Astral Media’s unsightly, advertising-overloaded info pillars got a touch-up this weekend courtesy of guerrilla art group cARTographyTO.
Increasingly, Torontonians find themselves dodging Astral Media’s efforts to plaster the city with billboards. But, this past weekend, a group of Toronto artists—operating as cARTographyTO—gave us over two dozen good reasons to seek out the company’s latest street-furniture travesty known as the “info pillar.”
Chances are you’ve already crossed paths with said pillar, Astral’s most recent, and most feeble, attempt to hawk ad space. Masquerading as a public-service post, these imposing billboards are simply two big ads sandwiching—like the fine print of a shady contract—a sliver of useful tourist information.
Working through Saturday, cARTographyTO (technically, illegally) opened the billboards, removed ads, and installed donated works ranging from tongue-in-cheek commentaries on advertising, bike parking, or sight lines, to a real bicycle designed to fit inside a box and light up at night.
One billboard even got the velvet-rope treatment when it morphed into Sidewalk 54, a spontaneous “private pavement” street party “for diamond members only.” A security guard bearing an incredible resemblance to performance artist and former mayoral candidate Keith Cole kept the line long and the dress code enforced.
Artist Sean Martindale, who contributed several works, did so because he feels increasingly ashamed of what’s being done to this city by firms like Astral and Pattison. “[The signs] are making our city look like shit, they’re a pedestrian obstacle, and they’re a line-of-sight hazard,” he explained before adding, “privatization of public space is one of the biggest issues we’re facing in the world, because it’s part of the larger, unsustainable consumer culture.”
As for the goal of the takeover, a cARTography organizer (who asked not to be named) said they hope people will make an effort to boycott the products pushed by these ads—or, at least, stop to consider the range of possibilities for these spaces outside the advertising realm and “put pressure on the City and companies to do something about it.”
Well, somebody was certainly doing something about it within 24 hours: A crew was spotted removing the art and reinstalling ads at the King and Portland Sidewalk 54 location.
That said, some of the works are still up and, if you’re lucky, you might be able to see them by following this map before workers turn them back into, say, Corona ads. If you’re more into online-viewing, click on the photo above to view a gallery of the soon-to-be destroyed art.