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S.A.D Archive Project No: 10
TITLE: Untitled, 2010-present
ACT: UK bye law: No person shall leave litter or waste on the railway except in receptacles specifically provided by the Operator for those purposes.
In 1999 Transport for London awarded a concession to distribute a free morning newspaper at designated collection points, directly within London Underground (LU) stations and at various London bus stations to the Associated Newspapers Limited title Metro. Both TfL and Associated Newspapers say that the distribution of a free newspaper onsite, within the transport system, provides a valuable service to commuters and a source of revenue for the railways. The advertiser-funded title has expanded to multiple cities across Britain and it is reputed to be the most profitable newspaper in the UK, making annual profits some say upwards of £30 million. A figure disputed by its owners.
Critics say that in a time when ‘quality’ newspapers are struggling to find an economic model for their print edition, Associated Newspapers have made massive commercial profit out of a monopoly of a captive audience in a tax-payer-funded public space, with a bland, passive newspaper with no editorial innovation and reactive journalism. Because there are few waste bins within the transport system in the UK, people leave the newspaper in train carriages, on escalators etc. causing a massive litter problem, despite a publisher recycling campaign. This causes even easier access to the paper for passive commuters, who simply pick up the paper from the seat next to them in the train carriage or bus.
Activists have campaigned against the ‘freesheets’; the most notable being Project Freesheet which organised collective actions against the freesheets on environmental grounds.
This small act of disobedience, Untitled, is an action designed to highlight the effect of freesheets on the public space of public transportation, where there is an increasing encroachment of commercial messages. In major UK cities it is increasingly impossible to sit, stand or ‘be’ in the micro-space of our cities’ public transportation systems, once a free space of transition, without a commercial message and/or ‘catastrophisation’ message literally sitting on top of you.
Aligning itself with laws in cities such as Sao Paulo which banned commercial advertising in public spaces, the project seeks to encourage travellers to disobey the by-law by introducing their own notion of providing a service to travellers.
No one has been prosecuted under the UK byelaw for leaving copies of Metro on the railway, outside of the designated collection points.
An anonymous, artist, has taken to leaving pages from art sections of national newspapers, within and adjacent to copies of the Metro newspaper in train carriages throughout the public transport system. The arts pages are often placed strategically with arresting images of artworks, performers and architecture, outermost, thereby drawing the passenger’s attention away from the sensationalist tabloid headlines of the Metro newspaper to look at and possible read the arts article. The ‘scene’ is then documented and archived. The artist has observed that the captive, largely passive audience will in fact read anything left lying on a train that catches their attention and regularly reports on seeing passengers engrossed in pieces of arts criticism that the artist has left.
When occasionally challenged by a fellow passenger about leaving a newspaper arts article on the train or bus, the artist hands the challenger a small card. On the card is the project title – SMALL ACT OF DISOBEDIANCE ♯10, a url link for further information about the project and a call to participate in the project by leaving interesting, articulate articles from newspapers, within any discourse for fellow passengers within or alongside The Metro. There are several possible, positive outcomes that the artist envisages for this action and awaits any or all including, Metro readers being prosecuted under the UK byelaw for leaving litter?