If you thought, “Hmm, Vandalog doesn’t seem to be updating as much” throughout 2017… Here’s why: We were focused on Art in Ad Places, a 52-week campaign of ad takeovers across New York City! We worked with Faust, Shepard Fairey, Molly Crabapple, Jess X Snow, and dozens more artists to install their work in NYC payphones.
Now that the campaign has been going for a year, we’re ready to celebrate!
On January 26th, find us at LUCAS LUCAS in Williamsburg for an Art in Ad Places exhibition, and the launch of a book celebrating all of our ad takeovers to date. We’ll have photos from Luna Park, books, a special installation with the help of fellow ad takeover activist Jordan Seiler, and drinks from Ilegal Mezcal. We open at 7pm.
And if you can’t make it to the opening, the show will be open through February 3rd.
Led by Jordan Seiler and Thomas Dekeyser, the workshop will cover the history and philosophy of ad takeovers (the topic of Dekeyser’s PhD research), as well as the tools and techniques that Seiler has spent the last 15 years perfecting and sharing.
I’ve attended one of Jordan’s workshops before, and I cannot recommend them highly enough. It will be fun, and you’ll see just how easy ad takeovers can be. The more people who know how easy it is to open up ad kiosks, and have access to the tools to do it, the better.
Jordan Seiler was the first artist in recent memory to bring ad takeovers to Philadelphia, back in 2010. And until last summer, that’s about all there was, until Seiler made the Philadelphia infinitely easier to open up by producing a “key” that matched their custom security screws. Vandalog contributor Caroline Caldwell was probably the first to test out a Philadelphia key. Since then, the tools have reached a handful of artists in the city.
Unfortunately, it looks like this new-found street art surface may be short lived in Philadelphia. Hundreds of the city’s bus shelters are being replaced with an upgraded model featuring electronic billboards. With that in mind, for those with keys, here’s to making good use of them while you still have a chance.
Wow. That headline is full of some jargon and gibberish… Sorry. Let me explain…
Today marks the launch of the latest exhibition in NO AD, a new evolution for the smartphone app that simulates a world in which New York City’s subway station advertisements are replaced with public art. NO AD, which I’ve written about before, uses augmented reality to digitally replace the ads on your phone’s screen. Here’s how it works.
NO AD has become a really interesting exhibition space, somewhere between a digital exhibition and a guerrilla street art exhibition. The very platform is an artwork, so NO AD’s art exhibitions exist within another work of art, and the platform gets you thinking as much as the art it displays.
In the past, the vast majority of content in NO AD has been static images, but Bob-omb takes full advantage of the platform by focusing exclusively on animated pieces, transforming static advertisements into dynamic artworks.
Bob-omb is an effort to weaponize GIF art as a tool for reimaging public space while simultaneously highlighting the variety and depth possible with the medium. The artists range from filmmakers to illustrators to journalists, and their work varies from hyper-short documentary videos to abstract digital illustration.
To view Bob-omb, simply download NO AD for your iPhone or Android device (or update it if you’ve already got the app on your phone), find a New York City subway station, open the app, and start pointing your phone at the ads. Or download/update the app and try the test image below.
I want to give a big thank you to all of the artists in Bob-omb and the team behind NO AD for this opportunity.
Ever wanted to place your own messages into bus shelter advertising kiosks? Well, now it’s easier than ever with PublicAccess from PublicAdCampaign, a new service that will provide you with just the proper art object for opening up ad kiosks in your city.
Since November 2013, Jordan Seiler and a handful of other artists and street art photographers have been using the somewhat curious hashtag #yeahwegotkeysforthat on Instagram. While it was never quite a secret what was going on, perhaps PublicAdCampaign’s most ambitious project to date remained in semi-stealth mode until today. The results of the project were never secret, but it was never fully explained either.
If you were paying close attention, you would discover that Seiler was manufacturing and distributing sculptures to artists around the world. These sculptures double as “keys,” to bus shelter advertising kiosks around the world. Slowly, Seiler has been buliding up an inventory of various key designs (the locks are standarized across a given public transit system, but can vary from city to city) and mapping out where each design works. New York? Yeah, he’s got keys for that. London? Yeah, he’s got keys for that. San Fransisco? Yeah, he’s got keys for that. Hence the hashtag.
Until today, Seiler was just distributing the keys to friends and word of mouth connections, but now he’s opening up the project to the general public. At PublicAccess, you’ll find a map telling you which keys work in which cities, as well as links to download each design for free as a 3D printable file or buy a premade key for $35. Now, everyone’s got keys for that.
The open source project is still in the process of expanding, with keys for more cities coming soon. In the mean time, even with just a few key designs, PublicAccess has greatly expanded the general public’s access to bus shelter advertisements.
Of course, the site carries the disclaimer, “THE TOOLS OFFERED THRU THIS SITE ARE HANDMADE ART OBJECTS AND NOT INTENDED FOR USE…” so keep that in mind while you’re using your key.
Sorry if some of these links are a bit dated, but hopefully they’re still interesting:
Don Leicht, the original Space Invader, has a exhibition of his work on now at Mary Colby Studio & Gallery on City Island in the Bronx. Leicht has been making space invader characters for the street and for galleries since 1982, often in collaboration with John Fekner. Both Leicht and Fekner have never really embraced the spotlight in the way that others from their generation have (particularly in recent years), and so Leicht’s place in early New York street art often goes unacknowledged. Whereas Space Invader’s characters are generally lighthearted and fun and more about interesting placement than interesting content, Leicht’s content is political. His invaders, painted in camo, serve as a reminder/warning that war is real and of the relationship between videos games and the military.
And over on Hyperallergic, Julia Friedman addresses the major discrepancy in how New York City enforces laws relating to public advertising. Essentially, the current enforcement strategy seems to punish artists and activists while leaving corporate interests to do whatever they please.
Speaking of water companies, street art and hashtags… The folks being the for-profit bottled water company WAT-AAH (aka Let Water be Water LLC, or as I like to call them “Evian for Kids”) sent The L.I.S.A. Project NYC a cease and desist letter for using a hashtag that they claimed to own the trademark for (they don’t). Animal has more on that ridiculous story.
Conor Harrington had a great show in NYC, at a pop up space with Lazarides Gallery from the UK. I went up for the opening, and despite the space being lit like a haunted house and seemingly pumped full of mist from a fog machine, the work looked even better than I had anticipated. Plenty of artists can paint traditionally beautiful paintings, and plenty of artists can use drips and tags and half finished elements and things like that to make their paintings look “street” or to make it look like they are saying “screw you traditional notions of beauty and fine art painting!” Few artists can do what Conor does, which is to utilize all of those styles and techniques, from beautifully staged scenes painted with perfection to all the different ways to make a painting look rough and cool, but utilize those things in the right balance and with respect. To Conor, it looks like a drip is no different than the a detailed brush stroke. The “disruptive” elements look like they belong. He isn’t trying to destroy painting. He’s trying to bring it to new heights, and he’s much better at it than most.
This fall I’ve seen (online) two interesting pieces of endurance art, both of them by female artists in New York City who took to endurance art to address what they see as crises.
gilf and Natalie Renee Fasano walked 15 miles barefoot around the city. 60 million or more people worldwide live every day without shoes. Interestingly, Gilf’s project was not so much an awareness campaign as an opportunity for self-reflection that she documented and publicized. None of her Instagram posts on the performance provide information about what can be done about this problem, and the video documenting the work provides no context except the text “A day in the Shoes of the Shoeless with gilf!” On some level, I find that frustrating. But of course the work wasn’t about raising national awareness for this issue. gilf’s own description of the project makes that clear. It was more a project for herself. And that’s great and useful too, but on some level I can’t get over the missed opportunity here to make the project more than personal suffering/meditation and self-promotion. Why not simply say, “And if this project is bringing the issue of people without shoes to your attention and you want to help, here’s something you can do.”? Yes, it’s a personal project for self-reflection, but it’s also an artwork that was promoted all over the web. So, I’ll close by saying that if you do want to help provide shoes for people in need, Soles4Souls seems to be the place to go (thanks to Animal for that tip).
