Posts written in January 2007

Blinded by the (Graffiti) Light

Chase Manhatten bank is getting in a bit of trouble for using digital projectors to beam their corporate logo onto the sidewalks of NYC, an act that the Times article construes as guerrilla marketing. Representatives from the neighborhood are describing the logos as visual blight and officials from their Department of Transportation equate it with defacement. I can’t say that I argue with it being an eyesore, and based on the photos I’ve seen I think it looks a bit obvious to be “guerrilla” (the logos are projected directly in front of the Chase outlets, they’re quite noticeably the Chase octagon logo). What I find interesting is that laws applying to physical defacement of city property are coming into play to stop the projection. This makes it different from previous cases of corporate ad-graffiti (like when IBM tried it with stenciled Linux logos or Sony’s PSP graffiti misfire), and brings it more into the realm of artist-hacker types like fi5e/Graffiti Research Lab and other more established artists who use projection in public spaces as a disruptive technology (along the lines of Krzysztof Wodiczko or Jean-Christian Bourcart). Obviously, the function of art is very different than advertisement or branding (right? hmm…), but I wonder if this will lead to something of a crackdown against unapproved projected imagery in major cities – will light be considered as infringing or destructive as painted graffiti?

UPDATE: In the time after I wrote this, all hell broke loose in Boston when someone actually noticed the blinking LED signs advertising the upcoming Aqua Teen movie, and the Anti-Advertising Agency teamed up with Graffiti Research Lab to subvert outdoor light-based ads with custom-made foamcore masks/friskets. Subtractive light graffiti?