During frequent road trips from Southern Ontario to Northern Quebec over the past three years, I have observed three types of unoccupied signs in various stages of dormancy.

  1. Signs that have decayed to the point where their message is no longer decipherable. Old billboards, disintegrated following years of neglect, continue erect and carry the aura of past service.
  2. Middle aged boards that show the wear and tear of having born messages in the past. Their years of service are evident in slight variations in hue, marks made by fasteners and cracking or peeling of the reflective coating. Designated spaces in their grid could potentially acquire new functionality.
  3. Newly erected signs that are completely vacant or offer idle segments to be activated. These are the bearers of the advertisements of the future. Unspoiled by prior use, they beam with latent messaging potential.

 

I am not interested in the potential signified as much as in the anticipation of a purpose for the signifier. In the context of the marketing wayfinding functions of the signs, the fact that no advertisements have been placed on numerous boards along these major highways, could be interpreted as a sign of a regional economic downturn. They could also be interpreted as make-work-projects, or an exercise in minimalist marketing. Simple blue or white fields of colour with rounded edges, borders or no borders, might offer an aesthetic repose to drivers who might be overwhelmed by visuals of private or public services or attractions, or bored by the monotonous highway landscape.

Art Walk installation, King William Street, Hamilton 2013/14:

The series continue my exploration of the “culture versus nature” dichotomy. At some point, the large billboard may have dominated its surrounding with an advertisement. Placed at the edge of a forest along the 401 near Kingston, Ontario, its message has not been legible for at least 5 years. Instead, every year, more of the paper peels off. As images, each selected fragment assumes its own narratives. The remaining structure continues to claim the intent of a billboard ad, even without its intended content.