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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Toronto artist turns condo ads into tents

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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.



  1. Very clever, but in bourgeois Toronto, expect a lot of in-denial screaming.

  2. something really clever and attractive about these tents
    the subversive advertising cracks me up

  3. I’m screaming I love it!

    God save the (501) Queen!

  4. Interesting juxtaposition in the last photo, where the traffic light box and poles are covered in ads as well, for nightclubs mostly it seems. Wondering if “that’s offensive to artists” also, or are we saying one type of public-space threatening advertising is better than others? Is there a hierarchy of street-spam that’s somehow more palatable to artists like this fellow and to Spacing? Just asking as it seems to me that commercial postering that numbers in the tens of thousands downtown is a much, much worse assault on public spaces than the odd condo ad (which, if illegal, I agree should be removed). Just seems to me that efforts like this are self-indulgent if not hypocritical in attacking *all* forms of “behavior of advertising campaigns in abusing public space”. Because frankly, I can live with the odd condo ad than with thousands of ads for the Guvernment, Booty Camp Fitness, Essay Experts, Think in Spanish, driving schools, and other commercial visual diaharrea plastered over various public assets like utility boxes, poles, and mailboxes. Free ads for lowlife businesses engaging in aesthetic vandalism on public spaces and publicly-paid for assets with the result that Toronto has a public realm that looks like the junk folder in my Gmail account. Ain’t it grand? Waiting for the art project attacking *that*.

    Still waiting.

    But wait, artists and Spacing think postering is cool and “urban”. Never mind, then. Oh, and pot, meet kettle.

  5. Roland, the artist behind the condo ad tents already addressed the visual clutter of posters in his previous project seen here As you can see many nightclub and THINK IN SPANISH ads have been victim to his installations already.

    As for Spacing’s coverage and attitude about postering and ads, check out for a plethora of material on that subject.

    Lastly, some beautiful art created from spam mail: