In this video with Rick Lowe and Nato Thompson, they try to tease out a real gem of a problem facing social practice art: Nato, quoting Tania Bruguera, says, "I want it to be the thing, not point at the thing. I want an artwork that is the thing, doesn't point at the thing." That idea, and Lowe's explanation of how it applies to his Project Row Houses, sum up a critical concern for all of us involved in Art in Ad Places: How do we take AiAP (or anti-advertising resistance in general) from a gesture to a sustainable solution to the out-of-home advertising industry, or to what extent is it useful for our work to remain a poetic gesture?
One possible answer is in the artists that we work with, and the structure that we provide for them. This week, we have a poster from Mab Graves. She told us, "I decided to participate in Art in Ad Places and contribute this piece because we are constantly being bombarded and saturated in images designed to manipulate for one thing or another. I loved Art in Ad Places' concept of just bringing a brief blink of beauty - purely for the sake of beauty and strangeness - into the grey streets cluttered pictorial noise."
A number of the artists we've worked with have made a similar point about the beauty in the gesture of installing one poster. And without that gesture, where would we be? The gestures are the essential element, the interruptions in our regularly scheduled programming, and Art in Ad Places is a structure to provide them. It is, also, hopefully a step towards a structure that replaces the regularly scheduled programming.
The thing to do seem to be to keep up these gestures, be mindful to simultaneously build a structure, and push towards a structure that is made up of gestures, but also replaces the existing paradigm. Because, as Lowe points out, art projects need to retain that poetic gesture, lest they get sucked into the social practice equivalent of selling out (e.i. move into the realm of creative placemaking). Maybe Art in Ad Places can be the thing that invites things in to point to the thing. If that makes any sense...
For now, this week's beautiful gesture: