A Little Bit of Strange Peacefulness in Bloom

The Ecstasy of St Katsuhiro Otomo by Nomi Chi. Photo by Luna Park.

The Ecstasy of St Katsuhiro Otomo by Nomi Chi. Photo by Luna Park.

As we reach our 16th Art in Ad Places installation, things are starting to get a bit easier. We have a good rhythm down during installations, and the weather has become our friend. No more brutally cold installations for a while (hopefully), and it doesn't feel like quite such a crazy idea to make trips out to the far corners of NYC (Art in Ad Places posters have already appeared in the furthest north and furthest west pay phones in the city).

This week we have Nomi Chi's The Ecstasy of St Katsuhiro Otomo for you. Here are her thoughts on the installation:

"This piece marks an important pivotal moment in my work, a time when I was contemplating ontological boundaries - cultural and physical - between the self and the outside environment. How arbitrary these elements can be, depending on how you observe them, are thoughts I have applied in much of my current work. I was thinking about this, too, when I decided to participate in the Art in Ad Places project. The hive that is a city can be a wonderful and frustrating deluge of stimulus, and advertisements are such a ubiquitous part of the urban experience: I often wonder how much of my identity is of composed of their messages, and who I would be if they were absent, or replaced by a different kind of experience. Regardless, I hope my piece offers a place to rest the eyes, a little bit of strange peacefulness in the fray."

The Ecstasy of St Katsuhiro Otomo by Nomi Chi. Photo by Luna Park.

The Ecstasy of St Katsuhiro Otomo by Nomi Chi. Photo by Luna Park.

Nomi touches on an important question that all of us, as people exposed to advertisements every day, need to ask ourselves: How do these images, consciously and unconsciously, influence our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors? It's the question at the heart of the classic horror movie They Live, when the main character can suddenly see the true messages that advertisements are sending (OBEY, CONFORM, CONSUME...). We need to actively engage with that question, because it's one that, as consumers, we're practically trained to automatically dismiss. That's why we try to create glimpses of a radically different public space, even on a small scale, with Art in Ad Places.

We are lucky that we were able to pair Nomi's poster with some fresh cherry blossoms. A total coincidence, but we think the art and the tree work well together. They have a kind of synergy. To Nomi's point, the tree and the poster create a little space of quiet beauty in the midst of a busy street. You're not being sold anything or told to be a certain way. It's just a space to enjoy. So, enjoy.

The Ecstasy of St Katsuhiro Otomo by Nomi Chi. Photo by Luna Park.

The Ecstasy of St Katsuhiro Otomo by Nomi Chi. Photo by Luna Park.

Life Beneath Daily Bombardment

Artwork by Molly Crabapple in collaboration with Marwan Hisham. Photo by Luna Park.

Artwork by Molly Crabapple in collaboration with Marwan Hisham. Photo by Luna Park.

We were going to install something else this week. Between Assad's chemical weapons attack and President Trump's response, it just seemed appropriate to install Molly Crabapple's poster instead. There's much to add beyond Molly's statement:

In 2015, my friend and fellow journalist Marwan Hisham visited East Aleppo, which was held by rebels at the time. Over a series of weeks, he sent me pictures of life beneath the Assad regime's daily bombardment, which I then drew from. This drawing shows the frontline neighborhood of Bustan Qusr, where residents had turned a bus into a makeshift shelter from snipers. As Syria makes its annual appearance in American headlines, this is a tribute to people who endured six years of war.

Well, just one small thing to add (and we're breaking one of our usual rules here)... This poster was installed in the closest pay phone to the offices of Syria's ambassador to the United Nations.

Artwork by Molly Crabapple in collaboration with Marwan Hisham. Photo by Luna Park.

Artwork by Molly Crabapple in collaboration with Marwan Hisham. Photo by Luna Park.

Navigating (and Improving) Public Space

Stop Telling Women to Smile by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. Photo by Luna Park.

Stop Telling Women to Smile by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. Photo by Luna Park.

This week is International Anti-Street Harassment Week, so we thought we would do our part by installing a poster from Tatyana Fazlalizadeh's Stop Telling Women To Smile campaign. The campaign has been an inspiration to the Art in Ad Places team for years, and really gets at the heart of what AiAP is about. Here's a bit about the campaign, and this particular poster, from Fazlalizadeh:

Stop Telling Women to Smile is one piece in a series of work about gender based street harassment. This work is challenging sexism in public spaces by taking the faces and voices of women and placing them in the environment that so often is hostile and dangerous for us: the street.

