Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
A Brief Look At Why I Remove And Replace Outdoor Advertising
Buried right below the surface of that “why” question is another, and that is what task is accomplished by your ad-takeover work? What wrong is being righted by removing or replacing outdoor ads? And ultimately, will or could ad-takeover work ever result in real social change? I believe the answer is yes, which is why I continue use it as the main focus of my artistic project.
Advertising aggression and the desired city:
Advertising is the promotion and dissemination of messages whose primary interest is to convince you to align yourself with the advertisers agenda. Often this is the purchase of a product or service, which gives the entire affair a somewhat nefarious atmosphere as the practitioners work to persuade you to their ends.
For this reason most of us are skeptical of advertising and its goals, particularly those of us who see the economic and environmental issues that our society faces, in large part due to the rampant consumerism fueled by advertising itself. Many of us also deride advertising for the social and psychological impact it has on us by preying on our insecurities or appealing to our own self-interest. Even when advertising is at its best and masquerades its activities as a gentle nudge, we see its intention with the clarity offered by the inescapable truth that it is out to change our minds.
Because of this, we all seem to intuit that the form itself is to be avoided and when asked about a more conscientious media environment, that the individual advertising tactics are irrelevant. More often than not we seek to avoid the pressure placed on us by advertising.
And yet an increasing number of our cities are offering more and more space to these messages. Today, this situation seems inevitable because so many of us have grown up in cities surrounded by commercial media, and to question it seems like a fanciful dalliance towards a dead end. We sit by and watch as billboards and placards have given way to a vast infrastructure on which outdoor advertising resides including our buses(inside and outside)-bus stops-subways-subway stations-subway platforms-subway entrances-subway fare cards-taxi cabs(inside and outside)-pedicabs-trolleys-airports-freestanding placards-building facades-sidewalks-construction hoardings-wall wraps-pop up marketing events, etc. etc. Even the skies are written on in the summer months in New York.
The deep saturation of our public environments with commercial media is written into the language and strategies employed by the industry itself, offering “station domination” campaigns to compete in already heavily media saturated environments. The fact of the matter is that navigating public space in our cities involves interacting with large amounts of commercial advertising.
As a lifelong city resident, this obvious schism between individual desire and how cities are currently practiced is difficult to swallow. It seems to defy the idealistic utopian logic of cities that I fondly invoke when I dare to dream of cities at their best; the one in which our collective will sets the groundwork upon which our cities forms and function are determined. Even my practical understanding of cities doesn’t seem to jive with the idea that what we seek to avoid, would be thrust upon us.
The obvious reason for this discrepancy between the desired city and the actual city is that there is a lot of money being made on advertising content, and more importantly on the spaces that it occupies. Like so many aspects of our lives, the public environment itself has been monetized, and it would appear against our better judgment. As unfair as that might seem, this impropriety pales in comparison to the fact that the money being made through the sale of our shared public resource is done so by selling you and your attention to companies intent on capturing it.
Your eyes are worth money and unwittingly you have become a product being bought and sold between commercial media companies and the businesses that they sell your public environment to. When looked at so plainly it doesn’t make sense to me that there would be advertising in public space at all for the simple reason that it uses a personal resource, to do something against our collective will, in order to benefit someone else.
The false justification for outdoor advertising:
The prevailing logic behind advertising (and why we allow our cities formal arrangement to defy common sense) is that it pays for something we want in return for the nuisance of being distracted for someone else’s purpose. Public space adheres to this same logic and we are asked to believe that advertising is an integral part of maintaining our cities infrastructure. While advertising revenue is significant, the idea that advertising is a necessary evil we must endure in order to keep our trains running falls apart under closer scrutiny. Immense profits are extracted from our cities by out of home media giants like JCDecaux that defy the assumption advertising is anything more than a way to turn the city into a profitable venture. If advertising were truly intent on nourishing underfunded public good, we would see to it that all of the profits were invested back into our city, and this is simply not the case.
Instead, the city is auctioned off and deals are made on our behalf to share portions of the revenue made from the attention we didn’t want to put on offer in the first place. So comfortable have we become with this inequitable deal that we have given up on the simple expectation of reciprocation from advertising, fully conceding that advertisings presence is just a part of modern life.
Illegal advertising, ephemeral marketing, brand engagement events, and a spectacular array of advertising techniques that fly under the radar of public policies attempting to capture small portions of public advertising revenue, run rampant in our cities. The premise that advertising should be endured because it provides a public service is simply false.
An informed critical response:
So I go out and remove ads without thought to the legality of my actions, but with an understanding of their justness when perceived from a practical perspective. I do so because like so many other forms of civil disobedience aimed at private property, it calls attention to an aspect of society that I think warrants closer inspection, but which is difficult to approach through more traditional channels of democracy.
