Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pushing the Envelop When Art's Just Not Enough

This post is in response to the comment string left on the last post regarding PosterBoy's illegal billboard takedown.

The fact of the matter is attention needs to be drawn to this issue. With such amazing work being done and little attention being paid outside the art community, maybe it takes something outside of conventional means like PosterBoy's billboard takedown to actually address the problem. Here are some examples of illegal work that openly challenges advertising's messages and more importantly use of public space, yet hasn't managed to get your panties in a bunch.

Doctor D-London

Peter Fuss-Unknown

Jordan Seiler-New York City



Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Another Street Art Building on the Buffing Block

I don't usually post street art. It's not that I don't love it or pay close attention to it, I simply want the focus of this site to be the challenging of advertising's control of the public environment. Outdoor advertising criminalizes street art and other such activities by privatizing and commercializing the public environment. This happens to be a perfect example of proper public use of public space being subjected to the overbearing visual control expedited by the commercialization and privatization of the public environment.

from Gothamist by Jen Carlson

Photo by Jake Dobkin.

First 11 Spring Street got buffed and turned into "painfully-gorgeous" condos, and now one of the only remaining (if not the only remaining) big street art spot left in Manhattan is following suit. Well, sort of.

The NY Post's report on the former Artkraft Strauss headquarters located at 57th Street and the West Side Highway may have put the building on the fast track to getting buffed. Currently owned by the Durst family and occupied by Anita Durst's Chashama, one artist who rents a studio inside tells us: "we wanted to cover the entire building with art but because of an article in today's Post, the building owners are going to buff it unless we can convince them otherwise." The paper called the building "a symbol of neglect and a magnet for petty crime," and reported that "the planned artwork on the side of the building has sprouted and begun to attract unwanted graffiti and ugly 'tags.' A number of windows also have been broken." Patting themselves on the back, they declare "when we pointed this out yesterday, action was taken." Indeed, the building owner told them, "In several weeks we will refurbish it."

Labels: , , , ,

Ron English Interview

VIA Wooster Collective

Ron English has been taking over billboards for a long time. I've always understood his work to come from the political side, taking his issues with outdoor advertising based on its content and marketing tactics which often take advantage of the under represented. The beginning of this interview says otherwise. Ron talks about the freedom of speech as well as the control of public space issues with clarity and earnestness. Its a great look into his thoughts and process.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Monday, January 5, 2009

To This Day, Subway Mural Project Can Still Inspire

In the following NY times article it becomes very clear using public space and art to foster someones connection to their environment is always a good idea. It bridges gaps between the self and community and helps people not only understand themselves in relation to a space but in their ability to transform that space for greater purposes. This is always empowering and often is part of the reason street and graffiti artists do what they do.

I think it's important to take the ramifications of this article very seriously. If community use of public space is beneficial to the residents and therefore the community as a whole, why do we allow the public environment to be over run by advertising?

Some say because it creates much needed revenue for the city. The percentage of city operating costs that advertising covers, much of which goes to private landlords and real estate owners who provide the wall space, is a very small amount compared to overall city budget. Not to mention the question which no one seems to ask, which is how on earth has an entire city become dependent on public advertising revenue to cover even a portion of its operating costs.

Add to this that many Artists and eccentrics don't need an invitation to use the public space as a vehicle for expression, communication and ultimately as a way to understand thier personal relationship to the community. They are willing to do it for free. All the benefits of a community project sponsored by the city happening on a daily basis through individual participation.

It is in fact the health of the city we are talking about here. We are weighing the revenue gained through outdoor advertising against the beneficial process of community art making and civil visual interaction.

Via The New York Times
Joe Fornabaio for The New York Times

From left, Lisa Branch, Nitza Tufino and Kim Ferguson discussed one of the murals at the 86th Street subway station on the Upper West Side.

Published: January 5, 2009

When the No. 3 train roars by the 86th Street station on the Upper West Side, the dingy platform becomes the noisiest, if not the most unlikely, museum in the city.

The station is the permanent home of 37 ceramic murals, mounted almost 20 years ago on the walls of the platform and mostly ignored by commuters waiting for the next train.

But every now and then, commuter indifference gives way to curiosity, just long enough for someone to take in a portrait of a not-so-distant Upper West Side past.

There is the mural of subway riders boarding a red No. 2 express train at the 96th Street station nearby, or the two Hasidic men pushing pink baby strollers in front of a Chinese restaurant. In another, two old people inch their way toward an M104 bus.

These are no masterpieces. Most of the young people who created them were troubled or struggling students trying to earn their high school equivalency degree. Were the murals to be removed and sold, they probably would not fetch anywhere near as much as the 200 subway art projects by professional artists commissioned since 1985 by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Arts for Transit program.

But their value is measured in other ways, especially to the students who created them and a neighborhood that has grown accustomed to them since they were installed in August 1989.

Going on 20 years later, a number of these young people look back on a community art project that left a lasting impression on their lives. For some, it was a turning point. Others say they wish they had left a more personal mark on history. “When I see it now, I see all the love that I put in that work,” said Leeama Scott, 44, who was a teenage immigrant from Trinidad when she worked on the murals.

Some have left the Upper West Side, and some have fled New York City altogether. But wherever they ended up, most have become the subjects they portrayed: the office worker headed downtown, the parent playing with a son or daughter in the park, the community organizer, the teacher.

Guy Monpremier, 43, came to the United States in 1985 to escape political turmoil and violence in his native Haiti. For him and others, the mural project was a chance to explore the world beyond his immediate environment.

At the time, he was attending high school equivalency classes at Grosvenor Neighborhood House, a settlement house on West 105th Street.

Grosvenor, an urban refuge of social service and education programs housed in a bleak rectangular structure that looks more like a compact jail, had been brought into discussions over how to spend $205,000 in amenity financing that had been promised by a developer constructing a high-rise condominium at 84th Street and Broadway. Some of the money went toward the project, which paid for materials and a $4-an-hour stipend for the 17 students who participated.

