Designated Protest Space
July 10, 2012 1:43 PM   Subscribe

Guerrilla art group hacks dozens of Astral info pillars. The city's new, redesigned info pillars that have been rapidly popping up around Toronto have made plenty of enemies: road users claim the large, flat sides block sight lines, pedestrians say their positioning blocks sidewalks, and many others are concerned about the large amount of space given over to advertisers. A team of artists, cARTographyTO, hacked into roughly 35 of the signs' ad spaces over the weekend and installed maps, artwork and other visual displays.
posted by netbros (50 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fantastic work, but is this really a "hack" in any meaningful way? Seems like pretty straightforward art and engineering to me.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 1:48 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Hacked" and installed? Are these digital?? They don't look digital..
posted by Malice at 1:48 PM on July 10, 2012


This one is awesomely Yes Men-esque.
posted by theodolite at 1:48 PM on July 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


I like the project but is are we calling any sort of unauthorized entry "hacking" now?
posted by ghharr at 1:49 PM on July 10, 2012


Is are we proofreading our posts now?
posted by ghharr at 1:49 PM on July 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Are we choosing now to take stand for the word hacking?
posted by yellowbinder at 1:52 PM on July 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Good show, cARTographyTO. Defacement/subversion of advertising (or better yet, replacement of advertising with things that are actually useful) is something I can always get behind. Nicely done, too!
posted by Scientist at 1:53 PM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hack
posted by Kabanos at 1:53 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyway, I love the extra mile they went in replacing the screws with special ones that can't be removed by standard drivers.
posted by yellowbinder at 1:53 PM on July 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Are we choosing now to take stand for the word hacking?

Use of that word has been pretty controversial for the last, oh, 25 years or so. Maybe more. Google "hacking vs cracking" (or better yet, search through Google's Usenet archive) if you want to see some great flamewars.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:54 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


A clever or elegant technical accomplishment, especially one with a playful or prankish bent.

Works for me.
posted by yellowbinder at 1:55 PM on July 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Those things are freaking horrible. What the hell was Toronto thinking?
posted by Malor at 1:55 PM on July 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am rapidly reaching comment saturation, but yeah, they're horrifying. In some places they take up more than half the width of the sidewalk. Saw of few of these while out the other day and cheered.
posted by yellowbinder at 1:59 PM on July 10, 2012


Those things are freaking horrible. What the hell was Toronto thinking?

"Astral won the contract, in large part, by wildly outbidding its competitors." See the chart in this article. I think Astral has to pay the city 400-500 million over the 20 year term of the contract.

(Although, it also scored top for "design" which IS really sad.)
posted by Kabanos at 2:02 PM on July 10, 2012


I fully support this.
posted by odinsdream at 2:08 PM on July 10, 2012


Now this is an anti-capitalist, pro-public space conservation form of vandalism I can get behind!

Far, far behind with an amorphous looking hoodie on so I don't lose my job over supporting the defacement of corporate... whatever the hell those ugly posts are to them
posted by Slackermagee at 2:11 PM on July 10, 2012


Those things are freaking horrible. What the hell was Toronto thinking?

Too right. doesn't Toronto have bus shelters? In SF the bus shelters not only house adverts etc. on the outside, they have standardized maps on the inside. free standing structures in the downtown area serve as both display spaces and newspaper kiosks/public toilets, although there's only a few of both.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:11 PM on July 10, 2012


I was hoping this would be about hacking the Akashic Records.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:14 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Those things are freaking horrible. What the hell was Toronto thinking?

Yes, these really are a colossal embarrassment, Toronto.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:23 PM on July 10, 2012


Good grief, those things are monstrous! Let's face it, they're nothing but advertising billboards that block a ridiculous amount of the alledgedly-for-walking-on-it public sidewalks, with a side benefit of blocking the view of roadway traffic --- just imagine how easy it'd be for someone to step out next to one of these to cross the street, and because some drive cannot see them....... squish.

(And my own favorite has to be the blue bicycle: nice use of the box!)
posted by easily confused at 2:23 PM on July 10, 2012


Fantastic work, but is this really a "hack" in any meaningful way? Seems like pretty straightforward art and engineering to me.

