Activists replace street advertising with art

0 Posted by - September 19, 2010 - Advertising, Blog, Performance, Policy, Public art

It has begun! In late August, a group – or project – calling itself the Toronto Street Advertising Takeover (TOSAT) reclaimed 41 advertising posts and about 25 larger billboards in the city of Toronto.

The “interventions” included painting over, pasting over and replacing advertising kiosk images with artwork and anti-consumer and anti-advertising graphic images from more than 60 international artists. Approximately 90 individual ads were “reclaimed”.

The takeover was orchestrated by 15 local artists lead by Jordan Seiler, a New York City–based street artist, well-known for his similar 2009 reclamation project in New York. The group was briefed on how to gain access to the kiosks and then issued a make-believe letter of permission from an advertising company stating that the company had “graciously donated over 20 Core Media Pillars to the Municipal Landscape Control Committee public arts program division,” among other fictional things. The kiosks were targeted in a 2-hour period on a Sunday afternoon; billboards were reclaimed later that night.


The war against advertising pollution is nothing new on the streets of Canada’s largest city. Some of the signs targeted had earlier been identified as illegal after questions were raised at City Hall by public space activists, but a bit of regulatory slight-of-hand grandfathered many of these signs into legality; the status of others remains in question (check out illegalsign.ca for more info).

Some of the problem stems from Toronto’s lax enforcement of signage bylaws (a common enough complaint in most large urban centers). Signage companies have been accused of taking advantage of weak enforcement to routinely erect illegal signs. The issue has come to public attention only because of complaints and pressure from activist groups.

For more detailed and insider coverage of this inspiring event check out the toronroist.ca.

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