Carrying 35-millimeter cameras, Mr. Monpremier and the others were dispatched throughout the two-square-mile neighborhood to capture images of landmarks and typical urban scenes. The negatives of the best scenes were then made into slides, and the images projected onto a wall, where they were traced onto paper.

These drawings were transferred in reverse onto 23-by-30-inch linoleum sheets that were then stamped onto large sheets of clay. The large clay images were cut into pieces small enough to fit into kilns and fired, then painted with colored glaze, put back together like puzzle pieces, then finally mounted onto large frames.

Mr. Monpremier, like a number of students involved in the project, had plans to study the arts afterward. He attended Manhattan Community College for a time, but his studies were cut short. He is now director of security for a commercial real estate firm and lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

His contributions to the murals include a Broadway island bench scene, one of two older people getting on the bus and a street-corner view of Grosvenor.

A slight note of melancholy enters Mr. Monpremier’s voice when he recalls that period of his life. He has now invested hopes of a better future in his 10-year-old son, Joshua.

“He’s a good kid, I’m blessed with that,” Mr. Monpremier said. “I hope he’s able to do better than I have, as far as completing a college degree. That’s one thing that I’ve always wanted, as far as completing it. I never really had the energy to do it. But he’s also pushing me to go back.”

Clarisa Ureña started having children when she was 19, three years after she moved out of her parents’ home. She had two by the time she got involved with the mural project.

While Ms. Ureña studied for her high school equivalency exam, her children attended a day care program at Grosvenor. In the afternoons, she labored over a classic scene, the Lincoln Center fountain plaza. She lived one block away, on 106th Street, and Grosvenor had long been a part of her life.

“We had a responsibility, and if you didn’t meet the criteria you were out,” Ms. Ureña said of herself and the other students. “I was not the kind of person who could sit around the apartment.”

Her roles as wife, cook and mother supplanted her early interest in education, until the mural project came along.

Ms. Ureña, who moved to Garner, N.C., almost four years ago, said the project motivated her to go to college. She studied computer graphics and advertising at Bronx Community College, and after having a third child in the early 1990s, she received a bachelor’s degree in art education from City College. For a brief time she taught art to elementary schoolchildren in the South Bronx. In North Carolina, she works for Wake County’s food stamps program.

Mrs. Scott, then Leeama Blugh, attended equivalency classes at Grosvenor during the day and in the evening worked there as an assistant, helping younger children with their homework. She said the project had so inspired her that she thought seriously of pursuing a career in the arts. But her life took different turns. She attended beauty school and worked at various beauty salons in the city. Over the years, she has worked as a home attendant and an office worker on Wall Street. She now works in security.

Mrs. Scott said she had no regrets that her dreams of becoming an artist had faded. “When I look back and see all these things that I did, it makes me feel good,” she said.

Original plans for the mural project called for a less significant role for the students. A professional artist would design the work and hire students to do the manual labor, said Nitza Tufiño, 59, the artist brought in to direct the project and teach the students how to make the tiles. Ms. Tufiño, the daughter of Rafael Tufiño, a prominent Puerto Rican painter and printmaker who died last year, said she viewed the project as an instrument for social change. Having the students work on an assembly line for another artist, for $4 an hour, would have had little impact on their lives, she said.

“How can you ask a young man, who could have $1,000 in his pocket selling drugs, to manufacture plaques that were created by someone else?” Ms. Tufiño said. “Think about what you’re competing against in el barrio.”

Inside her home in South Orange, N.J., Ms. Tufiño has kept dozens of black and white photographs, contact sheets, negatives and slides documenting the mural project. Many of the photos show the students in the Grosvenor workshop, a space no larger than a public school bathroom, drawing, rolling clay and carving linoleum.

Twenty years ago, Sandra Bloodworth, director of the Arts for Transit program, was new to the transportation agency, and the mural project was her first assignment as a supervisor.

“It’s amazing that it’s had such timelessness,” Ms. Bloodworth said. “No one thought anything like that would last. People thought it would be destroyed in a week.”

On a recent visit to the station, with Kim Ferguson and Lisa Branch, two participants who have remained close friends to this day, Ms. Tufiño reflected on the project.

“You know what’s weird?” Ms. Ferguson said as she walked down the platform, pointing to murals she worked on. “I still remember how to do the whole thing.”

Ms. Ferguson worked on the mural depicting commuters boarding the No. 2 train at 96th Street. In another mural, this one made by Ms. Branch, Ms. Ferguson is shown sitting next to two children on a brownstone stoop, wearing a yellow jumpsuit.

Ms. Ferguson, 41, is now a community organizer for the New York City Mission Society’s Minisink Townhouse in Harlem. She said the work she does today is a continuation of the help given to her at a critical time in her life.

Ms. Branch, 40, gave birth to her first child, Timothy, seven months ago, and until recently worked as a receptionist for Bear Stearns through a temp agency.

She brought Timothy along for the station visit, dutifully covering his ears every time a train roared past. In an interview before the visit, Ms. Branch said she had recently seen the tile murals from a passing No. 2 train.

“I said, ‘Wow, 20 years later and they’re still beautiful, just like when we put them up there,’ ” she said. “That’s something to show my son when he’s of the age to know what that is. So I can say, ‘Look, your mommy did that.’ ”

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, January 4, 2009

"The Dog Dies": Movie Spoiler Graffiti Hits Los Angeles

Having not seen this movie, which by the way is exploding box offices, I didn't realize the graffiti that has been showing up in Los Angeles is actually a movie spoiler. Given this, the messages are extremely disarming to the power the ad has to attract viewers. The ad may not itself be gone but the experience it is advertising is rendered useless through the added message by revealing the ending.

This is an interesting distinction for me that I have never considered, being adamant about total ad removal except in the most specific cases. If this graffiti were placed over an ad for Coca Cola, the product would suffer very little. Since Coca Cola's objective is brand recognition first and foremost and not the actual product, the fact that the brand is not obscured would mean the ad remains potent. In advertising for movies and other products or services which rely on the actual product to promote itself, total obstruction of the ad is not necessary. A detournement, or witty alteration may suffice to destroy the ad as well as point to the moment of interaction and communication taking place between viewer and individual.

This is not to say that any scrawl over an advertisement of this type will take the air out of the ad and turn the campaign on itself. The content of the alteration must speak to the product and displace whatever authority it might hold. This acknowledgment opens up a method of taking back public space from advertising content I have been very slow to recognize but have come to respect through this piece.

With that said, the objective of Public Ad Campaign is not to debunk advertising content, but rather to question its authority in the public environment and what adverse effects we are under because of it. Removal of the ad for individually created content is more to that point and speaks to an environment where the public creates content instead of reacting to it.

From Wooster Collective

Photos nicked from here.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, January 2, 2009

Nike ACG BOOTS Billboard Project

Via Hypebeast

Bringing light to the Nike ACG Boots “The Strength Inside” campaign, Nike Sportswear partnered with a handful of high school teens in and around New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore to create a photographic journal representing the concept of “What strength means to you”. The Center for Arts Education (NYC) and the Peace and Love (Philly/B-more) organization brought over 250 kids together for the billboard campaign as one picture from the following neighborhoods/cities were chosen: Queens, Harlem, Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Baltimore. The winning entries from each city/borough will have their images displayed on billboards during the month of January in 2009. Two of the winners seen here include Brooklyn winner Kimone Napier (Billboard located at the corner of Flatbush Ave. & Washington Ave., Brooklyn, NY) and Queens winner Cindy Bencosme (Billboard located at the corner of Jamaica Ave & Sutphin Blvd, Queens, NY).

Giving children access to their own forms of personal communication in the public is a vital way to invigorate peoples investment in their community and public space. Not only do the children understand how their ideas can become a part of the public dialogue but also others within the community bear witness to alternative voices controlling the subject matter of visual communication. It can be extremely empowering to individuals and communities alike and should not be taken lightly. This video of Tom14 speaks to the importance of such community interaction.

How then do we consider this project, which is a stunt for Nike, but yet still a legitimate community project? I don't feel able to fully discredit this project solely on the basis of it being advertising because if all outdoor advertising was done similarly, the city would be a much different place. In fact this change in where outdoor visual content is taken from would result in the great businesses of our communities becoming the curators of our cities art and ideas. Instead of simplistic on way messages meant to steal your attention, companies would gain time in our thoughts by bringing the most interesting content to our city streets.

It's a novel idea and one which can make you imagine how other uses of our public environment might suite the city better without directly changing any of the more rigid power structures which exist in a commodity based market system.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Attention Passengers! To Your Right, This Trip Is About to Become Trippy

New York Times Article

“Masstransiscope,” a piece by the artist and filmmaker Bill Brand, can be glimpsed from northbound Q and B trains nearing the Manhattan Bridge.

Artist and filmmaker Bill Brand, created Masstransiscope in the late 70's in an attempt to reverse the cinematic convention of the image moving past the viewer, instead moving the viewer past the image. Initially "He wanted to change the images regularly, making a movie, in essence, that subway riders would see only in little segments of 20 seconds or so, like a crazily attenuated version of the serials that once ran in theaters." Slightly overambitious, this idea was dropped for a simpler version of the original concept.

No less interesting, this piece of work is a fine example of what happens when residents are allowed access to their public environment. These days Arts for Transit regulates which artists are allowed to access the NYC subway system and they do a good job of it, but it should be noted 'Bill’s work happened before Arts for Transit even came about. And that’s why it really is a part of New York history.'

These days not only would Bill find himself navigating through a much more complex process of application and permission in order to carry out his idea, but he would also be competing with an aggressive advertising platform which has come to dominate the MTA's visual landscape. Alongside the addition of hundreds of traditional platform level posters, recent advertising additions include, projection units, adhesive wall signs, advertising on the outside of train cars, advertising in the windows of train cars, digital ads on the sides of buses, on the backs of metrocards, as well as the plan to create ads using the same methods Mr. Brand used for his artwork.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Peter Fuss

How I have been unaware of Peter's work is mind blowing to me, but here it is. (Thanks Wooster) Ill see if he wants to answer a few questions and post those later.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New Actions And Training

If anything, I've found that a single act of participation can ignite a lifetime of interaction in the public. With that in mind, as well as a large project I am cooking up with PosterBoy, I have realized the need to personally introduce people to the physical act of reclaiming public space. The invisible hand which seems to say that public interaction is off limits to the average citizen, is actually just that, invisible and ultimately non-existent. Once you have committed an act of social rearrangement you realize that you are truly free to do what you want with little to no consequence.

That said, a now friend of mine who we will call John, asked me how he could do his own public billboard advertisements illegally. I having never actually changed a billboard and thought the first step would be getting our hands dirty, realizing that with a little bit of fearlessness and the right tools you can pretty much do anything. We set out last Monday afternoon to tackle three of my favorite public advertising venues for takeover, public phone kiosks, NPA outdoor street level billboards, and subway platform advertisements. I produced two phone kiosk pieces, two subway platform pieces, and prepared the paint for two NPA outdoor ad removals.

The first thing we did was paint over the NPA ads, which John was slightly nervous about but finished without hesitation. The next ad we hit was a phone kiosk which he removed without batting an eye and on the downtown side of oncoming traffic. I explained that it was slightly more dangerous because a cop car driving up the street would be much more likely to stop him. He scoffed at the idea and removed the ad with me watching out. The last was the subway platform ads which he refused to do because it was mid afternoon. This was not such a bad call on his part because subway platforms are much less crowded late at night and you are less likely to see police. Nonetheless I showed him how it could be done and in the future I'm sure John would have no problem attempting this on his own.

