Poster Boy mashes up subway ads

Craft & Design

Graffiti artist Poster Boy uses nothing but a razor to execute his works. Check out this video, via Wooster Collective.

74 thoughts on “Poster Boy mashes up subway ads

  1. billy mayes says:

    Why is this crap on Make?

  2. Max says:

    Mashes up? That’s slashes up as in vandalism.

    Why is this crap on Make?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Um, isn’t that just vandalism?

  4. john says:

    Wow, this guy is an idiot. People have been doing this forever all over the subways in NYC and this guy is acting like he invented something.

    Definitely should not be on MAKE.

  5. brian says:

    This isn’t *just* vandalism. *Just* vandalism would be random spraypainting or cutting. This at least is vandalism with some purpose.

  6. jason says:

    hey Make, if I deface YOUR website, which you put lots of time and money into, will you make a video of me? I mean, if it’s okay for this “artist” to go around defacing other people’s advertising investments, maybe you’ll be okay with me replacing one of those ads below this comment with some of my own “art”.

    I’m a subscriber to the print mag, but some of the stuff I see posted here makes me wonder if I will be for long.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Homebrew laser printer, Minty laser, plastic bottles for building, how solenoid valves work, virtual skater skateboard game controller, vandalism of someone else’s property, building a HF start box.

    Which one of these doesn’t belong?

    This artist isn’t making anything – he is taking. Isn’t that against what we are all here to do?

  8. Jack says:

    Interesting how the past -9- posts on MAKE: Blog have a combined total of -6- posts (including one by Phillip Torrone), yet this entry alone has 6 posts whining about content. Perhaps if people offered constructive criticism and comments on the posts they like, rather than just crying when something they find offensive is posted, the authors would be able to better cater to the interests of the Make community at large.

    Suck it up!

  9. brk says:

    Stuff like this is why I dropped my subscription to the magazine and check the blog less frequently. It’s not like Make is hurting for content, there seem to be enough things posted in a given day to draw readers.

    This adds no value and seems to against the general spirit of O’Reilly, and what Make: was originally promoted to be.

    Perhaps people should go to the next Maker Fair and start hacking up peoples displays and works to create their own real-world mashups and express their Culture Jamming spirit.

  10. Spoonman says:

    Interesting, Jack, that in those same last nine posts, you haven’t put a comment either for or against on any of them. The only time you have posted is to complain about other people complaining about Make glorifying vandalism. Perhaps you should practice what you preach, Jack?

  11. Max says:

    “This at least is vandalism with some purpose.”

    You need counselling, Brian.

  12. Phillip Torrone says:

    hey folks – first, this isn’t the print magazine, it’s not in the print magazine and it’s not a video we filmed, we’re linking to it, and it’s on wooster collective – a well know art site. we cover the emerging trends in art, this counts as art (for some).

    it’s debatable, and that’s what the comments are for – if you don’t like this type of post that’s fine, skip it – out of 30k+ posts we have maybe a dozen that are in the “culture jamming” art world.

    i live in nyc and the advertisements are out of control, plastered everywhere – it appears that there is a quiet revolution happening, this is one example of what i’ve seen lately. breaking the law and vandalism isn’t something we encourage, reporting on what’s happening is something we’ll do. i think there is some value in this post being here – but it’s not something we’ll have here often.

    we read (and i read) all your feedback, so thanks for posting – we’ll try harder to get things here that everyone likes and we’ll also try to put things here that generate interesting discussions and debates.

  13. says:

    And people who don’t understand how a video of someone re-purposing found materials is relevant to this site lack imagination.

  14. paolo- says:

    Yeah, I liked it too. Make:, to me isn’t just about arduinos and tee-shirt canons.

    Sure there are post I find dubious on the site, I still dont think it’s a reason whine about everything that comes about, we can still learn from it, or at least respect it in some way ?

  15. brian says:

    I don’t understand what your problem is with what I said. It’s clear to me that he is putting some creative effort into this. He also clearly has no respect for the property rights involved.

