Public space intervention, billboard
In collaboration with Andrea Creutz

Shown at "Women 2003 ", in Copenhagen and Malmoe. Catalogue
Curated by Hanne Lise Thomsen

Concept and projectdescription:
New York - Februar 2003.


"I leave my apartment and walk down the street. I pass through a multi-story car
park and walk from there directly into the shopping mall. I pass through a number of
big billboards nicely mounted behind glass in showcases.

The billboards are filled with beautiful bodies - most of them women. It makes me ask
myself: what does the female body represent in these commercials? Is she symbol
for a commercial world; the ideological figure of capitalism? Is the sub-
ordination of women a consequence of capitalism? To what extent does
representation produce or reproduce norms and gender; a uniform cultural and
social pattern? The women in these billboards become objects for the gaze; a
process that mutually constitutes image and viewer. The voyeuristic look frames
objects as images, sets them at a distance, encloses them in a separate space, and
places the viewer in a position of control.

The iconographic figure of women in images of women is less a reproduction of
real women than a cultural sign producing femininity in what Laura Mulvey famously
calls 'to-be-looked-at-ness' ('Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema')

I leave the mall through a long narrow gallery; across the road that leads the cars into
the multi-story car park. I cross the tracks that cuts across this area and transports
people from north to south. I walk through a viaduct, pass by a number of larger
office blocks. My own image is reflected in their glass facades. I cross a public plaza
that has lost its social function. In front of me I see another multi-story car park
with 7 floors. The subway is located underneath. I enter the building, and go down
the escalator to the train.

This area is the starting point for the billboard we made for this project. It's downtown
Jersey City in New Jersey. The area is situated along the Hudson River. Across the
river is Manhattan, New York City.

The area has been built in 10 years as a so-called 'Business Improvement District'
in an attempt to attract substantial capital from Manhattan. The shopping mall was
built first. It used to be playing fields for the neighborhood youth.

On my daily route from my home to New York City I move through 'closed' pre-
defined spaces that I can't occupy. I order to gain access I have to perform a
certain act. Certain behavior patterns seem to be taken in by the subject who moves
around here. The subject has taken on identities as citizens and participants in
commercial life.

Particular uses of space are deemed self-evident and uniformly beneficial because
they are said to be based on some absolute foundation: eternal human needs, the
configuration and evolution of cities, inevitable technological progress, natural social
arrangements, or objective moral values. This foundation authorizes the exercise of
state power in these spaces. As such the public space seems to be, to borrow a
term from Lefort, 'appropriated'. For Lefort ('The Logic of Totalitarianism') 'appropri-
ation' is a strategy deployed by a distinctly power structure that legitimates itself by
giving social spaces a 'proper', hence incontestable, meaning, thereby closing down
public space."


Text printed on the billboard:
In the lower right hand corner you see a woman's face. She has a light blue hat on. A
big fur collar covers her cheek. She looks a little tanned, but the clothes she is wearing
lead you to think that it is winter. She looks directly at you.

What is the ad trying to sell, or is it trying to sell anything? What is her relationship to
the surroundings? Whatâs yours? (What's your relationship to your surroundings?)
What do the images that you see in the city contain? Who owns them? Who decides
what images will be distributed and who are they for? Between the woman and the
building you see a gray concrete arcade. Its hard to know what kind of building it is
but it might be an office building. It looks new. On the ground level there might be a
shopping plaza or is it a bank?

How does public space create public identities. What values are used to make decisions
on public space? Who has the right to speak their mind in public? What is public
space anyway? Is it a city, an exhibition, an institution, an art project, a political action?
Where are you going? How will you be seen there?

A collaboration between Andrea Creut and Lise Skou

Shown at:

Curated by Hanne-Lise Thomsen

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