If anyone has any interest in running through the gauntlet, I am more than happy to provide the tools and materials for a fun afternoon on the streets.

Two different phone kiosk pieces, one posted by each of us

(detail of first)

NPA outdoor site we both painted over

Subway platform install which I did and John filmed

Subway Platform detail

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Who Is This?

As I exited the John and Lispanard Street ACE train exit, I found what I think is some artists handiwork. If this is artwork, it was done very professionally, using adhesive backed vinyl printing and made to size accordingly. What makes me think this is artwork is the sample I removed which is slightly different material than the rest of the ads in the subway system. If someone is aware of who this work is done by, please contact me. I would love to get in touch.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pop Down Project

Though this project does not get rid of urban blight, the comment is so clear I had to post it. should we not, just like on the internet, have the right to prevent ourselves from viewing ad content in the public? It has been said that the world of social networking and communication via the internet is the next form of public space or the next democratic public forum. If we reserve the right to censor ourselves from advertising in this medium, should we not do the same for the old tried and true public forum, our city streets?

from Urban Prankster Charlie Todd
The Pop_Down Project offers an alternative to the “pop up” advertising we encounter on the streets. They write:
On the Internet, getting rid of unsolicited pop-ups is pretty easy. In real life, things are a tad more complicated. The Pop_Down Project aims at symbolically restoring everyone’s right to non-exposure: Just stick a “Close window” button on any public space pollution.
Head to the site to download the template and start sticking yourself.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, November 21, 2008

Posterboy PublicAdCampaign Collaboration

I contacted Posterboy after I read the article in New York Magazine about him. He had some interesting ideas and after he answered a few informal questions I realized his thinking was similar to my own. We decided to do a small collaboration just to see if we could get away with working in broad daylight together. All in all we hit 6 sites in a period of about two hours and it went off without a hitch. Here are the photos to prove it. Both of us think this has potential for something much larger. Remember, these locations operated by NPA outdoor are completely illegal.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, November 17, 2008

City Will Try To Untangle Public Art Murals From Billboard Legal Battles

Via Ban Billboard Blight

Murals have long been an important part of visual landscape of Los Angeles, particularly in their illustration of the city’s cultural and political history. Unfortunately, murals on private property have been caught up in the recent legal battles between the city and the outdoor advertising industry, which has argued that the city cannot enforce its sign ordinance, including the 2002 ban on new billboards and other forms of “off-site” commercial advertising, if it doesn’t apply the same enforcement to public art murals. As a result, the city has been forced to cite owners of properties with murals for violation of the ban.

But now the city Planning Department has proposed a way to allow these murals, and a joint committee will be discussing the proposal this coming Wednesday, Nov. 19. This proposal essentially allows private property owners to donate an “art easement” to the city for a wall with an existing or proposed mural, thus turning that piece of the property into a public space exempt from the city sign ordinance.

Anyone interested in this issue should plan to attend the hearing and/or send comments to the committee members. See the committee agenda and planning department report here.

Posted under Billboards, L.A. City Government, Supergraphics

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

White On White Project

This is the 11th White on White piece located on the SWC of Spring street and Bowery for the second time. I put this one up in front of a class of PACE University students and i think they enjoyed watching the process.

More Here

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Monday, November 3, 2008

White On White Project

This is the 10th White on White piece located on the SEC of 4th street and 1st avenue. The cops rolled by me every time I attempted to do anything to this phone kiosk after the initial install. I had to come back at 2am just to put some propoxy 20 in the screw holes. More Here

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Dr. D Doing Good Things

London based artist Dr. D, contacted me with a website change which prompted me to take another look at his work. Although I don't care much for signatures, his work ethic is incredible, and often his art removes the advertising completely. This series seems to acknowledge its placement within the advertising frame even when the advertisement is completely gone. The interpretation of what ads might actually be saying is poignant and worth a look.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thought I'd Get Funny Cause It's Late

Thought I'd try the White on White using tape on the back of the plexi instead of painting the front. Not my favorite. Regardless this is me getting three new surfaces to work on despite the Van Wagner van showing up halfway through.

Labels: , , , , ,

SVA Street Art Discussion

My good friend Ava Heller made me aware of a wonderful discussion that took place last night at the School of Visual Arts. The panel included Marc and Sara Schiller of the Wooster Collective, Elbow Toe, Thomas Beale of Honey Space, and Frank Anselmo who teaches "Unconventional: Guerilla Advertising" at SVA. Amy Wilson moderated the talk in which "The panelists will discuss the history of street art, how art and business have blurred on the city streets, and what recent mainstream attention means for the art form: Is it a blessing or a curse?"

I was interested in the fact that art and business blurred on the city streets a long time ago, and how these panelists might define the differences and similarities between the two, if they exist.

Elbow Toe remarked that after ten years of creating ad content he decided to stop pushing product and imbue his life with personal meaning by creating street art. He is a classically trained painter. Marc and Sara Schiller seemed to keep hitting on the idea that "good" street art creates intimate city moments. Shared experiences within the city space where messages or folly were exchanged to the betterment of both parties.

They seemed to be explaining street art as something which is deeply personal for the creator and viewer. The methods and tactics used in street art are all in service of this simple idea of creating an interactive space out of our normal city environment.

My immediate question was what are the problems facing outdoor advertising which uses these same tactics? Does advertising which uses the methods of street art retain a similar potency?

The answer lies in the definition of what that "intimate" moment looks like. Street art tactics often use surprise, serendipity, and amusement to draw in the viewer, creating a space where the unexpected moment becomes a connection between the viewer and what is viewed. That connection defines an interaction in which ideas are exchanged between both parties. Street art, being an offering, asks nothing more of the viewer than to bring what he or she has to bear on the situation. This open ended conversation, started by the artwork, gives in that it provides opportunity without asking for anything in return. Street art advertising, which uses these same tactics of surprise, is different in that the motivation is not an open ended conversation, but the transfer of a singular idea, the recognition of product. The use of street art methods then becomes a wolf in sheep's clothing, drawing you in to relay a message as opposed to invite conversation. The lack of exchange is what renders the moment impotent, not the methods by which it draws you in.

The difference between the two is relatively black and white. Using the same methods, street art manages to invest thought in the public environment while street art advertising attempts to solidify and control thought in the public environment. One gives and one takes. Simple as that.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Union Square Showdown

Last Saturday I was walking through Union Square around 6:30pm, and came across a fantastic scene. In many ways it helped to clarify my own understanding of what true individual to individual public interaction was about, while juxtaposing it with the same scenario mediated by an advertising experience.

AArrow Spinners, a young outdoor advertising company that employs energetic youth and dance spectacle to attract attention for advertising purposes, was performing at the top of the stairs on the southern end of Union Square. At the same time a band called Brothers Moving, a young group of buskers, was performing less than 200 feet away. Each group was enthusiastically entertaining and gathering a crowd quickly.

Video was being shot, and photos taken, by a variety of individuals passing through. I stood back and observed the crowd, realizing this was a unique situation for me. Those who seemed to be using the space more transiently were immediately attracted to the AArrow Spinners, taking photos as they moved from one end of the square to the next. Those individuals that were waiting for someone, or meandering about with some time to kill, generally stopped and gathered around the entire event.

Over the course of about 30 minutes I watched this group slowly make its way to what became a large crowd of nearly a hundred people seated in front of the Brothers Moving. Tips were being tossed in a guitar case and cd's were being purchased, all while the crowd enjoyed a very personal (no mics or amps) musical experience. This migration left the AArrow Spinners with a much smaller crowd watching their antics.

I have always assumed that street art/performance/interaction, are valuable tools that use the public environment to bring together people who would often otherwise not interact. In doing so they create a cohesion amongst the public that emphatically demands an autonomous public use of the public environment. To reiterate the need for a public space of congregation for the exchange of public ideas, is to present a vision of a public forum where in the individual triumphs over the imposition of a few. It mimics the rules of the medieval carnival, where top down authority gives way to individual visions of society as a whole, even if those visions do not support the positions of authority.

These two street performances, which I must grant to both the AArrow Spinners and the Brothers Moving, were exercising their own individual visions for the public environment. Both of them were creating an entertaining environment filled with public interaction and reaction. Yet the performance which most captivated the audience was the one without something asked of the viewer.

Everytime I became lost in the dancing and acrobatics of the AArrow Spinners, I was wrenched out of the experience by the constant realization that this was all being done for my allegiance. This was most hieghtened when the dance action was stopped by a move made to attract my attention to the text on the sign. My interest was constantly asked to confirm my consumption of the product being advertised.

As I stood in front of the Brothers Moving, I quickly became aware that I was tapping my foot and found I had not thought about what I was watching so much as had been enjoying it for quite sometime. The experience was immersive and interactive. I found myself making eye contact and smiling at the kazoo player as he strut a small circle in front of the crowd. My interest here was left to my own choosing and I found it very satisfying.

My thoughts wandered around as I stood there watching the band play. I thought about how fun it must be to sing in front of such a large crowd of strangers. I thought about what kind of people would stop and listen to this kind of music and why the crowd did not fit my expectations. I thought about dinner. I thought about what a nice night it was. All the while those thoughts went on uninterrupted.

I left Union Square thinking. I left Union Square excited about the city. I left Union Square happy to be living around such an incredibly rich group of people and happy I had a moment to sit with them. I did not leaving thinking about AArrow Spinners and whatever advertisement they had wanted me to take notice of.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, October 27, 2008

White On White Project

This is the 9th White on White piece located on the SWC of 17th street and Broadway. I was going to put this somewhere more discreet but then walked past that notorious newstand on the north side of the street and thought why not. By the way, the 7th White on White piece has been up since 10-08-08, which is incredibly long for this type of stuff. More Here

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Saturday, October 18, 2008

White On White Project

This is the 8th White on White piece located on the SWC of Perry street and Washington street. What a way to spend a Friday night. More Here

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, October 11, 2008

White On White Project

This is the 7th White on White piece located on the SWC of 1st street and 2nd avenue. A good friend of mine has a gallery in the neighborhood and I wanted to show him what I was up to. More Here

Labels: , , , , , ,

Hacking “Harassment by Advertising”

by André Gattolin

French Protesters Wage War on Billboard

by Max Colchester
The Wall Street Journal September 26th, 2008

Small Band of Activists Hopes Graffiti Campaign Will Prompt Government to Ban Large Outdoor Ads

Paris-On Friday, Alex Baret plans to board a train to central Paris, pull out a can of spray paint and deface a billboard, as he has done every last Friday of the month for more than two years. The slogan he prefers to leave scrawled on his targets: Harcèlement Publicitaire, or Harassment by Advertising.

The 34-year-old musician, who lives in the city’s suburbs, hopes such acts of vandalism will encourage the French government to ban large billboards, which he says “force messages onto unsuspecting passersby and ruin the landscape.” Just a handful of protesters join Mr. Baret in his monthly graffiti blitzes, but scores of sympathizers typically gather to watch. And he has rallied several French philosophers and intellectuals to his cause.

His campaign is part of France’s love-hate relationship with advertising. Though much of the French public doesn’t like outdoor ads-58%, according to a 2007 poll-France is home to some of the biggest advertising firms in the world, including Publicis and JCDecaux.

Hostility toward advertising is deeply rooted in France’s history, says Publicis Chief Executive Maurice Levy. “We have a culture” that doesn’t “like commerce….This goes back to the Middle Ages,” he says. Ads are a “scapegoat” for people looking to reject certain forms of capitalism, he adds.

Because of their prominence, billboards are obvious targets for French anticapitalist sentiment, says Philippe Legendre, the acting director of the Institute of Research and Advertising Studies in France.

But distaste for outdoor ads isn’t uniquely French; small groups of protesters are active in other countries, too. In Belgium, Ad Hiders obscures billboards by covering them with plastic sheets. In New York, the Anti-Advertising Agency, which has about 20 members, frequently paints over outdoor poster ads with black paint, focusing on ads hung illegally around city construction sites. It also works to replace outdoor ads with art.

The protests here come at a time when outdoor advertising has already lost some of its luster with French marketers. Though €1.1 billion ($1.6 billion), or 10% of France’s annual ad revenues, come from outdoor ads, compared with just 3.9% in the U.S., their number has declined by 50% over the past 20 years, partly because more billboards have been placed inside subway stations and airports. The business also is suffering from France’s decision last year to allow retailers to advertise on national television.

Protesters have damaged the image of outdoor advertising, says Etienne Reignoux, head of marketing at Clear Channel France, a unit of U.S. outdoor-advertising firm Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings. “I can’t argue with them, except that if [billboards] allow companies to finance services, such as bus stops, this is giving something back,” he says. The protests, he adds, are too small to hurt outdoor-ad companies’ bottom lines.

Mr. Baret says the seeds for his campaign were sewn in the spring of 1997, when he was riding the Paris subway and he looked up at an ad. “I suddenly thought: ‘I am in a prison,’ ” he says. “I saw the slogan, the lies, and it disgusted me.”

Eight years later, Mr. Baret, who plays the double bass, helped form Les Deboulonneurs-”The Debunkers”-a group with 100 to 300 active members that lobbies to limit the size of individual ads to roughly 27.5 inches high by 20 inches wide.

French billboards tend to be smaller and less well-lit than American ones. French law says outdoor ads can be no bigger than about 170 square feet, except in special circumstances, and shouldn’t be placed in the countryside. But each municipality can decide limits on ad size.

Bernard Stiegler, director of the department of cultural development at Paris’s Centre Pompidou, recently offered to act as a witness for Mr. Baret in a case the state brought against him for destruction of private property. Mr. Stiegler says Mr. Baret’s group is “responsible” and is holding advertisers to account for their excesses. “They are protecting the ad industry from itself,” he says. “They will be heroes one day.”

The movement now includes other groups, such as the Anti-Advertising Resistance. In 2003, hundreds of demonstrators fanned out in towns across France and defaced thousands of ads. Companies including Publicis unit Métrobus filed lawsuits against 62 people. Mr. Baret was one of those charged, and was ordered to pay €2,500 in compensation. But he says Les Deboulonneurs “don’t care” if they get arrested, and even warns the police of his actions beforehand. Some protest groups, however, stick to legal activities.

The industry is remaining stoic. “There is no point rolling around on the floor crying,” says Stephané Dottelonde, president of the French Union for Outdoor Advertising. “You have to respect that these groups exist.”

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Banksy Colossal Media Hit

Turns out the Banksy murals were advertisements after all. They did preempt his new show called The Village Pet Store And Grill.

Update: Banksy's team passed on this quote to us, regarding the billboards: "I wanted to play the corporations at their own game, at the same scale and in the same locations. The advantage of billboard companies is that they’ll let you write anything for money, even if what you write is questioning the ethics of letting someone write anything because they have money."

This is simply not true. Billboard companies will not let you write anything you want as long as you pay them. A good example of this is Susan Opton's Soldier Billboard Project which came up against massive barriers until it finally found a home in Syracuse among others. The fact of the matter is Banksy isn't really putting anything all that challenging out there and that is why there was no problem contracting an outdoor advertising company to do his bidding. Again the use of the I NY campaign is a nod to the cities use of cultural economics to repaint a vision of the city to its own liking (in direct opposition to the Graffit and Street Art movements use of the city) and not a scathing indictment of our cultural politics. Nor do I believe his work is "...

questioning the ethics of letting someone write anything because they have money." Did he not pay to put those billboards up? In what way does that question the ethics of who gets to promote their visual messages in our public environment. Destroy a fucking billboard and then we can talk about challenging the usage of public space.

On another note. I have been posting about the reinvigoration of Banksy's work with some sort of political credibility by forcing its removal as a way to shine a light on the growing illegal billboard problem in the city. Sadly I will be unable to do this because it turns out everything him and colossal have done was legal. Provided there are no commercial messages in the work and permission has been granted by the landlord, you may paint anything on the side of a building provided it agrees wth the zoning regulations in the area. So much for converting this into a potent piece of art which could help illuminate important city issues. So contact your local landlord, grab a paint brush and get to work.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, October 6, 2008

Slice and Dice NY Magazine

One man’s vandalism is another’s political art. Just ask Poster Boy, the Matisse of subway-ad mash-ups.

By Brian Raftery Published Oct 5,2008

(Photo: Christopher Anderson)

It’s a Thursday evening at the 23rd Street C/E station, and Nicolas Cage is undergoing an involuntarily face-lift. As commuters wait for their train, the subway-art manipulator known as Poster Boy stands in front of an ad for Cage’s Bangkok Dangerous, razor in hand, and traces a circle around the actor’s eyes, nose, and mouth. Cage’s face peels away as easily as a trading-card sticker, and Poster Boy carries it down the platform, where he’s been hacking away at a hot-pink poster promoting MTV’s high-school musical The American Mall. He’s been rearranging swatches of color, text, and body parts to alter the movie’s title (now The American Fall) and tagline (“Love and Dreams for Resale”). Poster Boy slices out the Mall moppet’s head, replacing it with Cage’s appropriately stunned expression. The entire process takes less than ten minutes.