Emma Sulkowicz has to be one of the bravest, most impressive people I’ve read about in a long time, and I almost hesitate to call what she’s doing an art piece, lest it devalue her actions in an age when so much art is devoid of the kind soul this particular performance/way of living requires. For nearly two months, Sulkowicz has been carrying her dorm room mattress with her to every class, every lunch break, every party, and everywhere else she goes, constantly, and she says she will continue to carry her mattress with her “for as long as I attend the same school as my rapist.” More about this piece, and the reaction she’s received from her fellow students at Columbia University, atHyperallergic.
I should be working on something else right now. I should be doing writing that I really need to finish ASAP, writing that could bring me some considerable upside both in money and reputation. But then Jordan Seiler and the heavy projects (as Re+Public) and Subway Art Blog went and released their awesome and eagerly anticipated new app: NO AD. So I’ve become momentarily distracted, and you should be too. Go download NO AD right now (for Android or iPhone), especially if you live in New York City.
NO AD is an augmented reality application that gives you a glimpse of the New York City subway system without advertisements, a world where billboards are for art instead of ads. NO AD replaces the top 100 ads in the subway system at any given moment with art. How? By using the ads like QR codes. Simply download the app to your phone, open it while you’re on a New York City subway platform, and point your camera at an advertisement. On your phone’s screen, you’ll see the ad almost magically replaced by artwork. Download the app now, and give it a try with this image:
See how amazing that is?
And here’s a short video about the app:
This idea isn’t entirely new. NO AD may remind some readers of Steve Lambert’s Add-Art or Julian Oliver’s The Artvertiser. But Add-Art hasn’t been functional for some time and The Artvertiser never really made it beyond a fun experiment and no longer appears to be in development, so it’s great to see other artists take up the mantle of digitally and legally replacing ads with art.
One question that I’m sure will come up: How does NO AD know what subway ads look like? The app developers essentially have to feed the app information about what ads are up in subway stations at any given time, which means that they have to go out and photograph every different subway ad they can find and rotate ads in and out of the app. As new ads rotate in, so will new artwork.
On some level, NO AD is an ad takeover tool. It takes space that is currently filled with ads and replaces those very specific ads with art. They could have just as easily used other objects around NYC as “triggers” for the art, but they decided to go with ads. Plus, for the initial launch, they’ve partnered with about 50 artists, many of whom have been outspoken critics of public advertising.
Today, NO AD is a kind of “what if,” a thought experiment to get people thinking about what it would be like to replace the ads with art, because of course you still need to take out your phone, open the app, and look at specific ads to see the artwork. So, essentially, it could be said that the app is a gimmick to get people thinking about replacing ads with art, rather than a tool to actually achieve that.
But NO AD may not be just a thought experiment in a few years. Fast forward to when everyone and their mother is wearing some version of Google Glass all day long. There will still be ads on the subway, but with NO AD running in the background on your Google Glass, you won’t see the ads. You’ll just see art exhibitions.
And that’s the other half of NO AD, the part that is more than just a thought experiment or a very long-term thinking anti-advertising strategy: It’s potential as an exhibition space. The first set of artists whose work is being exhibited through NO AD (including Vandalog’s Caroline Caldwell) are a motley crew of experimenters and friends of the organizers, which isn’t such a bad thing since these guys have some very talented friends, but imagine given a single artist a chance to take over all of the ads on the subway, or bringing in a professional curator to use NO AD and the subway system as an exhibition space in a more organized way. NO AD is an exhibition space that exists somewhere between the physical and the digital, always bringing with it an energy of political activism and chance.
NO AD is a glimpse into the future, a new exhibition space, and a platform for activism. I’m excited.
Re+Public, a new app from The Heavy Projects and Jordan Seiler’s PublicAdCampaign, offers a glimpse of a future where the everyday is augmented by digital readouts and signage, and Re+Public makes sure that art has a place in that future. Basically, Re+Public is an app for iPhone and Android platforms that reads certain walls like QR codes, but instead of sending you to a URL, scanning a mural pops an image onto the screen of your phone, overlaid on top of the mural. We teased this technology back in January when it was in beta, but here’s a reminder of what it looks like when the app is doing its thing:
And now Re+Public is available for free public download on Google Play or in The App Store. There are new walls that activate it too. The mural by MOMO at the top of this post is one, and if you download the app, you can test it out on that image.