Given my concerns about the effects of advertising on our ability to fully live as mindful conscientious citizens, which is borne out in social and psychological research, addressing the issue in a way that will result in advertisings removal, is my top priority. I have chosen to do so through civil disobedience, but there are more traditional methods available that I have forsaken and a brief explanation of why is important to answer if we want to get to the heart of what good comes of ad-takeover work.
Like many cities, New York controls the proliferation of outdoor advertising by permitting both the companies that operate outdoor advertising businesses, as well as the individual signs when applicable. This allows cities to keep some semblance of control over public space, while demanding revenue in the form of contractual agreements and yearly fees.
In 2009 I became aware that the NYC Department of Buildings had put its records online in an easily searchable database. This allowed me to look up the legality of many of the signs that looked down on our streets and to eventually realize that a company called NPA City Outdoor was operating hundreds of locations without permits, and therefore illegally. I began the painstaking process of calling the DOB Sign Enforcement Unit, tasked with policing outdoor advertising offenses, to report the illegal signage as I came upon it.
This exhaustive and lengthy process began to turn the slow wheels of justice and I watched as violations and fines were levied against each offending location. The problem was that none of the signs came down and it became clear to me that the city itself was not prepared to take on the legal might of a business with the deep pockets afforded by advertising revenue. Legal channels alone were simply not enough to combat this problem.
I then organized a large-scale civil disobedience project called NYSAT that would illegally, but very publicly, condemn the company by bringing out hundreds of citizens to whitewash all of their billboards and replace the imagery with public artworks. It was hoped that through media attention and a little bit of embarrassment, we could grease the wheels of justice and set in motion a series of events that would eventually lead to the actual removal of the illegal signs and the company operating them.
This is exactly what happened and I watched with excitement as NPA City Outdoor began a five-year battle with New York that they would eventually lose. Addressing legal advertising with these same tactics would be harder, but it seemed that prompted by a little civilian led direct action, the legal structures we had in place could actually reign in advertising and begin to remove advertising from public space entirely.
I don’t believe I could have been more wrong. Within a year of NPA loosing their court battles and removing most of their signs from the streets of NYC, their advertising tactics were tweaked and they began operating in the city once again. It was at this point that I came to realize that the profits for advertising were too great to maintain any real enforcement of the publics will. In fact, cities themselves were helpless despite strict rules and regulations; only a full change in public opinion towards advertising in public space would result in the changes I wanted to see.
So I returned to my tactics of removing advertising from public space without permission and attempting to promote similar civil disobedience amongst my peers. I did so less because I thought that this was the road to full removal of advertising from public space, than because it was all I had left.
Though it would appear disheartening, I quickly realized that my goal when doing ad-takeover work should not be to remove the ads themselves but to question the medium more generally. What we are doing when we do ad-takeover work is not righting any wrong, but using the medium itself to question its perceived authority in the hopes that those watching will think more deeply about the schism between what they want and what they see in front of their eyes.
In fact, to say this is accomplished through individual advertising takeovers is a little bit of self deception as most advertising takeovers go unnoticed. What we are truly trying to accomplish when we do advertising takeovers is change public opinion, and that task is done through personification and our lived experience. Like most civil disobedience against private property, my continued disregard for outdoor advertising in general and the rules that govern right and wrong in relation to it, allows me to be a focal point upon which the issue can be discussed more deeply.
Through discussion comes understanding, and through understanding comes belief, and what I believe is that cities can be better.
Paid $75,000 to Love a Brand on Instagram. But Is It an Ad?
Monday, August 29, 2016
Jake Blaschka Is Doing Some Great Work That You Should See
Jake Blaschka just reached out to me regarding keys for a certain city he may be visiting in the not too distant future. It turns out he has been working with outdoor advertising in some pretty fantastic ways and I am only finding out about it now. Considering the last post, I think it's clear I am not doing my research.
Friday, August 26, 2016
Make No Mistake, Parzival Has My Attention
Sunday, August 21, 2016
OX - Back in Town!
Thursday, August 18, 2016
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Billboards bridging two realities
VIA: VandalogOver 2.3 million people are currently held in American prisons, jails, and detention facilities. Many of them will be there for years, even for life. In most states, even juveniles can be put in solitary confinement, and visitation is becoming more difficult and expensive. It’s another world, largely cut off from the rest of us. A recent series from Know Hope aims to take one small step at bridging that gap. More [HERE]
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
For Teenage Girls, Swimsuit Season Never Ends
The conclusion of this article may or may not apply more broadly, but I can't imagine that being surrounded by imagery that asks us to reflect on our own personal needs and interests, we do not forgo some of our capacity to think about others.