    I’ll repeat what I said, using more words this time:
    If he was spraypainting randomly, or scribbling with a sharpie, then that would be destruction of property with no creative effort. Simple vandalism, only vandalism, just vandalism.

    He did not spraypaint randomly, or scribble randomly, or cut randomly. He cut out the ads with a purpose, and put creative effort into it. He is creating something new. This is not only vandalism. This is vandalism plus creation.

    Why don’t you explain your position instead of being insulting?

  16. K says:

    Keep this sort of thing coming. NYC has the worst of this sort of ads, but they’re spreading rapidly everywhere else. Re-purposing found materials, working against the consumerism and capitalism to make something better are both ideals of the Maker. How many articles here are about breaking warranties and EULA’s? Why not complain about those as well? Those are illegal activities.

  17. gyziger says:

    I don’t really understand why people complain so much about what’s on the Make blog. This was actually pretty interesting. How about you complainers actually do something to “improve” the posts on make. Like, y’know, make something.

  18. Doctor Allen says:

    Just once, I’d like to see a non-leftist graffiti artist a) exist and b) linked on Make.

    I used to respect Joey Skaggs, before I realized he’s just a leftwing propagandist. These people like to say they’re all about opening people’s minds, but they’re just pushing their own dogmatic agenda. (Yes, cutting up posters and rearranging them in random patterns pushes a dogmatic agenda.) You’ll never see these people defacing a Greenpeace or PETA poster. You’ll never see them promote ideals or virtue. They just want to tear down what is, so that the “inevitable march of history” can pass through.

    Just once, I’d like to see someone opposing human folly who doesn’t offer more of the same.

  19. Perry Jones says:

    Lots of comments here already, but I’ll toss my hat into the ring. Overall I approve of this post. While I’m not too impressed by the final result shown in this particular video, it’s a good and valid technique.

    Yes, this is vandalism. So what? The source images are heavily posted in common public areas. The source images are used to create a new work that the public can view. As long as it occurs in moderation, these acts don’t hurt the impact of the advertising campaign. It’s very possible this actually increases the impact of advertising campaigns by encouraging people to look at the ads in the subway.

    Civil disobedience isn’t just about equal rights, it’s also about individual freedom.

  20. AllOfUsAreLost says:

    I’m most certainly in the ‘this isn’t a huge deal’ camp.
    It’s all well and good having the usual posts, new tech, mods etc. but sometimes you just want to see someone taking their creativity to the street.

    Hard to be inspired by a bunch of components when you see it frequently, but this, this is a breathe of fresh air.
    More please!

  21. Anonymous says:

    “If he was spraypainting randomly, or scribbling with a sharpie, then that would be destruction of property with no creative effort. Simple vandalism, only vandalism, just vandalism.”

    So, why do *you* get to decide what’s art and what’s random vandalism? The guys who “scribble with a sharpie” are expressing themselves too.

    Simple: I don’t like vandalism. I respect property rights. I agree with one of the people above: if this is so great, then let’s see what happens when someone goes to a Make event and starts “re-purposing” the stuff that someone else put hours and hours into.

    I honestly don’t see how you can defend this in a principled way.

  22. Max says:

    Look into the social science literature and you will find sutdies that show vandalism like this degrades neighborhoods and communities. It is not art. It is not harmless. You well deserve a lot of stick when you publish this stuff.

  23. screaminscott says:

    I won’t comment on the legality of this ‘art’.

    I’ll just add the most damning comment so far.

    “It’s just not very interesting.”

  24. Gershwinkle says:

    As an artist and a maker, I’m constantly visiting this site. I love the content and I love the innovation. I must admit that some of the circuitry stuff goes over my head, and while I love to check it out, it’s not really my thing. I’m particularly interested in the non-electric posts (bike mods, furniture rebuilds, anything referencing nonlinear problem solving with unconventional tools). This video was right up my alley.

    Thank you, Make:, for linking to it.

