Check out what our 9’s are investigating: http://torontoist.com/2012/07/art-activists-take-over-info-pillars/
Want to see their questions? Click here!
Our Art-ivist responds!
WHAT WILL YOU DO IF YOU GET CAUGHT
The project was pulled off by an anonymous collective named cARTography. I submitted my own art pieces to the team but claim no responsibility for the actions they took. Astral Media was upset with cARTography as an entity and wanted the police to get involved but no action was taken. I am proud to have collaborated with them.
WHAT SPARKED THIS PROJECT
The info Pillars were an intrusive form of advertising that appeared suddenly without consultation. They were proposed with different dimensions but at the last minute became HUGE billboards blocking our sidewalks. The “Toronto Vibrant Street Guidelines” state that street furniture must fulfill its civic function instead of prioritizing advertising. The proposed “civic function” of these info Pillars was to provide Map info for areas in Toronto. It failed in its “civic function” due to the design which prioritized ad space over info space.
Vibrant Streets Guidelines state (p. 40):
The design of new street furniture must demonstrate appropriateness for its intended use, not as a venue for advertising. This means the public must be able to recognize the functionality and use of the elements. The size and scale of amenities should not be increased in order to accommodate larger advertising faces.
HOW HAS YOUR PROJECT CHANGED THE WORLD
Creating awareness to citizens is an important change. We have a right to access city sidewalks without ad bombardment. These HUGE billboards affected the foot traffic and road traffic respectively due to its dimensions. By creating awareness of these problems, we changed the worlds perception of whats acceptable. Mostly, citizens should challenge these institutions if they believe their city is being compromised.
WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU SHOULD DEVELOP?
– Do Young
This question is interesting because it asks me what alternatives I should develop as an artist. Pillar removal or redesign was a priority, but not a result sadly. Ultimately we’d like to develop more platforms for citizens to be heard regarding decisions like these, since our voices should count regarding street furniture. We have a right to challenge such public additions especially if it affects accessibility. It is a complicated process to speak at city hall against such implementations and sometimes you are denied the right to speak if the hearing runs out of time. There should be more emphasis on public opinion.
HOW LONG IS THE PROJECT GOING TO LAST? -Gary
The posters were up for 1-2 days, but the message is on going. So lets say it last forever. We worked hard to lobby for a redesign of the pillars so that they would be less intrusive. We are on top of Astral Media’s next initiatives in the hopes they do not try to create more problems for our city.
WHY DO YOU CHOOSE THOSE SPECIFIC LOCATIONS TO PUT YOUR ARTWORK?
– Han Gyue
The pillars we chose were in high traffic neighbourhoods which lots of people would see to spread the message. Also, some were specific to the landmarks of the city. One was outside the Opera company and had a beautiful tribute to the ballet ‘Swan Lake’. One was outside the park where the OCCUPY protest took place for 40 days, and it was a tribute to that movement in Toronto’s history. That was one of my pieces.
HOW DO YOU IMPROVE CREATIVITY?
To improve your own creativity you must alway challenge yourself to explore new ideas. Take a step outside your comfort zone and experience something unfamiliar. Learn from others work and apply it to your own, or compare how it is different. Mostly, take a risk. You can inspire other people as a result, if you believe in your work. We feel we offered lots to the citizens of Toronto with this art takeover, and anywhere else in the world that saw what we accomplished.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE, WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO ACHIEVE
The main purpose was to have the pillars redesigned. We understand that advertising brings money into our city, and Astral Media has a contract with Toronto to provide street furniture for about 20 years. Still, the DESIGN of these pillars was an insult to our livelihood since it infringed on our sidewalk space and mind-space. The proportions were all wrong and they could shrink the ad section, and increase the map section. That is the reason there are a few ‘map’ theme art pieces. info Pillars are supposed to be about way-finding NOT blocking traffic and distracting drivers. There’s one piece which is a brick wall, which summarizes the idea pretty well.
WHAT CHANGE HAVE YOU SEEN AFTER YOU CREATED THE ART- Jessie
We saw some pillars removed but mostly lots of feedback. cARTogrpahy ranked second in Torontoist.com ‘s heroes of 2012… which is a HUGE feat of recognition.
