Back in New York City, walking around, I’m more aware than ever of the amount of stuff in my face. Ads for handbags, for clothes, for lipsticks. Windows of stores filled with every kind of possible thing, every where I look. It’s easier to not want things when you’re not exposed to them daily, as I wasn’t in Vermont or Idaho. But I’m realizing this pernicious advertising that permeates my environment will make this project all the more challenging. That which I don’t buy makes me stronger, right?
Somewhere along the way recently I came across this Banksy quote about advertisers.
“People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else…They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you….You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.”
There’s more to the quote, and I encourage you to click the link and read the whole thing. I’m no street artist like Banksy, but the temptation to do something to the ads that surround me is pretty great. He says, “Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours.” When private property, say the top of a building, is rented to another private party, say Disney, only those two parties gain. The rest of us, the public, trying to occupy our share space, say the corner of Christopher St and Seventh Avenue South, in New York City, gain nothing. We lose. In fact, we suffer. These billboards do leer. And laugh. And push their products. A few months ago, it was a poorly animated penguin movie with a crappy script. Before that, a super high-end boutique just arrived from Paris. Now? A male dating site with two nude “sexy” men.
If I could tear them all down I would. Instead I avert my eyes. I walk faster. I tell my son he can’t see the penguin movie because it’s PG, not G. I keep thinking about this one line, “They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you.” Why did we let them?