Adbusters

CTRL + ALT + DELETE

NYC artists combat illegal street advertising.

Last month, dozens of New York artists and activists battled the clutter of consumerism in a guerrilla-style billboard takeover. Mobilized by Jordan Seiler and the Public Ad Campaign, the 24-hour direct action replaced nearly 19,000 square feet of illegal advertising with original, anti-corporate street art.

Blueprints for the ambitious aesthetic revolution took shape years ago, when Seiler found that thousands of New York’s posters and billboards were not properly licensed. Some ads, he discovered, violated bylaws that have been on city books since the 1940s.

“Outdoor advertising is the primary obstacle to open public communications,” Seiler explains on his website, publicadcampaign.com. “Through bold acts of civil disobedience we hope to air our grievances in the court of public opinion and witness our communities regain control of the space they occupy.”

Armed with paint rollers, spray cans and video equipment, activists took to the streets on April 25th wearing florescent orange construction vests. (Covertness, it seemed, was not a top priority). The mixed brigade of culture jammers — ranging from artists and architects to software developers and bio-physicists — swiftly whitewashed 126 of the offending advertisements.

Calling themselves the Municipal Landscape Control Committee, the team turned the newly-buffed billboards into multimedia art. Across Manhattan, walls that formerly peddled electronics, designer clothes and alcohol were reclaimed in the name of peace, laughter and high-fives.

For a fleeting moment, it seemed democracy itself had burst through New York’s thick clouds of visual pollution. Instead of noisy and intrusive ads, passersby freely engaged with refreshing open-source canvasses. It was an artful and symbolic warning aimed at billboard companies that unlawfully reap profits from citizen-owned spaces.

Unsurprisingly, the artistic uprising was not without casualties. One artist, two whitewashers and a videographer were arrested by New York police — one of whom is still fighting criminal charges. And, because of the city’s utter lack of enforcement, many of the same illegal ads were replaced the very next day.

Such flagrant disregard for the quality and character of public space has been met with passionate outrage across the globe. In places like Los Angeles, Toronto and Paris, creative communities are developing new ways to investigate billboards and combat illegal advertisements.

The omnipresence of insipid "buy me" schlock isn't exclusive to the world's metropolises. Indeed, the battle for a clear and democratic mindscape can be fought and won at all fronts. Visit illegalsigns.ca or illegalbillboards.org and learn how you can take back the streets in your hometown.

Adbusters 111 Cover

On Newsstands December 3

At last we’re in Winter. It’s the year 2047. A worn scrapbook from the future arrives in your lap. It offers a stunning global vision, a warning to the next generations, a repository of practical wisdom, and an invaluable roadmap which you need to navigate the dark times, and the opportunities, which lie ahead.

Subscribe to Adbusters Magazine

32 comments on the article “CTRL + ALT + DELETE”

Displaying 21 - 30 of 32

Page 3 of 4

Deof Movestofca

"One artist, two whitewashers and a videographer were arrested by New York police — one of whom is still fighting criminal charges." Makes one wonder who's pressing charges, since whoever it was/is evidently is the same person who was illegally posting the ads. "And, because of the city’s utter lack of enforcement, many of the same illegal ads were replaced the very next day." So the police were around to catch people covering up the ads, but not around to catch the people who were putting up the ads illegally? Can you say "selective enforcement"? I thought you could!

Deof Movestofca

"One artist, two whitewashers and a videographer were arrested by New York police — one of whom is still fighting criminal charges." Makes one wonder who's pressing charges, since whoever it was/is evidently is the same person who was illegally posting the ads. "And, because of the city’s utter lack of enforcement, many of the same illegal ads were replaced the very next day." So the police were around to catch people covering up the ads, but not around to catch the people who were putting up the ads illegally? Can you say "selective enforcement"? I thought you could!

Irlanda

I agree with some of these comments. What's the difference, or in this case, the so-called "justice"? I mean, street work from a real independent artist is obviously much more valuable to the human soul than a produced advertisement by some corporation that only plans to send destructive messages to the public. Wich leads to the core of the issue, corruption. we, the others, see all this very clear, but, there's a whole army of evil minds against a few. The real battle is in ourselves, spreading the thoughts slowly, but efficently, i think it's the only way.

Irlanda

I agree with some of these comments. What's the difference, or in this case, the so-called "justice"? I mean, street work from a real independent artist is obviously much more valuable to the human soul than a produced advertisement by some corporation that only plans to send destructive messages to the public. Wich leads to the core of the issue, corruption. we, the others, see all this very clear, but, there's a whole army of evil minds against a few. The real battle is in ourselves, spreading the thoughts slowly, but efficently, i think it's the only way.

Fungible

How is what these people are doing any different than the guy ripping down band posters or the grandmother getting upset about graffiti? You can't have it both ways -- either public and private spaces are heavily regulated according to the mores of a bunch of faceless bureaucrats who would rather die than see their city awash in progressive street art, or artists will have to compete with corporations for access to eyeballs. And yeah, the corporations are probably going to win that one because they're a lot better at monetizing their investments, they're more organized, blah blah blah. Props to the group doing the civil disobedience in response to the corporations' illegal acts, but lets see how long it takes for the resistence to fizzle out.

Fungible

How is what these people are doing any different than the guy ripping down band posters or the grandmother getting upset about graffiti? You can't have it both ways -- either public and private spaces are heavily regulated according to the mores of a bunch of faceless bureaucrats who would rather die than see their city awash in progressive street art, or artists will have to compete with corporations for access to eyeballs. And yeah, the corporations are probably going to win that one because they're a lot better at monetizing their investments, they're more organized, blah blah blah. Props to the group doing the civil disobedience in response to the corporations' illegal acts, but lets see how long it takes for the resistence to fizzle out.

Anonymous

I implore you to recognize that at the core of our money based system there is corruption, in fact the system breeds it. The world currently has the technology to have a resource based economy and feed and educate all the worlds people, eliminate debt and drudgery, and set up a social system in which technological and cultural progress can accelerated to levels never before imagined. Please take the time to go through this information and then show it to everyone you know. http://www.thevenusproject.com/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnK5mBCFTMg&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NT-2fenmLnc&feature=related The quality of life can be made souring for all peoples if we recognize our responsibility to inform others and to embrace change.

Anonymous

I implore you to recognize that at the core of our money based system there is corruption, in fact the system breeds it. The world currently has the technology to have a resource based economy and feed and educate all the worlds people, eliminate debt and drudgery, and set up a social system in which technological and cultural progress can accelerated to levels never before imagined. Please take the time to go through this information and then show it to everyone you know. http://www.thevenusproject.com/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnK5mBCFTMg&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NT-2fenmLnc&feature=related The quality of life can be made souring for all peoples if we recognize our responsibility to inform others and to embrace change.

Pages

Add a new comment

Comments are closed.