The awareness itself was worth it, as people continue to learn about our clash with Astral Media. Discussion is a productive reaction, always.
WHY DID YOU REPLACE THE ADS WITH THOSE OBJECTS?
For the more bizarre objects, it was about catching the eyes of passersby. When you do an art installation, it’s about engaging citizens. Getting them to stop for a moment and question what they see.
Why a bicycle?
That seems weird eh? But it turns out bicycle posts were removed to accommodate the info Pillars, and our city is running out of places to lock up bikes. As a result people bike less, and drive more.
Why a drawn map?
Some of the maps talked about local trees or educated people on cafe’s in the area worth supporting. Education should have a stronger presence in the city than an advertisement for Bell telephones or iPhones. It highlights how the pillars failed at helping citizens ‘find their way’ and merely pushed consumer culture onto the sidewalks.
WHAT IMPACT AND CHANGE HAVE YOU SEEN AMONGST YOUR SOCIETY SINCE YOUR PROJECT WAS CONSTRUCTED?
Two pillars were removed from congested sidewalks, but it’s hard to gauge the reaction from our society as a whole. We saw great media coverage and generated lots of debate which is a constructive result. The influence is on going since people continue to cover our project. We even had a professor quote in the National Post:
“This is vandalism at its best. I have to applaud the creativity that’s involved in this. It’s a massive amount of creativity and co-ordination.”
(Anthony Kalamut, a professor of creative advertising at Seneca College.)
WHAT INSPIRED YOU THE MOST TO CREATE THIS PROJECT?
Protecting public space from intrusive advertising. Such blatant exploitation of the visual landscape is a problem if allowed to exist unchallenged. Remaining passive in the face of certain ad mediums is a problem. It reflects the attitude towards our unsustainable consumer culture, which is rapidly degrading our planet’s livelihood.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS FROM?
My personal piece was a poem for the occupy protests that happened across the globe. 1600 cities in November 2011 were participating. I wrote a poem chronicling the beauty I saw in our protest site. My other contribution was a chalkboard, which encourages the public to engage with city infrastructure. It had a lot of funny pictures on it and some interesting quotes.
AREN’T YOU SCARED OF THE RISK YOU ARE TAKING
The cARTography team was anonymous and did not take too many risks. They were respectful in the sense that they fielded media questions and did not completely damage the pillars. They also did not continue to infiltrate the pillars, once was enough. It was the final statement. Sometimes it is worth taking risks to speak your beliefs. I am fortunate to live in a democracy with free speech upheld. Sometimes blending the legal boundaries is necessary to get a message across. It all comes down to how much the artist believes in their message and what risks they are willing to face.
WHAT HAS INSPIRED NAND MOTIVATED YOU TO CREATE AN ACTIVIST PROTEST PROJECT WITH ART AS EMPOWERMENT?
Art is a strong form of empowerment and we were inspired to include many demographics in our project. Female, Male, old, young and many different races. Toronto is very multicultural and we wanted to have a wide spectrum of people represented through their art. We were most motivated by having everyday citizens gain a loud voice through a subversive project like this.
WHAT DID YOU GAIN FROM IT?
We gained recognition and media attention. We raised awareness. We were applauded by our city and let Astral Media know they cannot deprive Toronto of a vibrant city. Our hope was to empower everyday citizens to speak out and value their own voices. We gained a sense of accomplishment knowing that we reached a lot of people. Including your class!
WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU SHOULD DEVELOP?
This question is constructive, which I appreciate a lot. Art protests can be beneficial if they have alternatives to offer.
The question is important because it gauges whether the artist is informed and believes in their actions. Do they understand the ramifications of what they are doing? Do they understand the whole issue? Why is their form of art more important than leaving the pillars alone? What should they develop instead?
These are important questions to analyze, because it draws a distinction between scribbling on a wall for fun, and scribbling on a wall to speak.
I ask all of you:
What aspects of your life would you change if people would listen?
What should you develop to make it so?
Thank you all for your outstanding questions.
Please use art to speak your mind and share ideas.
It is a powerful form of truth and crosses many borders.
Here is the official website.