Heads hacked off the necks of our corporate masters, mounted on pikes on top of these "info" pillars? Yes, please!
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:30 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow. Astral's not going to win that one, are they? Those things are appalling.
posted by unSane at 2:31 PM on July 10, 2012


The original design for the info pillars was probably worse.
posted by Kabanos at 2:58 PM on July 10, 2012


I'm surprised that this is all that's been done to them. They seem designed to be vandalized.
posted by octothorpe at 3:05 PM on July 10, 2012


Note to iOS users: In case you haven't found out already, the first link in the OP takes you to the iTunes App Store: BlogTO will only let you read their website through their own app.
posted by ardgedee at 3:07 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


They seem to block line of sight for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. Has anyone been hurt as a result of these things?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:07 PM on July 10, 2012


I think Astral has to pay the city 400-500 million over the 20 year term of the contract.

I wonder if the contract contains an escape clause if the pillars continue to be "hacked" or better yet, just disappear and are replaced with bike racks at regular intervals.

Suddenly it might not seem like such a good deal anymore. I'd hope the city would squeeze them for every drop of promised payment nonetheless.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:09 PM on July 10, 2012


I'd vote for just going at them with hacksaw-blade chainsaws. They're worse than they look: the were sold as info pillars, like the map ones that dot London's sidewalks and are so useful. What we got were these huge sidewalk-blocking billboards -- they have a 8 inch by 6 inch map on their ends, which qualifies them as 'street furniture'.

As to 'doesn't TO have bus shelters' -- yes, TO has bus shelters. These are in ADDITION to the bus shelters. They are also being used to replace post-and-ring bike parking.

I'd like to see someone systematically remove them and replace them with bike parking. Over and over and over and over again.

Or, just slap a big "HATE THIS THING? CALL (416) LOCAL COUNCILLOR'S NUMBER" on them all at eyeball height. Or the number of the ad company.

On preview -- what kadin2048 said!
posted by jrochest at 3:11 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder about the terms of Astral's contract with the City. I really really hope that Astral is on the hook for "vandalism". Because this design deserves it.

All sensible cities at least have 50% of the info pillar actual information. This design is more like 10%, plus of course the advertising is placed to as to maximize sightline interruption.
posted by anthill at 3:13 PM on July 10, 2012


I might cash in on this sort of advertising. I think mine would involve the sidewalk being obstructed by a number of 30x9ft moats that can only be crossed by lowering different brand-sponsored drawbridges via the manipulation of a complex system of levers. There would also be some manner of wildlife to avoid. Probably gaudy painted bison.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 3:18 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Countdown to the Vestibules in 3... 2... 1...
posted by koeselitz at 3:26 PM on July 10, 2012


Hideous. Truly.

This is the sort of "out of the box thinking about the urban space" that Emperor Bloomberg likes to imperiously and tyrannically impose on New Yorker's all the time because he's a billionaire and thinks we need him to show us what's best.

I hope he doesn't get any ideas from that claustrophobia inducing pillar ad crap...

Whatever happened to letting urban spaces having a chance to grow organically Jane Jacobs style.
posted by Skygazer at 3:27 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


We know that many councillors, once they saw these things, felt like they had been tricked.

Umm, tricked how, exactly? The business proposal didn't come with schematics, measurements, mockups? And if Astral didn't say, the councillors didn't ask? A most basic question of "what are these things going to look like?"

Unless it can be shown that Astral deliberately misled everyone (which would be great, since the contract could be tossed), that these things are not as presented, nor allowed by whatever approved amendment process, I'm thinking the councillors are just as complicit in this as the ad guys.
posted by Capt. Renault at 3:28 PM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Making fun of press releases is such low-hanging fruit, joke-wise, that it's almost beneath me. Almost.

Astral deplores the acts of vandalism committed this weekend against the InfoPillars in the City of Toronto.

WAAAH HA HA HA

In addition to being persons under the law, corporations can now deplore things too -- but only the things they themselves weren't paid for.

The Toronto Street Furniture (TSF) program is a world class project that provides important services to residents of the City - including transit shelters, litter bins and public benches. It also creates revenue that is exclusively directed for reinvestment in city streets.

"We had to wreck it to make it better." Also note, "creates revenue" here means "we give them money."

Only 16% of all structures in the program are ad bearing but they are essential to funding the construction and maintenance of an overall rollout of approximately 25,000 pieces.

If this is true, then Astral put a lot of effort in making the 16% of ad-bearing structures a hell of a lot more visible than the good ones.

The TSF program will provide approximately $1 billion in value to the city over a 20 year contract (started in fall 2007).

