Challenging visual exploitation of urban space
Billboards do not derive their value from the private land they stand on, but from the public space they stand next to. They feed like a parasite off space they do not own. ‘The Parasite’ critiques the current state of public space that is designed with the intent of turning the directed human being into the consuming wanderer. This project provides opportunities for new appropriations of billboards by civil actors – those unattached to the official institutionalized domains of advertising and profit.
The contemporary city is increasingly dominated by a one-dimensional logic of commodification, monofunctionality and control. With the neoliberalisation of public space, ownership is becoming increasingly privatized – our public spaces are becoming an ugly playing field of private interests. The commodification of public space can come in many forms. My response focuses purely on the visual pollution of urban space: the visual clutter that fills our city; the relentless repetition of advertising messages and images that feed our insatiable appetite for consumption. Our cities are saturated with intrusive messages, varying in tone and content, but the bottom line always remains the same: Profit.
Billboards do not derive their value from the private land they stand on, but from the public space they stand next to. They feed like a parasite off space they do not own. The content of these parasites is not something we can choose to avoid – we have lost our freedom of choice. Billboards force advertising on individuals and communities whether we want it or not. They pervade our world to an extent unimaginable. The structures of these parasitic billboards litter the landscape, cover entire buildings, block access to scenic vistas and create strident, hectic atmospheres in our cities. They provide absolutely no social function to the surrounding space; they are a desolate form that contribute nothing to you as the city-dweller, only economic gain to their owners.
The difficulty with challenging the visual pollution of urban space is justifying in what way to redress it. I cannot slander the concept of power and control in public space, only to then contradict myself by controlling what you should see, or by imposing my own vision or interpretation upon you. Therefore I do not replace, nor do I remove, visual pollution – I deconstruct.
‘The Parasite’ is a series of design appropriations which encourage the creation of public space that is ours for human interaction and active citizenship; a space where we can develop our personal identities through unmediated social contact. Each design has been created to alter and distort a current site of urban advertising, and develop it into a space that provides a social function. Whether it be as simple as transforming an empty car lot littered with billboards into a functional park, or as unorthodox as merging two mega-billboards into a public swimming pool, every design will bring light to the issue of visual pollution in urban space. I invite people not only to use the space, but to rethink the way we see urban space, or more so, the way advertising and commercial entities see us – as consuming wanderers rather than citizens of our city. I am creating a space that does not subordinate social value to economic gain. A space that challenges those who control what we can and cannot see everyday. A space for the people.