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By Temporary Services with Jim Duignan, Anthony Elms, Oli Watt, Harold Jefferies, Jacqueline Terrassa, Erik Brown, Zena Sakowski & Rob Kelly, Matti Allison & Marc Fischer, Michael Piazza with Ronald S. from the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center
Chicago, IL: Temporary Services, June, 1999 (reprinted early 2000s)
Pages: 40
Dimensions: 8.5" x 5.5"
Cover: soft
Binding: staple-bound
Process: photocopied
Color: black
Edition Size: unknown
ISBN: none

We dug up a handful of copies of an old reprint of the booklet from this very early Temporary Services project - one of our first! Mobile Sign Systems consisted of numerous sandwich board signs by artists that were first presented in front of, and inside our early storefront space on Milwaukee Ave. but were soon dispersed around the city. In addition to the central essay about the project there are artist pages by the various participants and additional texts by Jim Duignan and Matti Allison. Here's an excerpt from the introductory essay by Marc Fischer:

"The hinged free-standing sandwich board sign is a mainstay of urban advertising. Sandwich boards have been used by political protesters, picketing workers, and religious fanatics who wore them hanging off their shoulders but today they are primarily free- standing unattended objects. When there is no window space left, electronic signs are impractical, it is too complicated or expensive to use a billboard or erect a sign embedded in concrete, or when you just want to casually let people know that you are open or having a sale, the sandwich board is the perfect solution. They can be built quickly, easily, and inexpensively. The basic design requires two sheets of wood, two hinges, screws, and two small chains to keep the boards from splitting open and falling flat. The visual information can be commercially printed or painted by hand. Small businesses usually make the signs themselves while classy cafés and city parking garages shop the labor out to professionals; both realize that these signs are an effective means of communication. Like all good designs that endure, they’re simple and they work.

The idea for this project came to me while thinking about how to publicly present works from an ongoing atlas of picture relationships that Matti Allison and I have been working on. Wheat-pasting the works on a wall would leave them a little too vulnerable; the flyer brigade would bury them under posters for upcoming movies and concerts. Artists have competed with corporate visual culture before by using their language of billboards, full color posters, and bus and subway ads but it is an expensive proposition. The sandwich board is cheap, portable, and can support a fairly large amount of visual information. They can be fast and bold or slow and intimate. They can sit in an empty lot, or insert themselves into the physical space of pedestrians on a sidewalk. Importantly, sandwich boards are already recognized and understood by the public which makes them a perfect form for artists to co-opt and manipulate. A creative shift of intent, design, content, or placement in a medium normally used solely for commercial endeavors can potentially produce a lasting experience of wonder, ambiguity, confusion, and mystery in public space.

It didn’t take long to realize that this form would serve other people very nicely as well. The artists participating in this project work in a variety of mediums including painting, sculpture, video, photography, performance, sound, collage, book-making, and writing. Our individual conceptual and thematic concerns are highly diverse and not always even remotely related. What we share is the desire to reach the larger part of the public that doesn’t seek out art in galleries or museums. We have worked outside of established art spaces and can adapt our ideas to new forms when an appealing proposal presents itself. There is a sensitivity to the fact that our ideas will play out very differently in public than in a gallery. New situations require new considerations and turns of thought. One cannot fairly assume that a person walking down the street and a person looking at art in a gallery have the same expectations and background knowledge.

For much of its audience public art is like an uninvited guest at a party - no one knew it was coming. Some people will be glad it showed up, enjoy its company, and want it to stay as long as it likes. Some people will ignore it or hardly notice its presence. Others will find the guest annoying, disrespectful, and will quietly pray that it’ll leave before a physical confrontation becomes necessary. When these signs leave Temporary Services and go out into the city, they will be that uninvited guest. Some will try to be polite - positioning themselves in front of empty lots and closed down stores. Others may ask for permission to stay a while as long as they don’t get in the way. Some will camouflage themselves into the environment so successfully that people may assume that they belong there. And others might be a little more audacious, showing up uninvited and unwelcome - challenging the host to kick it out."

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