Much like Stop Telling Women to Smile, AiAP is about making environments where public space can be enjoyed, rather than endured. No person should have to face cat-calling and other street harassment, or be subjected to advertisements that create and exploit low self esteem. Fazlalizadeh hits the nail on the head, saying "Art in Ad Places is important for work like this because it replaces the sometimes damaging images from advertisers with artwork by artists and activists that can provide beauty and solace for passersby."

If you want to get involved in the Stop Telling Women to Smile campaign yourself, you can: Friday night is Stop Telling Women to Smile's 4th annual International Wheatpasting Night. Have fun and stay safe!

And, as always, if you want to get involved in ad takeovers, you can visit our recently-updated Take Action page for info on how to get started.

We All See, Because It's Obvious, That Pay Phone Ads Make No Sense

I will never sin again by Tina Lugo. Photo by Luna Park.

I will never sin again by Tina Lugo. Photo by Luna Park.

Funny story about this week's installation of Tina Lugo's I will never sin again. During the installation, a passerby approached and laughed that the pay phones ads were still being changed, and that there are even still pay phones in New York City. In the middle of an installation wasn't really the time to get into this discussion, but those two things are connected in a way that makes only a twisted kind of sense.

Once upon on a time, pay phones served an important public function, and perhaps it made sense to subsidize their installation and maintenance with advertising (although we would debate even that point). Right or wrong, that's the decision that New York City (and other cities) made. Today though, pay phones do little to serve the public good, except maybe as shelters for lighting cigarettes in the wind or rain. Not quite the same public service that they once provided. But we still let advertisers use them to pollute our streets. The calculus has changed, but the ads live on, providing little to no public benefit. So why the hell do we, as New Yorkers, put up with them?

There's no good answer, which that passerby knew. Even if he might not have ever thought deeply about it, the truth is obvious. And that's part of why we're doing what we're doing with Art in Ad Places.

But we've gotten off track of this particular installation. Tina's work is about the messages we send in public space. Rather than filling our streets with messages selling Hollywood blockbusters and new cars, we could send out a more inspiring message. Here's what Tina had to say about her work:

"I use art as a way to reach people and talk about difficult subjects. Maybe it will elicit a feeling you can’t quite put into words. Maybe it brings up a taboo topic. That's what I want to ignite. I chose something that could be visually striking to look at, but it isn’t until you look past the bright colors that a darker turn of events takes place. I participated in this project because I am a born and raised Bronxite and it meant a lot to me to have that outer borough visibility, and hopefully show the youth in my old stomping grounds that art isn’t a 'dead-end job', and can take you from one stop on the 6 train, all the way around the world."

I will never sin again by Tina Lugo. Photo by Luna Park.

I will never sin again by Tina Lugo. Photo by Luna Park.

#SubvertTheCity with John Fekner

My Ad is No Ad by John Fekner. Photo by Luna Park. Daylight shot.

My Ad is No Ad by John Fekner. Photo by Luna Park. Daylight shot.

Before ad takeovers were a thing, before street art was a thing, before graffiti was a thing... there was simply a man who painted messages in the street: John Fekner. Since 1968, John has been stenciling messages, and painting other things, outdoors. He is a street art pioneer. For Art in Ad Places, we asked John to recreate one of his most iconic works, his MY AD IS NO AD billboard from 1980.

John gave us a photo of the original billboard, making this a somewhat meta installation of a photo of a long-gone ad takeover. And because John's poster is backlit, it changes throughout the day, looking totally different during daylight, at dusk, or after dark.

My Ad is No Ad by John Fekner. Photo by Luna Park. Dusk shot.

My Ad is No Ad by John Fekner. Photo by Luna Park. Dusk shot.

John says, "I decided to contribute to the Art in Ad Places project because there continues to be an incessant plethora of corporate visual glut that prevails wherever there is available and highly visible public space. Every community, both large and small, needs to not see, listen or be persuaded by corporate media's tactical junk-peddler onslaught. Don’t allow your mind to be their gold mine."

That last line of John's is worth noting, because a variation of it appeared somewhere else this week: An ad takeover installed as part of Subvertisers International's #SubvertTheCity campaign, an anti-advertising call to action taking place this week around the world. We at Art in Ad Places are big fans of Subvertisers International, and we timed the installation of John's poster so that it would go up in solidarity with #SubvertTheCity. By connecting an ad takeover from 1980 to Art in Ad Places, and Art in Ad Places to other anti-advertising actions taking places independently in cities internationally, we hope to highlight both the history of this movement and its continued growth today. And remember: you can always join in too.

My Ad is No Ad by John Fekner. Photo by Luna Park. Night shot.

My Ad is No Ad by John Fekner. Photo by Luna Park. Night shot.