Over this past weekend Jordan Seiler, who runs the Public Ad Campaign, organized a billboard takeover in New York. Artists and those who just wanted to help came together, many of them as strangers, to create something new where there were once illegal advertisements. Though many of those spots were reclaimed by ads the next day, the project was still successful on some scale. This week he told us about that day, and the overall goal for projects like these.
What is your goal with the Public Ad Campaign? To help create and environment where citizens of New York City feel empowered to interact with their shared public spaces, both physically and mentally. In doing so I hope PublicAdCampaign can help people to develop strong physical ties with their environment and to develop a sense of responsibility for the space in which they live.
How did this past Saturday go? Incredibly. It was the largest anti public advertising street happening I have ever been a part of.
Was it disappointing, or expected, to see the public canvases go back to advertisements within a day? Very Expected. Often work over public advertising lasts anywhere from 3hrs to a week depending on what kind of advertising venue you are working with, and where in the city that ad is located. Outdoor advertising companies have a vested interest in keeping their spaces clean and free of other content.
Do you have another large scale project coming up? Many participants expressed an interest in doing something like this again and I share those sentiments.
If you could pull off any project in NYC what would it be? I’d uproot Manhattan from its bedrock and sail it on the seven seas. I don’t know. Everything I think of is topped by a grander and more elegant scheme. That question is unending.
Who are you favorite artists right now? I just collaborated with a large number of artists on this project and there is no reason to play favorites. My aesthetic choices are unimportant in light of what everyone did for the NYSAT project. The best art is about making the world move and every last participant in this project was pushing.
What is the best way to oppose visual pollution? Cover it with something better.
In your opinion does graffiti = advertising? No. Graffiti is done by an individual as a way of interacting with, and creating a concrete relationship between the practitioner and his or her environment. It is about discovery, defining ones self amongst the masses, and creating identity. No matter how poorly you think graffiti achieves this, it is ultimately about one person trying to communicate to the public. Advertising is a force, often with no relationship to the public it abuses other than its own commercial interests in them as consumers. Advertising is reductive, taking advantage and silencing public communication, replacing it with one-way messages intended to produce one response, and one response only. Though their methods may be similar, their goals are different. If we want to get rid of graffiti, we must address the social reasons that people write on walls. If we want to get rid of outdoor advertising we just make, and then enforce a law. One is born of desire and the other is born of greed.
Please share your strangest "only in New York" story. Complete strangers take you into underground abandoned train stations, you sit with a homeless artist in the subway talking about his outsider art, you belt out a song with a street musician cause you like what he's singing, you commute to work without knowing your favorite artist often sits next to you on the train, New York is full of crazy surprises. If it's stories you want I suggest you hit the streets, cause that's where the action is.
Which New Yorker do you most admire? At the moment anyone at the department of buildings sign enforcement unit.
Given the opportunity, how would you change New York? I would decriminalize marking your environment.
Under what circumstance have you thought about leaving New York? Under the circumstance that I’m going on vacation. This is my home.
Best cheap eat in the city. I gotta say I like the cheap Takoyaki place on 9th street, but it’s not good.
Best venue to hear music. Anywhere in the city it’s happening unexpectedly.