    I understand why a lot of people disagree with me here. I realize that advertisements are someone’s property. I realize that someone payed money for the ads. But I do have a few counterpoints to make. I don’t know which i should make first, so here they are in no particular order.

    The advertiser is vastly aware of the possibility that his ad will be vandalized. It’s practically a sure thing with the location, scale, and amount of whitespace on the poster, something was going to happen to it sooner or later. It doesn’t make it right, I know, but the ad company knew it was going to happen and they chose subway ads anyway. If they wanted a vandalism free venue, they could have chosen a magazine venue (which they also did) or an internet venue (did that too). Which brings me to my second point:

    This isn’t the original artwork. There are thousands of these things all around the city. plastered on buses, and walls everywhere you go. This argument is just a counter to the “you’re destroying something that someone worked hard on” line of thought. He’s not destroying something, he’s destroying a copy of something.

    How many of us face a dozen internet pop-up ads everyday? When was the last time you thought to yourself “someone worked hard on this, I’d better let it play through”? No. We kill it immediately, most of the time even before it starts. The same thing goes with commercials we skip right past them with Tivo, if we can. Advertisements are designed to be annoying, eye-catching, distracting, and most of all looked at. What Posterboy is doing is old-fashioned pop-up blocking, mixed with creativity. Instead of removing it, he transforms it into something new to look at while we wait on the train. A new image that isn’t trying to make you buy something.

    And this is where I really applaud what he’s doing. He’s working in impermanence. He’s using posters. This isn’t a permanent installation. At most it will be up for a few weeks; at least, a few hours. It’s not spray painting a wall. It’s not taking something beige and inoffensive and making it scream look at me. The advertisers already did that. They tagged the wall with their names and pictures, and this is just a way of reclaiming a public space.

    This is art. It is. It’s the basis of art. It’s controversial (just read these comments if you don’t believe that), and it makes a statement. The statement I get from it is this: “This is my personal space, and if you come into my space and try to sell me something, you’ll be met with resistance.” It’s reusing garbage to make art. Many will not agree, but that’s the mark of good art. And he’s risking fines and/or arrest to make that statement.
    I welcome it, and I would still welcome it even if I were the advertiser. It transforms the ad into something new, and makes the viewer see it fresh again. If anything, this increases awareness of the ads if played right. I imagine they expected a mustache to be drawn on it, but this transformation is pretty exciting.

  25. jason says:

    Hi Philip:

    “i think there is some value in this post being here – but it’s not something we’ll have here often.”

    I appreciate the fact that you read all the comments, and your 30k+ posts certainly attest to the fact that there is a lot of good content on the site. But allow me to point something out:

    While you may think there is some value in this post, many of your readers have disagreed. Surely as an editor committed to the long term health of your website, you have to admit that it’s not in your best interest to post things that many of us find disagreeable?

    I hope you reconsider glorifying this kind of thing in the future. Advertising in NYC might be out of control, but condoning illegal behavior doesn’t seem to be the right way to stop it. I think billboards here are ugly. I think you’d agree that pulling them down isn’t the best behavior.

  26. Anonymous says:

    I agree with the commenter who said lets do this to MAKE, wouldn’t that be cool? Editors please let me know if as implied that your cool with this. I would like to do it with your ads too say redirect them to some artsy fartsy crap and advertise some of my own stuff. Good you approve I know you are probably cool with that. This guy had it right:

    “hey Make, if I deface YOUR website, which you put lots of time and money into, will you make a video of me? I mean, if it’s okay for this “artist” to go around defacing other people’s advertising investments, maybe you’ll be okay with me replacing one of those ads below this comment with some of my own “art”.

    I’m a subscriber to the print mag, but some of the stuff I see posted here makes me wonder if I will be for long.”

  27. Jimmy Jimmy says:

    Jason, I want to comment on your points.

    Point 1: “The advertiser is vastly aware of the possibility that his ad will be vandalized.”