This is some pretty amazing stuff. I’ve been listening to Jordan Seiler talk about the possibilities of Re+Public for a while, and eagerly awaiting its release. Yes, Re+Public 1.0 is definitely an early version of the software since you have to tell it to look for a specific mural before you hold it up to a wall and there are only a handful of sites that will activate any augmented reality content, but Re+Public is a fantastic proof of concept. Some day augmented reality will be the norm. Like in sci-fi movies, we’ll walk around with little implants in our eyes that will act as heads-up displays for everything around us. Do we want those displays to be showing us ads with deals for nearby restaurant deals, or art (or maybe both)? I vote for art.
If you’re in Miami next week, a lot of the murals that activate Re+Public are in Wynwood Walls (unless all that is getting painted over), so try it out. You can see all the locations where Re+Public works and test it out for yourself over on Re+Public’s website.
Note from RJ: It’s been a little while since we posted any of Tim Hans‘ photos, but his series of artist portraits is still ongoing. Today we have our latest photo from Tim, one he took of Jordan Seiler at the site of one of Jordan’s ad takeovers. Rhiannon Platt asked Jordan a few questions. – RJ
Under the moniker of PublicAdCampaign, artist and activist Jordan Seiler aims to help the public regain control of their visual atmosphere. His latest project, Public Access, aims to give artists the power to change their visual landscape. The artist has reproduced keys for bus shelters and phone booths for several countries, beginning first in New York and recently expanding to Brussels for an exhibition with Harlan B. Levy Projects. Today is also the launch of the app Re+Public, an augmented reality app for iPhone and Android created by Jordan and The Heavy Projects.
Rhiannon Platt: When did you first start combating commercialism with takeovers?
Jordan Seiler: I began ad takeovers in December of 2000 with an entire station takeover at the 18th street 1/9 stop. It took about 32 posters to cover both platforms. At that point, and somewhat still to this day, it isn’t about combating commercialism but rather deciding for ourselves what our collective visual landscape looks like.
Rhiannon: What made you want to start Public Ad Campaign? Was there a specific instance that you can point to?
Jordan: My first takeover was motivated purely by aesthetics. I thought the station would feel quite different with a new set of images. It was only once that feeling manifested, and I began to worry about being caught by the cops, that I began to see the differences between commercial and public media production.
Rhiannon:How does your passion for ad-busting manifest itself in your other work?
Jordan: I know this sounds trite but I prefer the word ad-takeover to ad-bust. An ad-bust suggests a play on meaning, a decrypting of the encoded media message to reveal its weaknesses or faults. My feeling is that we are already very good at reading between the lines and seeing most commercial messages for what they are. Despite this critical insight we sill cannot seem to resist their allure. Ad-takeovers on the other hand obliterate the initial media message and in doing so demand the space be used for other conversations. I think this is a very important distinction because if we are going to wrestle with the impact of media messages on our society, we need a critical distance from which to start. Ad takeovers demand an ad free public space and by extension ask the question of what we might fill that space with. I think with most of my other projects that aren’t directly ad-takeovers, I try to ask the question of how we might collectively take up the responsibility of public media production by encouraging other people’s participation, and exploring new tools for public media production.
Rhiannon: Are you currently working on any projects?
Jordan: I am currently working on a project called Public Access where I make tools that can be used to open advertising locations around the world so that people can engage their public media space directly. This is an ongoing project and I hope to continue to add more tools and more accessible cities in the coming years. I am also about to launch the Re+Public AR mobile app with my partner from The Heavy Projects. Our newest collaboration with MOMO was a wonderful experience and we are excited to finally make the app widely available through iOS and Android platforms.
From the great minds of The Heavy Projects and Public Ad Campaign, Re+Public has emerged as the collaborative effort to revision and “democratize” public space through the use of their Augmented Reality app. Two new videos have recently been released which show this technology in full effect: (above) the app reacts to preexisting murals by How & Nosm, Aiko, Retna, and Ryan McGinness at Miami’s Wynwood Walls by turning the murals into giant 3D animations, and (below) the app unveils the timeline of New York City’s Bowery and Houston wall, including the work of Keith Haring, Faile, Barry McGee, Aiko and others who have historically left their mark on the wall.