Since January, the 25-year-old has manipulated about 200 underground posters, turning MTA stations into his own public galleries. His pieces are conceived on the spot, and while most subway-poster vandals limit themselves to all-caps obscenities, Poster Boy’s improvised mash-ups recall both the cut-and-paste aesthetic of old punk-show fliers and the fake ads that appeared in circa-seventies Mad magazine: In his hands, AT&T skyscrapers are turned into flaming World Trade Center towers and Heath Ledger becomes a ghostly anti-drug pitchman. Most of his work disappears quickly—MTA employees have even ripped down his work before he’s finished—but you can see it on his sporadically updated Flickr account.

The defacing of posters doesn’t sound particularly lofty, but Poster Boy—who, for obvious reasons, wishes to remain anonymous (vandalism is, after all, a crime)—has intentions that are surprisingly high-minded. The die-hard Fight Club fan hopes to start a decentralized art movement, one where anyone can claim to be Poster Boy. “No copyright, no authorship,” he says. “A social thing, as opposed to being an artist making things for bored rich people to hang above their couch.” That such a crusade might encourage vandalism doesn’t bother him. “Where I’m from, if you go by the book, it’s a very slow process to get what you want,” he says.

Poster Boy is reluctant to talk about his background, but a few details slip out: He was raised in a one-parent home in an East Coast neighborhood he compares to the South Bronx. He spent some of his teen years stealing cars and shooting out windows: “I’ve gotten arrested for a couple of little things.” He enrolled in community college, where he was exposed to Noam Chomsky, Lao Tzu, and George Orwell. “Books like Animal Farm and 1984 sparked something,” he says. “A new sense of independence, where I felt, I should take control of my environment.

In January of this year, after dropping out of a reputable art school, he began loitering around the cavernous subway stations that link his Bushwick apartment to his Chelsea-art-studio day job. “I was playing with the posters, cutting them up, ’cause I have to use razors a lot at my job,” he says. His earliest works were hastily assembled, full of floating heads and juxtaposed slogans. But by the spring he was incorporating social critiques, rearranging the Iron Man logo into IRAN=NAM, and altering an NYPD recruitment-drive poster to read MY NYPD KILLED SEAN BELL. “No matter what I do to the piece,” he says, “as long as I did something to those advertisements and that saturation, it’s political. It’s anti-media, anti–established art world.”

New York City has a long history of reactive ad-jamming, from Ron English’s illegal billboard pasteups to the “stickeriti” artist known as Violator of the Regime, who last fall altered nearly 30 subway ads for the CW’s Reaper, replacing the show’s cast members with twisted Photoshop caricatures of Bush, Cheney, and Rice (the show’s tagline, “Meet Satan’s Biggest Tools,” remained intact). But the ubiquity of digital cameras and Flickr streams means that artists like Poster Boy or the Decapitator—a London-based ad hack who replaces celebrities’ heads with bloody stumps—can instantly take their regional agitprop to a worldwide audience, an impossible feat for English in the eighties. “If we did [a billboard] in Texas, only the people that commuted down I-35 that day would see the thing,” English says. “Unless we were clever enough to get it on the international news, we weren’t gonna broaden our audience.”

Poster Boy’s prodigious, easily accessible output has made him a leading figure among the next wave of media manipulators—a sort of Turk 182 with a 50-cent blade. But in order to remain viable, he has to keep producing new pieces, which puts him at an ever-increasing risk of getting pinched. (For now, he’s not especially high on the MTA’s list of priorities: “Vandalism of our property is illegal, and we prosecute to the fullest extent of the law,” says spokesperson Aaron Donovan. “That being said, the problem to date has been minimal.”) At the 23rd Street station, he works quickly, pausing only when the trains arrive or depart. “While the train’s here, I scope,” he says. “Once it pulls out, I start cutting.”

Slice and Dice

Presto, change-o: A sampling of Poster Boy's creations.

He stares at the American Fall piece. Cage’s visage may be grotesque, but the poster needs one more inspired detail to set it apart. Poster Boy walks down the platform to collect pieces of sticky vinyl he cut from another poster and begins converting the neck of a guitar into a giant penis. He’s only halfway finished when he’s halted by a voice: “Stop!” The crowd parts, revealing four hard-charging NYPD officers. “You got ratted out,” one officer says, pointing to a Tropic Thunder poster that’s been defaced with a homophobic slur. Apparently, a commuter saw Poster Boy at work and mistakenly I.D.’d him as the culprit. He spends a few minutes pleading his case—he’s opposed to such sloppily executed epithets, for philosophical and aesthetic reasons. After taking his razor, the cops let him off with a warning.

Advice heeded, he hops on the next C train. As the door closes, he shakes his head. “I did a bad job of turning the guitar into a penis,” he says. “That’s my only regret: a poorly cut-up phallus.”

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

White On White Project

This is the 6th White on White piece located on the NEC of 15th street and 8th avenue. Not sure I like them getting this complicated in design. More Here

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Friday, October 3, 2008

Banksy - Colossal Media Hit

Notice the "!!!DAMN RATS" graffiti which has peen put up over the Banksy only days after it was finished.

photo by Jake Dobkin

I have a gathered a few interesting facts about the Banksy/Colossal Media Street Art collaborative mural that happened this week

1-Banksy paid Colossal Media to paint these murals
2-Colossal Media did contact the landlord to approve the work
3-Colossal Media is renting the space through the landlord at an undisclosed monthly fee
4-59 Grand Street Equities Inc. did not get the proper permits from the DOB to put up a sign here

So I'd call this illegal Street Art, albeit art more heavily financed than most individuals have the resources for; nonetheless Street Art with all its connotations, challenging who gets to use the streets and for what. Despite this, no one seems to be getting all that worked up about it, even though it may be one of the largest illegal projects ever done in this city. It even surpasses large Super Soaker graffiti hits, and giant wheat pastes like the current JR piece at the corner of Houston and Bowery. (Pictured)

And maybe that's a good thing. Certainly it shows people are not averse to Street Art. In fact, I spent half an hour watching people take pictures and then talking to them about the fact that this mural was an illegal artwork and that it could be removed. The responses I got were overwhelmingly upset over the fact that it might be taken down.