    That makes it OK? So, if I get mugged at night, it’s OK, because I should have known better than to walk around my neighborhood (East Village, NY) at night? This point scares the crap out of me.

    Point 2: “This isn’t the original artwork.”

    Wow. So, as long as I leave one copy, I can go into a library and burn all their books? I can steal prints from artists because it’s not the original? Again, scary.

    Point 3: “How many of us face a dozen internet pop-up ads everyday?”

    Closing an ad is the equivalent of looking away, not destroying someone else’s property.

    Point 4: “And this is where I really applaud what he’s doing. He’s working in impermanence.”

    Cool, so let’s all go trash everything at MAKE’s next event. It’s not permanent. And our actions will be art, because we’ll be making a point.

  28. cyenobite2 says:

    I see the points on sides of this debate.
    Perhaps the issue could be diffused if you made it clear that MAKE does not condone these acts of vandalism in the main text of the post?
    But then if you don’t condone it, why would you post it to the blog? You’ll have to figure that part out I guess.
    Personally, I think there is so much cool legal stuff out there that MAKE can post about, that you don’t need to cover illegal activities. But it’s your blog :)

    Is it possible to build a simple up or down vote system on each blog post? You might get more valuable feedback from your readers this way.

  29. Andy says:

    I’ve got no problem with this guy and his small efforts to take back our nation’s public places from those who have repurposed them for their own profit.

    Frankly, I’m surprised that so many people do have an issue with it. Perhaps it’s just a noisy minority.

  30. Phillip Torrone says:

    lots of comments, a healthy debate – i wish folks were this chatty about projects that everyone likes.

    i’ll address the questions that were specific to myself / MAKE…

    @cyenobite2 – you said “but then if you don’t condone it, why would you post it to the blog” — i think some art is polarizing, we posted banksy before he was BANKSY – now he’s a household name and people rarely question if it’s art – but never once did we condone graffiti. if we didn’t keep a pulse on some of these things we wouldn’t be relevant in the art world… and believe it or not MAKE is a favorite in the art communities, including some of the more subversive groups – some are makers too. they send in projects too, we rarely post them, but sometimes we do — maybe they’ll see making doesn’t always need to be illegal.

    as far as voting goes, you’re voting right now :)

    @trashers – for the folks who wish to trash maker faire or a MAKE event, wouldn’t you be doing exactly what you claim you’re against? i don’t see the logic in that – fight destruction… with destruction? just to make it clear, we didn’t film this, we don’t condone it – not everyone here hates it, there seems to be an equal number of cheers and jeers.

    @jason – you said “Surely as an editor committed to the long term health of your website, you have to admit that it’s not in your best interest to post things that many of us find disagreeable?” how do we do this, by vote? it seems a lot of people like it, i think we have a minimal amount of posts that are this polarizing, maybe 4-5 out of 30,000 — not so bad, i hope you can see all the good and tolerate the 1 or 2 you don’t like.

    you also said “I hope you reconsider glorifying this kind of thing in the future. ” we didn’t do that, i hope it’s clear that we never did anything other than cover this – we are “news” site too – news in the world of arts, crafts, making and more. once and awhile art is debated, and this is a good example.

    @Max – you’re correct, it does seem like the broken window theory is correct, and it does matter for communities.

    and lastly, i didn’t post this – becky did, she’s an author here and while i might not agree with every post, i do read every post and comment whenever i can – becky and i will chat about this and maybe you won’t see more posts like this – i’m not sure yet — but what i do know is there was a lot of good conversations here and it stayed civil — so thanks for that folks, we don’t need to agree on everything, we’re always working to make the site better.

    @lastly — please comment more on the things you do like, that helps us too.

  31. paolo- says:

    I personally don’t see a voting system in the make:blog. There’s a reason why you can submit things to the make blog ;). The last thing making is, is a competition. I think the main goal of this blog is to inspire people and to showcase advancements by other. I’m sure many breakthroughs in human development was inspired by illegal activity at some point. (blue boxing leading to a generation of hardware makers, perhaps ?)

