise that can change your relationship to your city. Suddenly you realize that the imagery that surrounds us is part of an attentional economy created by the accumulation of our bodies and eyeballs. Your part in creating this economy gives you rights to it usage that can suddenly feel trampled upon when you realize that advertising has commandeered the majority of our shared public environment, and we have criminalized most non transactional appropriations. Outrage might not be the right word but questioning who gets to use our shared public spaces and who benefits from its usage is the natural progression of ideas after using public space for your own thoughts and desires.
It is therefore incumbent on me to think beyond the civil disobedience projects whose righteous indignation is a good measure of my concern but less useful as a tool for mass persuasion. How can I convince citizens to participate in the curation of thier shared public spaces so that they can reap the benefits of that participation and come to realize their rights as citizens to dictate how thier cities look? The answer seems to be working in more formal ways which set aside the unsavory aspects of how I believe public space should be used in favor of participation above all else.

Last year I bit my tongue and dived head first into the Sante Publique project. After being invited to Sainte Etienne to paste on the Le Mur wall, I was told by the curators that the city had in addition offered me 75 Lollipop advertising pillars. These freestanding advertising venues were operated by a an outdoor advertising company that handled the cities public advertising on bus shelters, trams, and lollipops. As part of their contract with Sainte Etienne, 75 spaces were reserved for broadcasting of cultural events and related messaging and represented the altruism that masked the malevolence which is blanketing a city in advertising to turn a profit for private corporation. By agreeing to use these spaces I would be accepting the current version of public space usage in which private companies controlled the infrastructure on which messages were broadcast, profiting from it greatly, and returning a small bit of that space as an act of kindness to be lauded.

If I had my way we would kick the for profit advertising companies off our streets, treat the attentional economy we all create like the collective resource that it is, and use our shared public spaces to fund a vast network of participatory civic media structures meant to advocate the views of each cities unique citizenry. Baby steps. If that was the goal, I still needed to convince the public that they wanted to participate in the civic media environment. So I agreed and let go of the fact that the Sante Publique project would leave intact the system I was ultimately trying to remove. Instead I concentrated on reaching people who were unlikely to think about our shared public visual environment. bakers, teachers, scientists, singers, poets, secretaries, garbage men, and everyone in between. Instead of using the spaces for my own artwork, I would offer the spaces to these unsuspecting citizens.

The result was a city in which for 1 week 75 unique voices graced the streets and a new way of looking at the public visual environment in Sainte Etienne was established. Participants gained an appetite for seeing thier own thoughts reflected on thier city streets and those who saw thier work were offered an alternative vision in which public space was used by individuals instead of advertising and institutionally sanctioned messages. When the project was over people weren't exactly questioning if the advertising company who sanctioned our project should exist, but they were wondering why their access to public space was limited to a one off art experience. Many people asked if we would repeat the project again next year, and if it would grow to include more participants. I couldn't answer that question for sure but if Sainte Etienne was progressive enough to continue down this path, the eventual result after sustained growth would be a city with little time for the advertising on its streets and a vested interest in the Participatory Civic Media network they had slowly developed over the years.

Huge thanks to Marlene Mendes for collaborating with me on this project and to Ella an Pitr for their initial and continued support. Thanks to Clement Fessy for creating the beautiful documentation. Thanks to Raphael Jonjour and the city of Sainte Etienne for being so progressive and to all of the friends and family that helped make this happen. Last thank you to the 75 participants that took the time to contribute to this project and steward their public spaces. 

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

      Sharon Zukin
      The Cultures of Cities

      Miriam Greenberg
      Branding New York

      Naomi Klein
      No Logo

      Kalle Lasn
      Culture Jam

      Stuart Ewen
      Captains of Consciousness

      Stuart Ewen
      All Consuming Images

      Stuart & Elizabeth Ewen
      Channels of Desire

      Jeff Ferrell
      Crimes of Style

      Jeff Ferrell
      Tearing Down the Streets

      John Berger
      Ways of Seeing

      Joe Austin
      Taking the Train

      Rosalyn Deutsche
      Evictions art + spatial politics

      Jane Jacobs
      Death+Life of American Cities