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Jordan Seiler’s guerrilla-art attack on one mens’ room
In this week’s Voice, we take a look at Jordan Seiler, one of the city’s anti-advertising artists who’s taken down hundreds of billboards, posters, and other signs to replace advertising in public places with his own artwork. Seiler’s been covering up ads for years, but one particular story stands out. In 2005, Jordan Seiler and ten hired friends stormed into Times Square in the middle of a winter night. Armed with screwdrivers and anti-vandal bits—specially-shaped metal bits that dismantle industrial infrastructure—the group took all the advertisements they could reach within five-block radius.
In their place, the group installed Seiler’s own artwork: black-and-white tapestries featuring images of haunted-looking women.
Within just four hours, the cops had taken down everything—pretty typical for a Seiler art installation project. And when the artist commemorated the anti-advertising blitz at a Lower Manhattan gallery show the following month, the police showed up there too. They confiscated the drawings—even though those were only copies of the actual prints that he’d initially used.
Seiler, who had spent months preparing for the project, was so upset that he returned to Times Square a few nights later to take apart one last ad. Taking out a poster from inside a telephone kiosk, he inserted a single piece of white paper that looked like it had been smeared in blood.
“I guess it was just sort of a remark on how I’d been abused by the advertising company that I’d been abusing,” recalls the skinny, 28-year-old Chelsea native.
And Seiler’s not the only one anti-billboard crusader out there. Another artist, Jason Eppink, places foam-board light boxes above the LCD screens that flash above subway entrances. The boxes turn the advertisment into a kind of light show.
The self-proclaimed public space reclamation activists are now campaigning against the thousands of illegal billboards that line the highways and building walls of New York.
Check out more of Seiler’s late-night installation projects here.