"In short, when young women are prompted to reflect on their physical appearance, they seem to lose intellectual focus."
VIA: The NY TimesHERE]
Friday, August 5, 2016
Thomas Dekeyser on Robert Montgomery
Thomas Dekeyser wrote a nice blog post on Robert Montgomery's work that I think does a good job of navigating his desire for subvertising work to always be illegal in order to retain the most powerful critique of capitalism and the systems that help to perpetuate it. Montgomery's work isnt always illegal and yet it is incredibly powerful so parsing these two thing out isn't easy when you want to see the world in black and white. Well worth a read as Dekeyser is becoming one of my favorite thinkers on this topic.
The Art Conference. I’ve been reaching out to him for a while now, trying to arrange a conversation, without luck, so I was excited to finally hear one of my favourite subvertising practitioners elaborate on his practice and related politics. More [HERE]
Friday, July 29, 2016
The Art Conference #01
I just got back from London where Tina Ziegler held the first TAC (The Art Conference) in a beautiful old factory venue called the Ugly Duck. I was asked to open two days of pretty intense talks about Art, Technology, and social engagement. I took the task seriously and used my work to show how advertising, as one of the sub genre's of cultural production systems, undermines social progress by monopolizing the systems of dissemination, prohibiting access and participation, economically driving technological determinism, and framing our cultural values in frighteningly self serving ways. It all went pretty well despite not having a podium to put my papers on. Given the chance to do it again I plan to do a little more memorization, and to attempt to go beyond advertising to Art itself, which has its own way of slowing social progress in ways which are similar to advertising itself.
Notable speakers from the conference were RJ Rushmore who's talk From Dissidence to Decorative derided projects like Urban Nation as decorative city wallpaper intent on raising property value more than providing any of the real radical politics once prescribed to street art. As a nice opposition to that, Teresa Latuszewska spoke about the Urban Forms mural project in Lodz Poland which is a sanctioned mural project but one that works hard to reach out to the community and integrate itself deep into the skin of the city. They have also done some pretty boring and thankless work gathering hard statistics on peoples feelings towards the individual murals and the culture in general. Mia Grundahl spoke about Women on Walls which I knew little about and which practically brought me to tears. To say that these projects proved RJ's point would be an understatement.
Similarly heartbreaking and inspirational was the work of Robert Montgomery whose texts can often be found on the street where advertising once broadcast its messages loudly. Robert has taken over billboards illegally, but he has also worked directly with the OOH companies to place his work. At first I was upset that he would collaborate with the enemy, but after speaking with him and hearing him talk, I realized that my radical politics was less important to him than ensuring there was an alternative voice to the aggressive commercial megaphone we are often confronted with on a daily basis. His writing, a sort of haunting conversation with the city and capitalism, draws a beautiful contrast that works to undermine consumerist propaganda. While I surely like his illegal pieces better, I cannot say that the sanctioned pieces are less effective to someone who doesn't know the politics behind anti ad activity. And finally Dan Witz took me on a nostalgic trip back to his earliest work that began in 1978 a year before I was born. That guy has been doing groundbreaking street art before the term was coined, hell even before graf made its mark. A true pioneer.
All in all it was a fantastic event and I look forward to the next. If you have an opportunity to visit one yourself, I highly suggest taking the time.
A quick installation on Commercial street, London
Speaking about how advertising undermines social progress
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Anti-Advertising History? That's Historic!
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
New Yorkers Greet the Arrival of Wi-Fi Kiosks With Panic, Skepticism and Relief
VIA: The New York TimesHERE]
Saturday, July 23, 2016
Philly Artist Joe Boruchow Calls Out Trump, Rizzo With Latest Work
VIA: Philadelphia Magazine
three new works to his portfolio — and to the streets of Philly. Each are rendered in Boruchow’s signature black-and-white paper cutouts, cut from a single sheet of black paper and wheat pasted to platforms around the city. The latest designs mock Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, and protest the statue erected in honor of 1970’s Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo in front of the Municipal Services Building. Read more [HERE]
Friday, July 22, 2016
Lena Dunham Calls for Altering of Gun-Toting 'Jason Bourne' Subway Ads
Looks like someone out there shares my thoughts on gun advertising and our public interest. In part this idea came from a series of images that Jon Burgerman did using advertising violence and a little photoshop to make some wonderfully fun critical commentary. See them all [HERE]
VIA: The Hollywood Reporter
After producer Tami Sagher proposed removing images of the gun that Matt Damon’s titular character is seen holding in the film’s ads, the creator and star of HBO's Girls reposted Sagher’s message. In full support of bringing awareness to gun control, Dunham captioned the photo: “Good idea @tulipbone! Let's go!” More [HERE]
Thursday, July 21, 2016
New Work from Vlady Art in Italy
Thursday, July 14, 2016
Art Commission approves rehab of 5th Street El station, denies digital displays at SEPTA entrances
Philadelphia has a backbone and because of it they will resist the increasing digital blight blanketing major metropolitan cities across the United States. At this point I am beginning to see Intersection without the rose colored glasses they gave me a few years back when they were looking for community engagement strategies and other ways to ingratiate thier network of digital advertising structures into the NYC landscape. Thank god for Mary Tracy and the rest of the Scenic Philadelphia team.
