After being invited by @lemurdestetienne to paste on their public art billboard, I was told that the city was also offering me one week of access to the 75 lollipop spaces it operates in the city center for its own cultural events and publicly facing information. These spaces are retained for public use as part of the 15 year advertising contract with #vediaud While it was exciting to imagine 75 BW designs dominating the city center, taking them for my own use would violate a fundamental belief that guides my work. Namely that the public, and not a private commercial venture should dictate what is seen in our shared public spaces. By taking the donated space for my anti-advertising/pro-participation works I would be acknowledging that Vediaud controled cultural production in #saintetienne and not the people. Reluctantly I passed up on an opportunity to inflate my ego. While it would be a bold visual statement, the work would be disingenuous.
Yet I was unwilling to pass up on the opportunity to experiment with new ideas and alternative ways of addressing my core concerns. So I decided to accept the offer, but immediately return the space to its rightful owners, the citizens of Saint-Etienne. This lightened my conflict of interest. Instead of creating my own anti-advertising works I would invite the public to participate in the curation of their shared public spaces by creating their own posters. This would test my belief that non-artists have a desire to communicate in public space and that doing so would create stronger bonds between them and their city. It was also a way for me to create an awareness and appetite for the self expression normally reserved for artists.
My hope is that this appetite will grow and that instead of demanding advertising's removal, over time the citizens of Saint-Etienne will simply demand more and more access to their public space. As this demand grows, more and more advertising will be removed to accommodate public interest along with a shift in expectation for what type of cultural production is appropriate on our city streets.
It's an experiment. So stay tuned #utopiamyopia