I love how corporations mathematically scheme in their statements to cast the best possible light on everything thing do. If you ever catch one bragging about something really stupid and minor, it's a fair bet there's just not that much positive to be said about it, because if there was it'd be the first sentence of the press release, in a large font, red letters, and probably in Comic Sans.

We have requested the Toronto police investigate these illegal acts and ensure that appropriate action is taken to enforce the law in this matter.

And of course, corporation requests matter a lot more to police than those of citizens. I guess we'll find out whose side they're really on....
posted by JHarris at 3:29 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's one of my pet peeves actually. Spaces, whether commercial or public, are so overly thought-out and contrived these days. It's horrible the feeling that you're in someone's overwrought real-life user-experience conceptualized use cased system flow.

All serendipity rendered null and void. All spontaneity and breathing areas (biological or psychical) leveraged towards a goal and purpose. It's pretty inhumane and deeply repulsive once you become conscious of it.
posted by Skygazer at 3:34 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


The "i" on the posts should be changed to a "u".

For "ugly-ass dangerous billboard that oh! has a teensy map on it for your convenience! if you can find it on the post after smacking into the sign full bore and up yours, citizen".
posted by likeso at 3:36 PM on July 10, 2012


This horrible trend right now, to turn every aspect of communal public experience into "revenue generation," I hope, will one day appear to be quaint and misguided.

I think a case can be made that it's an abrogation of a local government's responsibility towards it's citizens.

But I guess since corporations are also "citizens," now perhaps that will be a moot point??
posted by Skygazer at 3:42 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Someone should start a fund dedicated to buying copies of Snow Crash and sending them to public officials, everywhere. With a note on the front that says "this is not a how-to guide."
posted by b1tr0t at 3:45 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


PEOPLE DON'T HAVE FACES IN TORONTO, THEY HAVE CIGARETTE ADS INSTEAD
posted by koeselitz at 3:46 PM on July 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Here's a picture I took of the street furniture models that were displayed publicly when the city was tendering the bid. As you can see, the info pillar wasn't nearly as hideous. Now it is literally a billboard with a mini-map of the area on it's spine.
posted by thecjm at 4:05 PM on July 10, 2012


I'd be so strongly tempted to guerrilla-art-hack these things by replacing the ads with Roadrunner-cartoon-esque photos of the areas behind the signs.
posted by furiousthought at 4:14 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like the project but is are we calling any sort of unauthorized entry "hacking" now?

hack; the meaning of hack
posted by dhartung at 4:19 PM on July 10, 2012


The chalkboard ones are awesome. It looks like this one lets you annotate a map of the area - pretty great idea. Hope it sticks around for as long as possible before the inevitable.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:23 PM on July 10, 2012


I suppose the best way to make these ads less illegitimate might be to make hacking them extremely easy.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:48 PM on July 10, 2012


Sydney has a few of these things too, but not nearly this bad. They're still horrible though. I enjoyed this - hopefully they'll keep on hacking.

Wouldn't it be nice if cities provided these things as open source communal art spaces instead of monetizing public space and filling it with bullshit ads?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:49 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


> The original design for the info pillars was probably worse.

They did have about 1/3 of the space dedicated to information, and didn't block sightlines so badly. They were the same as the mockup that thecjm linked to.

I dunno what it is with Toronto and frankly fugly streets. A few years back we had MegaBins (which joeclark did   not   like), and now we've got this. We've got video billboards and a mess of overhead wires. Sky-blocking condos with no development plans beyond "moar!"
posted by scruss at 5:10 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: I am so so so SORRY please let me rub your hair and feed you avocados with no sugar on them, in silence
posted by gilrain at 5:22 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder if people would still be pissed if one side of each of these things actually contained nothing but Public Service information like the large hacked maps.
posted by Mitheral at 6:17 PM on July 10, 2012


All serendipity rendered null and void. All spontaneity and breathing areas (biological or psychical) leveraged towards a goal and purpose. It's pretty inhumane and deeply repulsive once you become conscious of it.

They Live....
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 7:41 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder if people would still be pissed if one side of each of these things actually contained nothing but Public Service information like the large hacked maps.

Yes. These monstrosities block the sidewalk and are a dangerous obstruction of the sight lines of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. I could accept a design that was turned 90 degrees and set off to the interior of the sidewalk, but not the current setup.

That said, I was delighted to see the vandalism. It doesn't move the junk off the sidewalk, but it vexes Astral and there's a remote possibility that it could contribute to successful pressure to yank the abominations. Yeah, very remote.
posted by maudlin at 8:12 PM on July 10, 2012


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