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Thinking About That Moment of Noticing

Billboards-“Something that jolts you out of your reality and lets you reframe things.”

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A recent news story last week about an art project, called ‘A LONE’, used OOH posters as the primary media to combat civic loneliness with public empathy. It’s a good story out of Seattle.  What resonated was a phrase in the last sentence in the story, “…thinking about that moment of noticing and connection”.

While we are sharing the phrase out of context with the message the writer is conveying, its serves as  unique positioning for Outdoor Advertising.  Isn’t “thinking about that moment of noticing and connection”  what all of us in the OOH Industry strive for our target audience with every campaign we run?

Isn’t “thinking about that moment of noticing and connection”, what all of us in the OOH Industry strive for our target audience with every campaign we run?

Consider the phrase in next pitches and presentations.  Two more to consider from the article:

—”messages … in the most public places possible: … billboards”.

—“Something that jolts you out of your reality and lets you reframe things.” Insert ‘Outdoor advertising’ before ‘Something…’

What do you think?

 

Here is the full story by Brangien DavisArts and Culture Writer for Crosscut. Ms Davis is a freelance writer/editor and singer/songwriter.  Crosscut is the “Pacific Northwest’s independent, reader-supported, nonprofit news site part of KCTS 9 Public Televison, Cascade Public Media

Five Billboards in Seattle, Washington

New art project, A LONE, combats civic loneliness with public empathy

In The Handmaid’s Tale, just when central character Offred is feeling deeply alone in a society she no longer recognizes, she discovers a message scratched on the wall of her closet: nolite te bastardes carborundorum. The phrase (loosely translated as “don’t let the bastards grind you down”) is gibberish to Offred, but the simple implication that someone has reached out to her with a personal message is enough to inspire her to hold on. We may not be living out quite the dystopian nightmare that Margaret Atwood envisioned, but a new art exhibition has posted similar messages of solidarity in the most public places possible: on advertising billboards.

messages of solidarity in the most public places possible: on advertising billboards

 

Called A LONE, the project was co-coordinated locally by nomadic gallery Vignettes, new poetry press Gramma and art space Mount Analogue, and funded by the Bill & Ruth True Foundation. In addition to the five billboards, there are wheat paste posters, audio recordings, stickers and a display of smaller work at Mount Analogue.

This “citywide exhibition of empathetic voices” is designed to address the lonely feelings that can arise in an urban environment — particularly one that is swiftly becoming unrecognizable to longtime residents. “It’s about living in a city and having those moments of solitude and isolation,” says Sierra Stinson of Vignettes. “There is a lot of stigma with loneliness, but it’s a very human experience.”

Stinson says A LONE (which is up through May) was inspired by the rapid and disorienting transformation of Seattle, and also by the essay collection The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing. “Loneliness is personal, and it is also political. Loneliness is collective; it is a city,” Laing writes. According to the organizers, A LONE is “meant to confirm that yes, you are alone, but we all are. We are in this lonely city together.”

The billboards are scattered across the city in high-traffic locations (find a map here). “We were thinking of commuters in Seattle, people waiting on a bridge, on Aurora, places you might be stuck in traffic,” Stinson says, explaining how locations were chosen. She hopes the signs reach the people who are engaging with the city and seeing it change on a daily basis.

Billboard by Portland artist Alyson Provax, at the corner of 15th Ave NW & 70th St in Ballard (Photo courtesy of Vignettes)

“You’re not the only one” reads the billboard located at 15th Avenue Northwest and 70th Street in Ballard. It sits above a busy thoroughfare in transition, where dilapidated structures mingle with shiny new apartment buildings. The typeface is a simple serif, black on a white background. But something is a little off, a little blurry. It makes you blink your eyes and look again.

Portland artist Alyson Provax, who created the piece, explains that the phrase is printed three times, each slightly misaligned. “It serves to give the text a bit of visual anxiety,” she says. “I wanted the text to represent both certainty and shakiness.”

Provax has a second piece, located at the intersection of Nickerson and Florentia, near the Fremont Bridge. “Everything is about to change,” it reads. In the distance, the Aurora Bridge spans the Lake Washington Ship Canal, cut into the land in the 1900s. The phrase is printed three times, stacked in three lines. Some of the words fade out to a ghostly image. “The piece is only fully legible because of those multiple printings,” Provax says, “which shows an accumulation and a change over time.”

She says the message she wants to “advertise” with this billboard is that recognizing a state of flux can hold its own comfort. “Both Portland and Seattle are going through such powerful change,” she says. “It can be really disorienting. Parts of town look so different I feel lost, or like I’m in a dream.” But Provax believes that accepting the inevitability of change can help ease the anxiety about it.

 

Billboard by Seattle artist Laura Sullivan Cassidy at the corner of Fauntleroy Way & 38th Ave SW in West Seattle (Photo courtesy of Vignettes)

Seattle artist and writer Laura Sullivan Cassidy’s billboard “Broken Languages” reaches out with a human voice. Placed in West Seattle’s concrete no-man’s-land where Fauntleroy Way intersects with several smaller streets including 38th Avenue SW, the sign features an abstract, color-saturated collage and the words “Call me: 206-483-CALL.” If you do, you’ll hear a sound collage of words and phrases and music. Cassidy posts a new recording every day. (She’ll post an archive of all of them starting June 3.)

“I keep calling to you in a broken language,” one says. “I keep hoping what you hear is a song… sing along.” Cassidy says she’s been getting feedback from people who tell her they really needed to hear it that particular day, or that the message gives them something to meditate on.

“Something that jolts you out of your reality and lets you reframe things.”

Billboard by Seattle artist Leena Joshi, near S. Holgate & Occidental Ave SW in Sodo. (Photo courtesy of Vignettes)

“Something that jolts you out of your reality and lets you reframe things.”

Also on view is a billboard by Seattle artist Leena Joshi, who comments on the changing city with a feminist, Guerilla Girls spin on the classic “Will the last person leaving Seattle — turn out the lights” billboard from 1971. In hers, an image of Mount Rainier looms behind an industrial landscape with the phrase, “Will the last bad ***** leaving Seattle  — turn out the lights.” And Los Angeles-based artist Martine Syms contributes “Nite Life,” a huge fence banner surrounding the Capitol Hill light rail station. The words are taken from a Sam Cooke concert in 1963, when the singer was interacting with the audience. “IS EVERYONE DOING ALL RIGHT HOW YOU DOING OUT THERE…” it reads in part — a call and response writ large, at 580 feet long.

No matter the size, “Even a billboard can be invisible,” says Stinson, noting the tendency to visually tune them out. But her hope is that A LONE serves up surprise messages that sneak through to the people who need them most. “I like thinking about that moment of noticing — and connection.”

 

 

 

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3 Comments
  1. Jeff Casper says

    You have a powerful thought here: Planners need to understand the difference between “noticing” and “resonating”. In audience size measurement, we are concerned about either opportunity to see (notice) or actually noticing an asset. It is this way because that is something that can be reliably measured. OOH is already ahead of the curve because it measures noticing rather than opportunity to notice. However, it is the creative that transfers noticing an asset to actually resonating. No one knows when OR WHERE that resonating moment will occur. When that person is ready and able to ingest that message is up to the individual and forces beyond our control. Better to be in as many different places outside the home to increase our chances.

  2. Bill Board says

    Thank you for your comments Jeff Casper. “In audience size measurement, we are concerned about either opportunity to see (notice) or actually noticing an asset.”

  3. Bill Board says

    “OOH is already ahead of the curve because it measures noticing rather than opportunity to notice. Better to be in as many different places outside the home to increase our chances.” Great points Jeff Casper. Thank you