In February the City of New York tightened its zoning regulations in terms of signage and advertising. Sensing an opportunity I conducted an under-the-table firesale of back inventory from the past exhibitions By Request, My Epitaph, Prelude to the Namesake and I Love Everything. By June I had sold off numerous works culminating in $104,360 USD, after taxes and discounts. I approached a number of media conglomerates whose holdings include billboards that stand along New York’s major thoroughfares and highways. Acknowledging a major shift in advertising space and spending due to the court’s ruling and the extended process some of these companies would have to endure in appeals court, I made an offer for 21 BQE billboards at the full dollar amount raised in June. I would rent the billboards for six months, and from June through mid December 2010, these billboards would remain empty. Two were painted black. The remaining, white.
Through the years the city’s economy could be tracked by the scale and potential excess of these billboards’ advertising. The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (Interstate 278) between the Queens Boulevard and Tillary Street exits seemed the most abundant in terms of billboard volume and motor-vehicle visibility. This roadway was especially significant to me, as I had spent much of my late-adolescence and early adulthood in transit via this expressway. It is important to note that the BQE is an expressway, not a parkway, which means it may be used for commercial transport, ie: trucks, buses, tractor-trailers, commercial vans and moving trucks, etc. From the mid-90’s I had watched at both high speeds and dead-stop traffic the BQE transform from a wasteland of poor maintenance with a depressing amount of dead dogs and waste dumping, into a cleaner, safer, yet still poorly managed roadway. A bastion of enduring Robert Moses Municipal Rape.
The project was meant to be a comment on the appropriation of art in commerce but presented some much larger ideas and theories as the months progressed. Designed to look like a large-scale guerrilla marketing campaign that would evolve over time, the project itself became an appropriation of commerce for art’s sake. Clean slate, blank canvas minimalism and natural decay would replace the expected slow reveal and trickery that has become so common in a culture that is less susceptible to conventional 20th century advertising techniques. The billboards become empty canvases, ready for a fresh start against the city's skyline.
This website serves as the document of this project and will include four extended points and ideas that have surfaced as this project is now approaching its fifth month. Four more posts will follow this current one each relating to a specific topic: Appropriation in Art and Commerce, Guerrilla Marketing in the Technological Age, The Graffiti Artist has Grown Soft, and lastly The Elliott Gould Award in Farewell.
By December when the six-month rental has come to an end, unique photographic prints of the billboards will be included in an exhibition for sale. Each sixteen by twenty inch archival photograph, unique with no editions or artist prints, will be priced according to the cost of each billboard in the rental breakdown.
All inquiries into this project should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or Jimi Dams at email@example.com