Sunday, November 1, 2009

New York Magazine- Breaking Section

We were recently in the Breaking section of New York magazine after speaking to Erica Ogden for a lengthy amount of time over the phone. Erica had a wide range of interesting questions that got to the heart of some of the issues surrounding the NYSAT project and PublicAdCampaign's goals in general. Sadly none of this could be relayed in the 3 small paragraphs adorning a picture of me that I wish was left out so more text could have been included. I know this is not a function of the reporting so much as the section in which we were included. I want to take this opportunity to explain some things further.

Thank you Erica, and New York magazine for including the project in your pages. We greatly appreciate your interest and dedication to stories affecting all of our lives in NY.

First, the reasons we should exclude advertising from environments where we have no choice but to imbibe the intoxicating messages should be further explained. Advertising, without a doubt is a manipulative force. This becomes obvious when you look into the terminology advertising often uses to explain to its clients what it will be doing for them. Terms like "domination", "immersion", "saturation" pervade the language and give a good indication of advertising's intent to control viewer response. This manipulation, in pursuit of profit, has as it's goal not the psychological health of the viewer, but his or her wallet. While this may not be the worst thing in some cases, often products with commercial value fail to provide consumers with an object of any real value for their lives as productive engaged citizens of this world. Meaning these products do not enhance your relationship to your friends, neighbors, and others which you share the world with, instead offering signs of conspicuous worth used to flout your status above others. As trite as this may sound, the way you sell a Hummer is you tell the consumer it will make women swoon and guys cower in your presence. You do not tell the consumer it will get 12 miles to the gallon and help to destroy our collective environment, burdening your fellow man and making you a liability to those around you. If advertising were that honest, we would all be driving smart cars and prius'. Prone to the manipulations of advertising, we see many consumers driving Hummers unaware or blinded to the nature of their consumption. The danger of advertising's influence should be recognized for what it is and regulated, especially in those spaces where our collective identity and needs are paramount, like public space.

The article also glosses over the fact that the advertising locations we were targeting are in fact 100% illegal, quoting us as saying that "we believe [they] are put up illegally." To operate outdoor advertising in the city of NY, one must be registered with the city as an OAC and have a permit for every location that the company operates. The city requires this so that they can maintain control of an industry that often abuses the public in pursuit of ever increasing profits. Permitting is something NPA has failed to do for all of it's over 500 locations. Take for example the location at 100 avenue A where two participants were needlessly arrested in the first NSYAT project. This location, despite having a $25,000.00 fine associated with it continues to get new ad copy. This location is one of many that have been pursued by the DOB and is one of the 114 the last NYSAT project whitewashed in an attempt to bring this issue to the forefront of public consciousness. On top of this, NPA has the copyright on the term Wildposting, and admits to operating Wildposting services in NY on it's website, something which is all together illegal in the city. On top of this NPA is in a heated lawsuit with the city of San Francisco over its illegal ad locations run amok on these California residents. Clearly the company is ignoring the law and operating illegally.

Lastly, a quote taken slightly out of context needs to be amended. "I honestly believe that I’m right—that people should be allowed to make commentary like this and that I need to not be hiding." This quote came as a response to me being was asked why I use my name in association with this work and not a pseudonym. First, I honestly believe that WE are right. There were 80 participants who believe that this issue is a growing problem for this city and that our voices should be heard. At worst our actions should not be criminalized, at best we should be greeted by the city with respect for taking the initiative to help the city without interest in personal profit on an issue it is having a hard time controlling. Part of using my name is to remind people, the city, and the law that what we are doing is not vandalism, graffiti, or the wanton destruction of property. This is a project done out of the deepest respect for the city and all it's residents.
“I don’t really have a problem with advertising. I kind of enjoy it. And I’m a freelance photographer, so there are definitely times when I’ve shot advertisements. There’s a difference, though, between advertising that’s presented in situations where you have a choice as to whether or not to take in the message and places where you do not.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Forest in the Subway

NYC Arts for Transit brings us wonderful projects. It's a shame we can't redefine every station in this way, creating a public spaces of culture instead of consumption.

VIA NY Magazine

By Miranda Siegel
(Photo: Gaudéricq Robiliard/Courtesy of Starn Studios (South Ferry Station))

When commuters push through the turnstiles at the new South Ferry Terminal in a few weeks, they’ll find themselves surrounded by an arabesque of glass panels depicting intertwined silhouettes of trees—a lyrical, $1 million installation by the identical-twin artists Mike and Doug Starn. See It Split, See It Change reveals a parallel between the trees’ veiny structure and the gnarliness of the century-old subway. “We view cities as complex organisms made up of various systems, and we wanted to work with images of nature to help bring that through,” explains Doug, who with his brother has employed sinuous and knotty bark before, in the series Structure of Thought. The Starns spoke to New York about their new work, one of the MTA’s most ambitious “Arts for Transit” projects.

1. The Location
“The South Ferry station is thought of as just the terminus of the 1 train,” says Mike. “But we see it as the beginning of the city, from which everything else branches out.”

2. The Map
The marble mosaic is based on a 1640 image of Manhattan. “There’s a way to do contemporary mosaics in the subway, but we wanted to take it back,” says Mike. “So we spent time in Pompeii studying.”

3. The Collaboration
The Starns worked closely with the MTA’s architects and even had a say about issues like the placement of doors. “It’s the first time the art has been part of the process from the get-go,” says Mike.

4. The Links
Many of the outlines come from photos taken in Battery Park. “Trees have a hierarchal structure: trunk, branches, leaves,” says Doug. “When you flatten the images, you collapse that hierarchy—and suddenly connections happen everywhere.”

5. The Armor
Yes, it’s glass. In the subway. But at least it’s toughened: “It’s fused, which gives it resistance equivalent to tempered glass,” says Doug. It’s also hung as its own curtain wall, to avoid damage from behind (vibration, settling, seepage).

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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.”

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