Solving Cities

Documentary "This Space Available" fights visual pollution

Documentary "This Space Available" fights visual pollution

Posting in Cities

"This Space Available" follows activists fighting visual pollution. Did you know outdoor ads are often illegally placed? The daughter of branding guru Marc Gobe, Gwenaelle Gobe, directs.

São Paulo Mayor Gilberto Kassab enacted the "Clean City Law" in 2006, banning every outdoor billboard, bus ad, and poster. Some imagined an international war against "visual pollution" might ripple across the oceans on a government level.

Needless to say, the waters have remained fairly calm.

But there are those who keep the fight alive. Filmmaker Gwenaëlle Gobé is touring a feature documentary about the effect of outdoor advertising on communities from São Paulo to Toronto.

This Space Available questions the "post-WWII, rosy view of brands saving the world from destruction and decay" - which is how Gobé describes her father's ideology, corporate branding guru Marc Gobé.

In the following excerpt, Jordan Seiler's PublicAdCampaign sends a group of activists out to white wash 19,000 square feet of illegal advertisements - literally, with 80 gallons of paint.

Unlike in São Paulo, illegally placed billboards cover Manhattan's buildings and streets, and the charge for tampering isn't light.

The Atlantic recently sat down with Gwenaëlle Gobé to speak about the process of making This Space Available.

Gobé states:

There is a very compelling set of conflicting interests here and I use them to tell a story of a world in flux. This film is about how we arrived at the current state of commercial excess and the people who are doing something about this crisis. The film asks, what kind of world did our previous generation of advertising artists dream to create, and what is the result today? Who are the people raising awareness about visual pollution and how are they going about it? Everywhere around the world, in every city, someone is standing up locally to excessive outdoor media, either in the courtroom or in the streets. The passion of the people we met throughout our journey around the world, are our inspiration and our thread to telling the story.

I feel brands infiltrate our space, our privacy and our health without asking permission. Everywhere we go we are treated as potential consumers. There needs to be a place for everything, and we, as a culture, as individuals, are many other things besides consumers. It’s important to create and maintain public and private spaces that respect the citizen. Things are a bit out of control in Los Angeles; when I go for a walk sometimes I think, there is a virtual pick-pocketing going on.

Could it be that one person's pollution is another person's ticket to success? Conversations around the Gobé's dinner table yield dramatic results.

[via The Atlantic]

Images and videos: This Space Available

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Sonya James

Contributing Writer

Sonya James is a multimedia producer based in New York. With creativity and innovation in mind, she speaks to diverse voices on topics from racism in the art world to the patriotic nature of southern food. She holds a Masters Degree in Community Development. Disclosure