Monday, July 2, 2007

Banning Advertisements: Foolish or Visionary?

Gilberto Kassab, the mayor of Sâo Paulo, has decided to ban all commercial ads from the public realm. It is a decision that can be considered either foolish or visionary. Foolish, because visual polution is the least of the problems the city has to deal with. Traffic jams, air pollution, water pollution, insufficient water management which leads to regular floodings, carjackings, prison upheavals, slum violence, all these problems seem to be much more urgent that an occasional advertisement on a building.


But there is another interpretation. São Paulo can be considered the materialized market economy, unplanned, organic, chaotic, polluted. Consequently, it is a city that was built by capital, not by humans, a city hardly fit to live in. In this metropole of about 20 million inhabitants there is just one reasonable public parc to provide some breathing space, Ibirapuera, but the typical refuge for the Paulista citizens are the shoppings, which are usually overcrowded on Sundays. Unsurprisingly the first hit for Ibirapuera on Google is the shopping that was named after the parc. Consequently it is a city that I experience to be suffocating. The many ads that scream to you from the buildings (curiously, predominantly about plastic surgery) just add to this impression. In this context, the decision of the mayor is a small but certain first step to make the city more liveable and human. In this context the decision of the mayor is a visionary one.

It reminds me of this quote that has been contributed to graffitti artist Banksy:
"The people who truly deface our neighbourhoods are the companies that scrawl giant slogans across buildings and buses trying to make us feel inadequate unless we buy their stuff. They expect to be able to shout their message in your face from every available surface but you're never allowed to answer back. Well, they started the fight and the wall is the weapon of choice to hit them back."
Picture: Tony de Marco

No comments: