Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Property Outlaws: How Squaters, Pirates and Protestors Improve the Law of Ownership

I just finished reading Property Outlaws by Eduardo Moises Penalver and Sonia Katyal. It is by far the most interesting book I have read in relation to the PublicAdCampaign project and unauthorized productions in public space. Although not directly about actions of this nature, the book begins to tease out the some of the reasons I think street artists, graffiti writers, and unauthorized public producers create their works, and do so without regard for the legal consequences. Very early on the authors state that "There is a difference between talking about something and being confronted with an actual example of it." And isnt that what most of us as artists are doing after all, creating an actual example of the streets we desire through our actions instead of talking about how wonderful they would be if only we were allowed to use them as we see fit. It is with this thought in mind that we take to the streets and confront a public space controlled by commercial messages, ready to condemn the behavior of public citizens, with alternatives that better suit the public's needs.

In particular, the book is an incredible resource for anyone walking treacherous legal lines in order to speak out on some larger issue. It is also a wonderfully counterintuitive look at how the law might require disobedience in some cases in order to better serve our changing cultural landscape. The authors argue that property outlaws are a resource to our legal system as they challenge our notions of right and wrong in ways that are exemplary and confrontational, providing us with an experience of alternative realities we might not otherwise be privy to. The book gives credence to something we have thought for a long time, and that is in order to facilitate change, often it is the responsibility of the public to create the world they think should exist instead of merely protesting the way things are.

Property Outlaws does focus on much larger transgressions than my personal work, the NYSAT projects, or street art for that matter, and I in no way draw comparisons between these projects and civil rights activists, or the drug patent violators that the book highlights. It does however contextualize the project in a long line of civil disobedience that the authors refer to as expressive outlaw behavior. That said I was excited to note that some of the same legal strategies might be applied to PublicAdCampaign's extralegal activities in order to justify our participants unique take on facilitating changes in the way public space is used. A small example of this being that we have at PublicAdCampaign implored the city on occasion to deal with certain illegal advertising problems, in particular NPA's egregious wide spread abuse of our public environment. These requests fell on deaf ears, and the NYSAT projects although partly meant to empower the individual to create change, were essentially our last option to call attention to this issue. In a situation like this where regular avenues have failed, Property Outlaws discusses legal strategies which may be used effectively, one example being, "The necessity defense [which] has been applied in state courts to immunize acts of criminal trespass, blocking traffic, defacing tobacco billboards, and supplying clean needles to drug users."

Anyways, I only got a tenth of what I should have out of this book and plan on reading it again immediately. If you would like a taste from the Huffington Post, you can read it [HERE]


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Announcing Poster Boy: The War of Art

VIA Subway Art Blog

We have known about this book for sometime and have been very excited to see a serious collection of Poster Boy's work in one place. We are especially excited to see all the work that was done while his court case was open and he was unable to post to his Flikr page. The book is available for pre-order and will ship out on March 10th.
"His cut and slash mash-ups of subway platform billboards only exist in New York City, but Poster Boy’s artful and funny appropriations of advertising have gotten him attention the world over. The New York Times dubbed him an “anti-consumerist Zorro with a razor blade, a sense of humor and a talent for collage”; the Guardian UK said of his work, it “is witty, web-savvy and economical . . . and the only materials it requires are chutzpah, imagination and a 50 cent blade.

Poster Boy tweaks corporate copy, replacing it with incisive and playful puns and turns of phrase rich with innuendo and political punch. Beautiful models turn ghastly and iconic spokespeople become the mouthpieces for Poster Boy’s ideas. Poster Boy: The War of Art collects his best work yet."

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dancing In The Streets: A History Of Collective Joy

January 1st I picked up Barabara Ehrenreich's book, Dancing In The Streets: A History Of Collective Joy on a whim because I thought I'd start the new year with something unpredictable. I was happily surprised with the choice and I highly suggest you read the book. Ehrenreich looks at ecstatic rituals from early in our collective history as a form of biological evolution evolved to amongst other things, join individuals together into cohesive groups. She then traces the evolution of this behavior through the Dionysian rituals practiced by the Greeks all the way up to our more modest forms of carnivalesque behavior exhibited in modern sporting arenas around the world. Along this journey we find the approval and more often control of our bodily movement, connection to strangers, and generally collective desire to "let our hair down", determining in part the mental and physical health of our society.

