August 23, 2010

Guerrilla Art in Toronto

ART HISTORY/CANADA - A group of Canadian activists and artists made history this past weekend, ripping down illegal advertising and putting up art instead.

The group of 16 people are TOSAT, short for Toronto Street Advertising Takeover. Armed with little more than an electric screwdriver, duct tape and a stepladder they dismantled illegal ads by "Pattison Outdoor" and replaced the ads with artwork which had been submitted from countries around the world including Spain, Germany, the USA and Canada.

Yesterday, in teams of 2 or 3 the group replaced 85 illegal ads on 41 pillars with public art, part of their "Public Ad Campaign" in which their goal is to replace illegal ads with guerrilla art for the masses.

“Public space should be a place for public communication,” says Jordan Seiler, founder of the group. “I feel like I have a right to react against (advertisements) when, in particular, they’re done illegally.”

The Pattison Outdoor ads are essentially pillars which were installed in public locations by the company, but without asking for permission and without paying the appropriate city taxes. Toronto’s billboard laws require an annual billboard tax ranging from $850.68 to $24,000, which adds $10 million per year to the city budget.

Pattison Outdoor's non-compliance with the law and the tax, combined with the fact they were installing the pillars in the middle of the night without authorization or permits, is why their pillars were targeted by the activist group.

Toronto has been super lax about actually enforcing the law. City councillor Adam Vaughan claims the city is on top of the issue, but frankly that is just rhetoric on his part. The city is annoying slow at fixing potholes and getting around to removing illegal advertising isn't considered a high priority.

But for the activists enough was enough. It was time for them to go.

Local residents are pleased with the art which replaced the ads. Its so much better to see something intelligent and interesting that isn't trying to sell you something.

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