Corporate 'Eyesore of the week'

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Point of view

By Nicky Enright

Riverdale Press readers will recognize that the “Eyesore of the week” is often a local area tagged with graffiti. One could be forgiven for thinking that the biggest blemish on the landscape was the result of some restless kids with too much time, and paint, on their hands. But to me there are far worse perpetrators of landscape blots, and these are as un-washable as they seem unstoppable. The worst pain to my vision is caused by the relentless onslaught of corporate advertising in so-called public space.

Last summer I was lounging on a beach when a low-flying plane roared past with a Geico Insurance banner waving behind. There were also numerous ad-boats floating in the ocean. There are ads on our city’s parking meters and buses, and blimps in our sky. Corporations are permitted to create billboards along our highways and all over our city. The No. 1 train has full-length ads on the exterior of all 10 cars that are visible from Broadway. The MTA is now also allowing full window ads on the exterior of subway cars, evoking the fullcar graffiti of the 1980s.

The logical extrapolation of all this is an unbearably claustrophobic adscape. Imagine a beach where instead of the ocean’s horizon, you see nothing but boats competing for promotion space, and, instead of a clear blue sky, you have blimps and planes doing the same. Imagine Mount Rushmore with “Drink Coke” painted on it in red.

As a visual artist, this assault on public space disturbs me. I have some experience with public art, having been commissioned by the MTA Arts for Transit, and it is often fraught with politics and controversy because it raises difficult questions about who owns public space and who gets to choose appropriate aesthetics. Panels comprised of arts professionals and community representatives are typically assembled to make decisions, making the process cumbersome and slow.

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