I have found the main thesis of her book to be spot on, enjoying myself most thoroughly in gatherings such as civil protests, happenings like the No Pants Subway Ride, particularly wild loft parties, and other communal events in which the self is lost in favor of the mass connection you experience by becoming one in the crowd. Somewhere in the back of my mind I see the restriction of physical movement associated with the collective happenings Ehrenreich's book speaks of, to be similar to advertising's control over the public space and thus the public's freedom of visual expression of ideas and images. Restriction of forces which are human at their core, like dancing in the streets, or parading your visual talents around our city walls has a detrimental affect on our social cohesion and ultimately our collective mental health.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Gift, Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World

I just finished Lewis Hyde's The Gift, Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World. One of the more interesting aspects of the book for me was the integration of the ideas regarding the gift economy with the artistic process. I highly suggest reading this book to anyone interested in defining more tangibly what is gained from the hours of unpaid work we do in service of our art.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Spent: Sex, Evolution, And Consumer Behavior

I just finished reading Geoffrey Miller's newest book, Spent. It was quite fantastic and I suggest it to anyone trying to navigate the stormy waters of an overburdened consumer society.

Right off the bat Miller says that marketing is the most powerful force on earth to date, directing everything from our social interactions, to our use/abuse of the environment. Marketing, in today's society pushes conspicuous consumption, which is often wasteful, selfish, and socially isolating. This conspicuous consumption and interest in consumer products has evolved along with our physical evolution through an evolutionary psychology that attempts to display what he calls the big six traits. These traits show our general fitness as mates, both physically, but psychologically as well. They include things such as conscientiousness, agreeableness, intelligence, creativity, etc. He goes on to argue that many of the conspicuos purchases we make are often very poor indicators of the big six. Marketing, in order to drive conspicuous consumption, alters a product's real value by attributing it with other qualities outside of the products real value. The book goes on to suggest more affective and socially responsible ways to display our big six and regain a sense of community lost through selfish conspicuous consumption.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Sharon Zukin-The Cultures of Cities

I posted on Sharon Zukin's book The Cultures of Cities a long time back. Within the first few pages I had found ideas I needed to share and that hasn't stopped as I have made my way through the rest of the book. Now that I am nearing the end, I thought it appropriate to share one last quote which talks about how our public culture can be viewed through the lens of our public spaces. In many ways our shared public space is a manifestation of who we are collectively, and that is why I have such issues with the burden outdoor advertising places on our public space and therefor public identity. As it infiltrates our public space it defines our public identity.
"Public spaces are the primary site of public culture; they are a window into the city's soul. As a sight, moreover, public spaces are an important means of framing a vision of social life in the city, a vision both for those who live there, and interact in urban public spaces every day, and for the tourists, commuters, and wealthy folks who are free to flee the city's needy embrace. Public spaces are important because they are places where strangers mingle freely. But they are also important because they continually negotiate the boundaries and markers of human society. As both site and sight, meeting place and social staging ground, public spaces enable us to conceptualize and represent the city - to make an ideology of its receptivity to strangers, tolerance of difference, and opportunities to enter a fully socialized life, both civic and commercial."

"We can understand what is happening to public culture today if we look at what is happening to public spaces."

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Cultures of Cities-Sharon Zukin

I just started reading what will surely turn out to be a great book by Sharon Zukin called The Culture of Cities. The author explains how our symbolic economy, produced in all of our myriad public spaces, ends up dictating a large portion of our public actions and interactions. I wanted to quote a few lines out of the first chapter that might get people interested.

"Accepting diversity implies sharing public space - the streets, buses, parks, and schools - with people who visibly, and quite possibly vehemently, live lives you do not approve of."

"I also see public culture as socially constructed on the micro-level. It is produced by the many social encounters that make up daily life in the streets, shops, and parks - the spaces in which we experience public life in cities. The right to be in these spaces, to use them in certain ways, to invest them with a sense of our selves and our communities - to claim them as ours and to be claimed in turn by them - make up a constantly changing public culture. People with economic and political power have the greatest opportunity to shape public culture by controlling the building of the city's public spaces in stone and concrete. Yet public space is inherently democratic. The question of who can occupy public space, and so define an image of the city, is open-ended."

"The disadvantage of creating public space this way (through private/public partnerships like BID's and parks conservancies) is that it owes so much to private-sector elites, both individual philanthropists and big corporations. This is especially the case for centrally located public spaces, the ones with the most potential for raising property values with the greatest claim to be symbolic spaces for the city as a whole. Handing such spaces over to corporate executives and private investors means giving them carte blanche to remake public culture. It marks the erosion of public space in terms of its two basic principles: public stewardship and open access."

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    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