Recently, a guerilla ‘art collective’, which is kinda like the Borg collective but with cooler shoes, vandalized Toronto ‘Info Pillars’. An ‘Info Pillar’ is a hideous, free-standing metal box that displays ads on Toronto sidewalks. They look like this. The name of the group, cARTography TO (preeeeeeety clever!) broke into the boxes and put up poetry and street art. They did this to “beautify the city and beautify the pillars because we thought they were awful and ugly.”

I agree wholeheartedly. I also hate shit like this. Here’s why.

Firstly, at the risk of being a big, fat cynic, I find this type of thing tiresome and too well-worn to be impactful. I can’t possibly imagine an average city dweller finding this provocative in any way. It reeks of corny, 90’s – era Adbusters ‘culture jamming’ shtickery and, in a totally lateral step, simply replaces one person’s arbitrary vision of the city with another. What makes you think I prefer your art over an ad? I do, for the record, but who fuck are you to leap to such a conclusion?

Secondly, I question the relevance of the statement that the pillars are ‘awful and ugly’. They are. But who cares? A city, by definition, is and must be collection of disparate elements side by side and intermingled. A city is green space, and beautiful waterfront, and beautiful old buildings, and wide boulevards – things that people love. It’s also a collection of things people typically don’t love: concrete, highways, big buildings, and advertisements. I, personally, am fine with this duality and find it perfectly logical within the context of ‘city’. It’s actually what makes a city most interesting. And if you think they have a better, cooler, prettier way of doing it in San Francisco or Reykjavik, there’s a flight leaving within the hour.

Lastly, and most importantly, this incident smacks of self-righteous proselytization too much for me to react to it in any way but defensively. cARTography TO put up a poster in an Info Pillar that said ‘We are here. Ads should not be.’  Says fuckin’ who? Thanks, but you don’t need to save consumers from consumerism, cARTography TO. We’re fine with it. Really. Collectively, we’ve all decided we’re intelligent enough to brave the slings and arrows of life in a 21st century city without your artistic intervention on our behalf. When we really, really, really  need a dose of art to save us from the brutal urban landscape, we’ll shine the Art Signal into the sky and you can speed from the depths of the Art Cave in the Art Mobile to save us.

Till then, we want to buy stuff. So leave the ads alone.

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