An Opportunity to Engage

Artwork by Mel Kadel. Photo by Luna Park.

Artwork by Mel Kadel. Photo by Luna Park.

This week we have a poster from Mel Kadel. Here are her thoughts on Art in Ad Places and her poster:

 

What a great opportunity this is, to place a piece of art in a spot that is strictly reserved for advertising.

The original image would normally have been hung in a gallery, with a very limited audience who seek out art exhibitions.

For that audience I am thankful, but this project breaks that wall down and brings art to our streets which are oversaturated with ads.  

My thoughts behind this image have to do with our strides to unify and keep a hopeful vision during a really dark and complex time.

That feeling of unity might have been on my mind when making it, but like anything visual, everyone sees things differently.

So whether it raises curiosity, makes someone smile, inspires contemplation, or is just noticed for a moment, I hope it draws people in for a change of scenery.

- Mel Kadel

Mel's point about opportunity is a particularly interesting one. Why are we not given these opportunities to take some ownership over public spaces? Why are certain public spaces "strictly reserved" for something other than public use? And what would it mean to change that? Artist/activist Jordan Seiler and actors Cody Lindquist and Charlie Todd touch on that point in a recent episode of Lindquist and Todd's podcast Two Beers In, as they reflect on a project by Sophie Calle and Paul Auster.

Here's an experiment, not unlike Auster's challenge to Calle (but which we are stealing from Evan Roth, who used to assign his students to do this): Carry a permanent marker in your pocket for a week. Something strong from the graffiti tools section of your local art supply store. You don't even have to use the marker, but just know that you could use it. See how it makes you feel about the spaces you walk through, feel the newfound power, and consider whether or not to use it. With that marker, spaces that may feel strictly reserved for others may suddenly feel open to you. And now imagine that everyone carried a marker, ready to engage with public space, and what a wonderful world that would be.

Artwork by Mel Kadel. Photo by Luna Park.

Artwork by Mel Kadel. Photo by Luna Park.

Art Is A Gift, Not An Ask.

Artwork by Tod Seelie. Photo by Luna Park.

Artwork by Tod Seelie. Photo by Luna Park.

In the past, RJ has said that Tod Seelie is "Jack Kerouac with a camera." He has a way of putting himself in the most amazing situations, whether that's embedding himself with a crew of artists-turned-shipbuilders, heading to Cuba to meet the man building the world's tallest bike, or finding scenes of industrial decay in the California desert. Tod lived in NYC from the 1990's until 2016, and is such an underground icon that Gothamist ran a piece about his move to LA. With Tod back in NYC for a minute, we figured it was time to celebrate by putting up his work.

Here's what Tod had to say about why he signed on to Art in Ad Places:

I love seeing art in ad places. It catches your eye much more than standard advertising because it is not more of the same familiar bombardment that especially city-dwellers are so inundated with. It doesn't have an ulterior motive, it just exists to be appreciated and perhaps inspire thought. It is often more mysterious, interesting and engaging. It is a gift to the public, rather than an ask (for your attention and money).

Artwork by Tod Seelie. Photo by Luna Park.

Artwork by Tod Seelie. Photo by Luna Park.

Also, we got some exciting press this week in Gothamist. You can read that article here. In it, we talk about the feminist inspirations behind Art in Ad Places, and the bad deal that the public has struck with the companies who sell ad space on pay phones.

Which Do You Prefer: Dogs, or Ads?

Bones Not Bombs by Pat Perry. Photo by Luna Park.

Bones Not Bombs by Pat Perry. Photo by Luna Park.

We prefer dogs. And what's better than a regular dog? A punk dog in an ad takeover! Actually, real regular dogs are still pretty awesome. But a drawing of a dog is definitely better than an advertisement. The point being... Pat Perry really made us smile this week with Bones Not Bombs.

"Per my participation in the project; there's a couple simple things going on here. The first is that I'm enthusiastically committed to see the slow dismantlement of public advertising. Public ads interrupt our aspirations of what we could be, and should be reaching towards, collectively. If that sounds melodramatic, I'd argue that's only because advertising is so ubiquitous on our roads, sidewalks, buildings, and infrastructure that we all-too-easily forget how it hoses us down constantly. And like lead on our walls and in our water, we could eradicate its existence if there was a true feeling throughout our culture that the eradication of public ads was not only desirable, but pivotal. I truly believe it is." - Pat Perry

We often get asked why we bother putting up these posters every week, when we know they'll quickly be removed and replaced with new ads. In thinking about his installation, Pat answered that critique really well:

"Small, grassroots pushes and nonviolent, acts of disobedience are the matchbooks of societal change. They have been for centuries, and they shake power structures to the bones with anxiety. My grandma always said to never underestimate the impact you have in your own little corner of the world. In some little corner of New York, an ad was taken down and now there's a drawing in its place. Look at Buenos Aires' recently enacted policies on visual pollution. It's happening slowly, but we are clawing towards the light." - Pat Perry

We may only install one poster each week, but we do something to improve that little corner for a few days, and we also document it and share that image of another reality that we believe is both possible and necessary. A few ad takeovers alone won't dismantle the out-of-home advertising industry, but it can help us move towards the light.

Bones Not Bombs by Pat Perry. Photo by Luna Park.

Bones Not Bombs by Pat Perry. Photo by Luna Park.

PS, if you find this poster out in the wild, A. Try to Get a dog in your photo, and B. If you see it at night, it's backlit, which also makes for great photos.

PPS, if you want to do more to move towards a bright future, or maybe you just want to resist Trump, check out the Center For Artistic Activism's recent webinar series on "How To Win." It's an inspiring series of videos on creative activism, and we promise you'll learn something (probably a lot of things) in every webinar.

Live. Love. Resist.

Poster by Jetsonorama. Photo by Luna Park.

Poster by Jetsonorama. Photo by Luna Park.

While Jetsonorama spent the day in DC at the People's Climate March, we thought we would share some of his artwork in Brooklyn. Jetsonorama runs the Painted Desert Project, bringing street artists to install murals in the Navajo Nation, and he also puts up his own wheatpastes there. He's one of the world's most notable rural street artists.

It it no accident that we installed this piece on the day of the People's Climate March. Jetsonorama explains, "This piece speaks to the role of indigenous communities working on the front lines in the global struggle to protect the earth while acknowledging the need to take care of oneself. More specifically, in the current context of our political environment the piece encourages us to not normalize hatred, bigotry, sexism, racism, homophobia, patriarchy, the unsustainable practice of exploiting carbon based resources and to nurture ourselves as we support our brothers + sisters in the struggle. In short, resist the bullshit."

Jetsonorama also pointed us to a must-read essay about the dangers of advertising (including the ecological dangers) by Sut Jahally, particularly this quote:

20th century advertising is the most powerful and sustained system of propaganda in human history and its cumulative cultural effects, unless quickly checked, will be responsible for destroying the world as we know it. As it achieves this it will be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of non-western peoples and will prevent the peoples of the world from achieving true happiness. Simply stated, our survival as a species is dependent upon minimizing the threat from advertising and the commercial culture that has spawned it.

We couldn't agree more. Advertising promotes levels of consumption and attitudes about people and things that are unhealthy not just on an individual level, but on a global/species-wide scale. We need to explore and promote alternatives.

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.