VIA: Plan PhillyHERE]
Saturday, July 9, 2016
New OX Collaboration In Paris
OX and one of his 80's crew members Trois Carre from the streets of Paris. I've said it before but I'll say it again, OX is my favorite ad takeover artists out there. While this piece is definitely a collaboration, partially cause OX just doesn't go this detailed very often and usually relies on simpler abstractions with his work, I still feel OX through and through. The relationship to the surrounding environment is something OX includes in most pieces and this collaboration relies heavily on the staircase to ground itself. For me, this is a very important tool for the ad takeover artist cause it allows the viewer to realize that something is amiss. Once that recognition happens, (something that can be very difficult given how much viewers try to avoid ad messages and how ingrained commercial messaging is in these spaces, as opposed to public art or commentary) viewers can begin the process of thinking about advertising in public spaces as a concept. We are all so aware of culture jamming, political commentary, and the general agenda of trying to undermine commercial messaging that I think it goes in one ear and out the other. Not to mention, even if you receive a culture jammed message loud and clear, you still think heavily about the company behind the errant message. In light of that it seems the only logical response to an over saturation of commercial media is to remove it entirely. To me these pieces do well by talking about the frame and not what was once inside.
Thursday, July 7, 2016
Advertising Takeovers / A Practical Workshop
Subvertising is the practice of altering, removing, or reversing of commercial outdoor media spaces that has seen an emergence over the last few years. From huge projects with 600 advert takeovers to individual site-specific interventions, a range of collectives and individuals have successfully enrolled the practice into a tactical force for political movements and for critical artistic practices. This event starts by offering a brief historical and theoretical overview of the practice before sharing all the practical skills and knowledge required for undertaking your own advertising takeovers in New York. We’ll bring in posters and painting materials to create our own adverts during the workshop. Come and join us!
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Google Is Transforming NYC's Payphones Into a 'Personalized Propaganda Engine'
VIA: The Village Voice
Smart billboards will identify car models and target ads to drivers
VIA: Digital Trends
Saturday, July 2, 2016
Ad Space Takeover in Front of Exhibition
Kristin Calabrese hijacked this bus shelter in front of her exhibit to talk about the importance of a space to talk about whatever we like. I love it and the boldness of dropping ti right in front of her show. more of her work [HERE]
Friday, July 1, 2016
Long Live Jean Claude Decaeux - An Obituary
I'm sure he was a really nice guy but christ all mighty he built an empire of...well shitty street furniture covered in ads in 3,700 cities worldwide.
VIA: The TelegraphHere]
Thursday, June 30, 2016
Brandalism activists unveil Global Ad Hack Manifesto at Glastonbury Festival Advertising shits in your head
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Common Cause Foundation
The Common Cause foundation looks at the way the values we choose to champion are determined in large part by the cultural frames under which we live. Surround yourself with imagery that orients you inward towards self interest, and sure enough you don't care much for environmental issues, economic justice, or minority rights. It sounds obvious but when the largest corporations in the world are attempting to reach into your pockets, they draw on the language of self interest, and through repetition this language is fundamentally altering your outlook on life. Yes you are a good person, but how much better of a person might you be if you didn't have the world around you framed by a delusional interest in the self....
"A large body of evidence shows that values of are central importance in leading people to express concern about social and environmental issues – whether this concern is expressed by changing aspects of day-to-day behaviour, by becoming politically involved, or by volunteering.
Monday, June 27, 2016
Cultural Hijack Website
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Special Patrol Group And The Hack Pack
Poster Remediated exhibition at the 25th Poster Biennial in the Poster Museum of Warsaw. Alongside my work was Vermibus, the Brandalism project, and a small glass case for the Special Patrol Group's Hack Pack. I was under the impression these little artistic intervention kits were only available at Banksy's Dismaland as a one off stunt. Over the past two weeks I have met some of the mischief makers behind this amazing project and realize that they can be purchased through the internet [HERE]. Not only that but the price of the keys are nearly 3 times cheaper than I am able to sell them, making them fantastic for the interventionist looking for a good deal.
Friday, June 17, 2016