    Obviously it’s left to the user to choose what they want to do with it. I would feel degraded and insulted by make if they didn’t post something because it involves illegal behavior. For example the guy who built a camera apparatus that picked up other peoples flash to flash a message on their picture at the same time. Sure, the guy was using it to ruin others pictures and I’m not sure if what he was putting in the other peoples pictures was all good (it was in dutch, if I remember correctly). But still, the concept was brilliant and made me think of several different uses for similar concepts.

    Right out of that particular video, I learned out of the technique he used to swap the mouth for example. This kind of style may inspire other visual artists to “sample” different pictures to create new ones. Witch is quite a nice concept… ok I admit, maybe not the most makiest thing out there.

  32. Gary Dion says:

    This isn’t so much meant to be posted as it is to register my “vote” of disapproval. This is not constructive art. It is blatantly defacing/destroying someone’s else’s property. Phillip’s comment “i live in nyc and the advertisements are out of control, plastered everywhere – it appears that there is a quiet revolution happening” infuriates me. You say you don’t condone it… then why encourage the behavior? If you don’t like what NY has become, then move. That’s your way to vote. Why don’t you also say “You know, there are too many people in New York, so I find it interesting that there are some murderers who walk the streets and are creatively stabbing people with homemade knives. Let’s celebrate their medium of expression and put it on the front page of the make website.” Since there are too many cars in NY, why don’t you do a story on people keying the paint of random vehicles in the name of a “quiet revolution”? What if it was your car/bike/skateboard? I bet you’d feel differently.

    The money that companies pay to put advertisements in Subways eventually trickles down to the guy who cleans the feces/urine/gum off the seats and floors. Gee, which would you rather have? While you may still have both, you definitely can’t have neither.

    So thank you for associating criminals with people like me – who proudly (until now), considered themselves “makers”.

    Makers don’t take… they create.

  33. brian says:

    “I honestly don’t see how you can defend this in a principled way.”

    Now we arrive at the heart of the discussion:

    I am not defending anything. I am not supporting anything. What I said was that there is more to this than defacement for the fun of it.

  34. Phillip Torrone says:

    @Gary Dion – just because we report on something happening does not mean we condone it – it’s simple, this is newsworthy, it was on an art site, we reported it. there *is* something going on in nyc, there does seem to be a rebellion in the subways, there does seem to be a trend of people who call themselves artists doing something.

    i don’t think strawmen and hypotheticals will help this discussion really. too many people, too many cars, etc — i never said there was too many ads, i never said how i feel about ads.

    if it wasn’t clear, we don’t condone illegal behavior – we will report on things, not often, but sometimes they are polarizing.

  35. Ushanka says:

    I like this post.

  36. Argent says:

    Great discussion, mostly.

    To those who would mash up items from the Maker Faire: if you can find any single item at the Faire that’s been replicated and distributed to the degree that those subway posters have, you can bet the creator intends for them to be repurposed. In fact, the organizers would probably get a kick out of your badge hacks. It’s hard to compare the maker culture with the advertiser culture because they have completely different philosophic ideals, products, and means of execution.

    To those who draw parallels to defacing web sites, I would welcome the “defacement” of the ads I see when visiting the Make web site. Please feel free to deface the advertising in the part of the site in which my friends and I hang out (a la our bus stop or subway station). I don’t think Make will care, and neither will we.

    And about condoning illegal behavior… Should it be illegal to repurpose advertising? Most of us feel it should not be illegal to crack open a device and fix it or bend it to our wills, but it is still, to this day, illegal for me to watch a DVD on my computer. I don’t think “because it’s illegal” is a good enough argument against cutting up a poster.

    We’re talking about the defacement of massively-cloned advertising whose per-copy monetary and emotional worth asymptotically approaches zero. I don’t believe that’s a slippery slope to murder, mayhem, and the loss of property rights. There, I said it.

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Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

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