The Billboard Art Project Duluth, MN / “Miles To”

Group show / Public Art
Saturday, August 20 to Sunday, August 21, 2011

“Miles To” (Duluth) is a series of 23 faux road signs giving drivers the exact distance from Duluth to various cities of political importance in the Middle East and Africa (Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, West Bank, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Ethiopia, Sudan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Syria). In the midst of the Arab Spring, my intention with the road sign look-alike is to use familiar navigation aids to give people more concrete information about the geo-political world in which we live.

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Photos The Billboard Art Project

The Billboard Art Project is a nonprofit organization that acquires digital billboards normally used for advertising and re-purposes them as roadside galleries. Projects are held in cities all over the country and are open to all individuals and groups who are interested in participating. Types of work that may be displayed include images created specifically for the billboard as well as images of previously made art adapted to the format. No two Billboard Art Project shows are alike; each city features new work.

The Billboard Art Project contact

The Billboard Art Project in Duluth, MN: some of my images not projected on the LED Billboard

Group show / Public Art
Saturday, August 20 to Sunday, August 21, 2011

For the Duluth Billboard Art Project, the participating artists knew the billboard would be near a forest. My idea was to use warning signs on the billboard using strange messages related to the presence of the forest: “Caution! Fairies”, “Big Bad Wolf lurking”, “Beware”, “Wizards Crossing Ahead”, “Deer in the Headlights”- or making a poetic link with the place: “No Man’s Land”, “Here”, “Nowhere”, “There”, “Black Hole”, “Grey Area”, “Complicated Zone”. Also, a few of the signs were incomprehensible ones, as if the sign was not working.I even asked the BAP if it would be possible to have the image being shown around dusk to emphasize the strangeness.

The images could not be used because they are playing off of cautionary road signs, and replicating the visual effect is against of department of transportation regulations as it may confuse the driver. I understand their position. Several of the series I proposed to the BAP since the beginning of my participation play with ambiguity. And although I am trying to stay in a zone where my images would not be rejected, I know I am walking a fine line.

For example, when I started the series, one of the images I created was “Checkpoint Ahead” and I knew right away that this could be a problem. It is a stressful message to read on a billboard which completely resembles a warning sign. I thought working more with strange and surprising message, like “Black Hole”, and not playing with a stressful content.

If I can obtain permission from the local department of transportation in one of the upcoming shows, I will re-submit the images for that particular venue. I may change them a little, I will find a way.

Here are some faux-montage (made with a BAP photo) of the images as they could have appeared on the road in Duluth