One of the artists behind last year’s poster pocket plants, Sean Martindale, got in touch with us about his latest streetscape intervention: turning illegal condo ads into tents.
For over a year, Martindale had been taking careful note of the nature of the condo ads overrunning all of Toronto. Noticing that they tended to appear the most on weekends, in all likelihood so that City workers wouldn’t be present to take them away, he began removing illegal banners and sandwich boards himself.
Martindale had a lot of thoughts on the behaviors of these ad campaigns. He observed that a lot of it advertised a higher end lifestyle in the midst of lower income peoples. The offhanded juxtaposition made him see taglines like “where life will take you…” or “it’s all about you” in an ironic light. He saw that more still used branding and “art names” that suggested they were marketed to artists while priced far out of their affordable range. “It’s offensive to artists,” Martindale says.
So, in response, Martindale made art. In communicating his thoughts, he used surplus broom handles and manually hammered in grommets, creating one-man tents out of illegally placed advertisements. Employing the same tools of graphic design as the original campaigns, Martindale repurposed the sandwich boards into installation. These are intended not as practical shelters but as sculpture — that is, subverted condo apartments.
Martindale, however, says that he isn’t trying to be anti-condo. His primary concerns are with the behavior of advertising campaigns in abusing public space. It’s the advertising for condos that he wishes better reflected on its role and the inhabitants of the city.
But the reinvented structures themselves are illegal in public space too, and Martindale accepts whatever will happen to the installations, whether they are removed altogether or inhabited. In guerrilla reclaiming of the city, he joins an assortment of initiatives such as the Toronto Public Space Committee’s Art Attacks, and in his repurposing of existing excess is reminiscent of Michael Rakowitz’ paraSITE project.
The finale of Martindale’s installation will be a “fake presentation showroom” at 107 Shaw St. on November 26. He’ll be saving one of his tents for the event, but you can discover them for yourselves — at least one of them is in the Trinity Bellwoods Park area.
Martindale’s show will be at the 107 Shaw Gallery from November 19-26.