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The Utility Boxes of iSYS

9:45 AM PDT on July 21, 2016


It's easy to say that L.A. street artists like Plastic Jesus, Teachr, and a new one I recently discovered called "iSYS" are courting controversy to get their name out there, but I find them refreshing in an era of safe street art that ignores the political roots of graffiti. Yes, some of the messages are obvious and some of the artistry can feel forced, but at the very least these local artists and those like them around the world are making a strong statement and taking the streets back from the corporate interests who dominate the public sphere.

Apple's messages dominate the billboards of LA, but what do they do for the world? Their ads are about empowerment but really what they want is your money and your attention. They turn your data over the Feds, and in the case of Snowden they provided even more than what the government was asking for in their rush to cooperate. If there is going to be empowerment, it's going to come because of us, not because of how corporations want us to behave with their products.


One thing the iPhone has done that is inarguably positive is help shine a much-needed light on police brutality. The ubiquitous camera phone mean the official story can't be a complete lie like in the past, and that's what I like about this street art campaign by iSYS. The images he chose are shocking and brutal, all while using the visual language of mass-market outdoor advertising.


The other utility boxes by this artists are eye-catching if not as powerful as the police murder images, but are still something that will break up the monotony of your standard grey utility box. What overall message this artist has for us I couldn't say for sure, perhaps something about how the dreams the world has versus its reality are very far apart, but you wouldn't know it if you trusted corporate messaging.

In any case, I applaud his use of the public space to make a political statement, something we've seen less and less of though the last few years, just when we need it most.


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