by Ariel Hudes
Jordan Seiler (RISD '02) founded the Public Ad Campaign to fight against the commodification of public space for advertising use. Seiler writes in his mission statement: "By commodifying public space, outdoor advertising has monopolized the surfaces that shape our shared space." Seiler feels that to become involved in their communities residents need to interact physically with their environment-- advertising in public space is the obstacle to doing this. 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," writes Seiler. The mission is two fold: the reappropriate public space for art (created or organized by the P.A.C.) and to bring the issue of public space to the public's attention.
Seiler both puts up his own work and organizes groups of artists for large scale reappropriation campaigns. In April and October 2009 he organized a New York Street Advertising Take-Over Campaign in which "approximately 30 participants whitewashed nearly 120 street level billboards in broad daylight between the hours of 10:30am and 2:00pm. At proximately 3:00pm nearly 50 artists and public individuals came back and used those blank canvases for the production of public messages instead of corporate messages." The project was documented on a Google Map which allowed participants and potential community organizers from outside of New York to see photo and logistical documentation of how the project was organized.
Seiler began putting up his own work in subway stations in 2000 but quickly moved above ground where he concentrates on taking down advertisements in phone booths and putting up his own work. The art itself is rarely political-- the act itself of putting up the art makes the critique ("the medium is the message"). Though his early works contained his signature in the form of a graphic thumb-print, Seiler decided that to feel honest in his mission to change the landscape of the city for the benefit of the public, not for his own self promotion, he would not leave any signature/identifying marker on his work. This is also his reason for the always varying style of the works he puts in phonebooths and other places in the city---he doesn't want to develop a style that is so "his" that it becomes a signature in itself.