So what would happen if this illegal artwork was removed? Other than decoration, what purpose can the work serve for the public in the way that good street art often does?

A few blocks away at 380 Canal street, there is a large illegal advertising billboard for the new movie "Body of Lies." Over a year ago,

outraged residents filed complaints to The Department of Buildings against the advertisement. Soon after, the Special Sign Enforcement Unit condemned this illegal advertisement and demanded that the landlord remove it. Today, this illegal advertisement still reaps significant profits for the owners of that property, without public oversight.

The public's reaction to this illegal advertising billboard is not nearly as affectionate as it is towards the illegal Banksy mural. Reactions to the illegal advertisement range from passive acceptance to outright rage over the fact that we are being forced consume this commercial message illegally.

This illegal Banksy mural, along with the public's help, can turn this situation into an overtly political message to the city. This message would assert the public's right to decide what is left on the city's walls, and thus what it wants to see on the city's walls in the future. With no complaints about the illegal Banksy mural having been filed, and several complaints having been filed against the illegal advertisement, it is imperative that the city remove the illegal advertising billboard and leave this artwork up.

By bringing its own illegality to the forefront, the Banksy piece, along with public support, forces the city to choose sides in the debate over the appropriate use of public space. If the city does not carry out its duty to remove the illegal advertisement first, it will be sending a strong message about who's interests the city serves - those of the commercial forces or those of the public interest. Public protest of the removal of this artwork, if it comes to it, would imbue this piece with a purpose it never had, thereby giving it the authenticity we associate with true Street Art.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mia Nilsson | Levis 501 “Live Unbuttoned” Art Wall

Point made. The intersection of Street Art and public advertising negates all of Street Art's power to communicate individual messages and instead champions the market as the only voice worth listening to.

from Hypebeast Luis Ruano

Two years in the making, Levis found their creative mind to showcase his/her artwork at a wall in Stockholm. With the help of Vice Magazine, a list of 200 contributors was narrowed to the winner, Mia Nilsson. Her illustration can be seen at Grevturegatan 8, on a 5 X 11 meter wall for the next couple of months. Following an inspiration of childhood memories, Mia’s Levis 501 campaign showcases a nostalgic experience of kids trying to be cool in their 501’s.

See more at Mia Nilsson | Levis 501 “Live Unbuttoned” Art Wall

Labels: , , , , , ,

White On White Project

This is the 5th White on White piece located on the NEC at 11th street and 1st avenue . My good friend works across the street at Momofuku and thought I'd make his evenings a little more interesting. More Here

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Banksy and Colossal Media

At the risk of sounding like an old curmudgeon, I have some things to say about the Banksy/Colossal Media "collaboration" which went up a few days ago on Wooster and Grand streets in NYC. Street Art and Graffiti have always been not only artistic acts, but political ones as well: challenging popular conceptions of how, and by whom, the public environment is utilized. The criminalization of these practices over the past 30+ years speaks to the top down control of public space, which seeks to define the terms on which our public spaces are used. The privatization of our public environment, including the walls of our buildings, has placed our shared environment out of reach of many in an effort to diffuse competitive uses of those spaces. Graffiti and Street Art should be understood as just such a competitive force against the determined efforts of public advertising to prevent all other unsanctioned visual uses of the public realm. To say that a collaboration like this between Street Art and the public advertising world "takes the air out of this works impact" is an understatement.

On top of this general complaint, Banksy ironically uses the I NY campaign created by Milton Glaser and promoted by the Association For A Better New York (ABNY) which was in many ways interested in removing the stigma which Graffiti had attached to the city in some of our darker economic times; Though things just might get worse now than they did back in the late 70's. Maybe we can let this one go since Banksy's not from around here, but New York street artists should be aware of the fact that the criminalization of Street Art and Graffiti was promoted by those agencies like the ABNY who were responsible for this benign slogan which tried to clean up, and helped to cover the true images of New York that many young Graffiti artists were trying to reveal.

See Taking the Train by Joe Austin and Branding NY by Miriam Greenberg.

I must add that Colossal Media is one of the less intrusive outdoor media companies, often painting their murals as opposed to using the more profitable vinyl signage, as well as working directly with street artists as pictured.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, September 26, 2008

White On White Project

This is the latest White on White piece located on the NWC at 36th street and 10th avenue . Exit art was having a show on protest posters from 1960 to today and I thought it made sense. More Here

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Poster Boy Takes On The World

As per usual I'm not happy that the ads these images manipulate are still shining through the creative voice of Poster Boy, but when I think of all the ads that were destroyed to make each of these pictures I do get a warm fuzzy feeling deep inside my heart.

Via Animal New York

The underground, subway ad remixing artist known as Poster Boy has been on a bit of a rampage lately after taking a brief hiatus. In a new series of alterations, the culture jamming artisan takes shots at the media, fast food, bad shows on Fox and even gentrification—in one instance giving a movie poster for Nicholas Cage's latest box office bomb Bangkok Dangerous a much more fitting facelift considering a certain Brooklyn neighborhood's increasing popularity. Collaborator Aakash Nihalani rejoins Poster Boy, attacking the insides of subway cars too. Click below for the creative cluster of constructive vandalism.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


    Eduardo Moises Penalver & Sonia Kaytal
    Property Outlaws: How Squatters, Pirates, and Protesters Improve the Law of Ownership

    Barbara Ehrenreich
    Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy

    Lewis Hyde
    The Gift, Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World

    Geoffrey Miller
    Spent: Sex, Evolution, & Consumer Behavior

    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