Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Ritual Project Vs A Love Letter For You

I was recently made aware of a very interesting art/advertising collaboration called The Ritual Project. In it, Stella Artois contracted Sky High Media, or Colossal Media, to paint each frame of a billboard sized time lapse, depicting "the perfect pour". Colossal media is co-founded by Adrian Moeller, who also co-founded Mass Appeal magazine in 1996, and is also the company responsible for the Banksy murals in Soho that appeared late in 2008. The project is as much about the team of mural painters as it is the advertisement, highlighting the skill involved in this dying artform. Watching the herculean task of painting each frame of the time lapse only to see it buffed before the next frame is painted, really gives you an incredible sense of the work and dedication it takes to create such large scale works. In fact the "performance" aspect of this project was well understood by Stella Artois, as evidenced by this tag line from the website.

"Whether pouring the perfect Stella Artois, or recreating it as a massive piece of art, the magic lies in watching it come to life."

I couldn't agree more. If there is magic associated with this project, it surely isn't in the final product. As a resident walking by this project as it took place over the many days required to complete the time lapse, I would have been excited. I would have been less interested in the image being created of a Stella Artois glass, but while the painters were racing against time, I could have enjoyed watching them play with the side of a building in such a creative way. After all, unless you knew about the project before hand, watching painters paint, then buff, then paint a nearly identical image over and over again would have been odd and amusing to say the least. In this way the project would have kept my attention and provided me with an interesting interaction in public space, something we continue to think has a positive affect on our public environment.

photo courtesy of Steve Powers

Another recent project you might know about is Steve Powers' A Love Letter For You in Philadelphia. This immense mural undertaking, created over 30 murals along the Market-Frankford elevated line in Philly. The project depicts a series of "love letters" or pronouncements of love with heartfelt sentiments like, "If you were here, I'd be home" and "Your everafter is all I'm after." Although I was not in Philadelphia for the production of these murals, I can imagine the performance aspect of the project was in some way similar to The Ritual Project. As a resident one would watch these murals going up one after the other, unaware of the intention behind them as they seem almost out of place in their sincerity and eloquence. As with the Ritual Project, one could enjoy the mystery of it all while watching the streets you live on change before your eyes.

photo courtesy of Steve Powers

Both projects to me provide a wonderful moment for public curiosity that enlivens public space creating a sense of interest in the public environment where there might not have been any before. What is interesting to me, and illuminates some of the differences between using the public space for advertising VS artistic production, is what is left behind. In the case of The Ritual Project, we are left with an advertisement, an expected call for our attentions, and an expected outcome in an environment often used as a venue to sell goods and services, and a disposable image. In the Love Letter project we are left with something much less fleeting. The murals are unexpected moments of kindness and their permanence allows us to enjoy this feeling on a daily basis as they become landmarks which define the neighborhoods in which they exist.

photo courtesy of Steve Powers

And this might be on of the most important differences between advertising billboards and artistic mural productions, despite them both being painted by highly skilled artists. Endurance, permanence, and investment are all qualities of the Love Letter Project that the Ritual Project lacks. Both projects may have been interesting to watch but what Mr. Powers has created will last and continue to give to the city long after the actual production is over. Not only do these murals become ways in which the public can identify areas of the city, but they begin to define the city more broadly. No one would say, "Take a right at the Stella Artois advertisement", but they might say "Take a right at the, 'For you I got daycare money and carfare honey for now on.'" mural. This is in part because advertisement is fleeting and makes no real investment in the space it occupies, but also because the artwork does just that and therefore becomes a part of the space in which it exists and the lives of those who live there.

photo courtesy of Steve Powers

The difference between these two projects I feel exemplifies why advertisement, no matter how interesting, beautiful, or artistic, falls short of using our public space in a meaningful way which ultimately adds to the city fabric. Public space can be used or spent in the typical sense, or it can be altered in ways which increase its value for everyone that interacts with it.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fathers Day Finds

I was wandering around Bedford Avenue with my dad after having brunch yesterday when I came across these two advertising takeovers. The first is an NPA City Outdoor location at north 6th which Maya Hayuk worked on for the NYSAT project. As many readers know, all NPA City Outdoor sites are illegal and should be painted over with impunity.

The second takeover is on a more permanent Colossal Media painted advertisement for Virgin Atlantic. The "Flydealists Unite" campaign, still visible in the upper left and bottom right hand corners, was properly critiqued by Steve Lambert of the Anti Advertising Agency, and properly taken care of by street artists.

I'm assuming RAB is responsible for both of these pieces given the signature and style of both takeovers. If anyones knows him or her, please have them get in touch. I would love to ask them a few questions.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Collosal Media Isn't the Worst Outdoor Advertising Company in the World

I gave Colossal Media a lot of crap for being the company that painted the Banksy Murals in downtown New York back in 2008. I was upset with the fluid relationship they established with the artist. This relationship worried me and my general concerns for how individuals bring their personal messages to the cities walls. If artists would need to pay to use their city walls, many would be left stunned by their inability to purchase their own public space.

That said, I would like to at least commend Colossal's use of several spaces around the city which have been adorned with murals similar to the one shown above. The murals are often humorous street scenarios that relate to the neighborhood they are in and often provide some critical message. This mural at North 5th and Bedford, critiques the gentrification of Williamsburg with the words "Welcome to Luxury" looming over the rest of the scene. I wonder what the old timers think of it. I wonder what the ATM's think of it.

note: "ATM" is a name I heard used for the rich kids that have come to dominate the Bushwick area. I think it's pretty hilarious. (until I get mugged)

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: , , , ,

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Banksy - Colossal Media Hit

My last post on the Banksy/Colossal Media hit drew some interesting responses and I feel I need to clarify a few things.

For one, I am in no way supportive of a Street Art in which artists pay for their work to be put up by someone else. This takes the entire artistic act and renders it politically impotent. By breaking the law and taking your vision of the public environment into your own hands you are directly challenging the way our public space is used. Every Graffiti Artist and Street Artist understands this as a part of their process and one of the materials they use to create their work. Often the removal of the artwork, like the putting up of the artwork, is the most interesting part of its life. It is at these points that the piece exerts its message the loudest, demanding the recognition of a system which supports a singular commercial vision of the city over a publicly negotiated environment.

Photo not taken by Jake Dobkin

If then the Banksy mural is not true Street Art, but some botched attempt by a once street artist, is there a way to create artwork out of this failed attempt? The answer is yes.

By failing to properly permit the sign, the landlord and Colossal Media unknowingly committed the same crime Street Artists and Graffiti artists commit at will. This failure to obtain a permit requires that this mural be taken down just like every piece of Street Art is removed. The mural may not have had the potency Street Art has when it went up, but I would argue it can have that same potency when it comes down.

This work, unlike other Street Art or Graffiti pieces has been publicly acknowledged and supported up to this point. Sadly, this puts it into a more interesting place politically than most other Street Art because people all know about it and like it. If the removal of this mural was to happen before the illegal billboards in the surrounding area and it was made public, an important public space issue would become crystal clear. Obviously the city cares more about the advertising companies than the wishes of the public and thus the city itself.

Good Street Art brings public space issues to the forefront of people minds. Maybe the mural will be a true piece of Street Art when we as a public take the creation of the artwork into our own hands and use the materials Banksy has given us to make art, whether he intended to do so or not.

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

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: , , , , , ,


    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