What would the city look like if billboards weren't for profit? What would a city look like that used that space for public art, vertical gardens, or poetry? Free the Billboards is a project that facilitates a reimagination of public, visual space (currently dominated by corporate messaging), through two different types of interaction with the community:
PART ONE: ONLINE COMPONENT
I have created an online forum for people to submit pictures of what they would rather see in their communities instead of outdoor advertising (www.freethebillboards.tumblr.com). By using an old-fashioned optical illusion called forced perspective, (see http://www.thechobble.com/2011/02/angle-makes-perspective-pics.html for some awesome ones!) we can superimpose images we would rather see onto billboards, and then share them.
PART TWO: STREET ART COMPONENT
I will be attaching viewmasters to stands to create “viewing stations” that will be placed around Portland across the street from billboards. I am creating custom reels for the viewmasters—each with 7 different images. The images in the reel will be photographs of the billboard across the street, but I will replace the ad with the pictures people submitted on the website. Therefore, each viewing station will be a collective imagining of what could be in that billboard space- and will be a little portal into a different possible world!
I have created a lo-fi version of the viewmaster out of a box and transparency (see picture of what it's like to look through)!
If this project gains enough momentum, there will be sufficient support to take political action. I am writing a petition to the mayor of Portland to instate a ban on outdoor advertising, as has been done successfully in Maine, Vermont, Alaska, Hawaii, and most recently in Houston and Sao Paulo, Brazil! To dream even bigger, I would ask that the boards be turned over to the artists, writers, dreamers, in our communities. Let us decide what we want to look at!
Funded by Portland, OR (July 2012)