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."