What you think is yet another parking ticket is actually a way to give your feedback on the city’s police force.
While many have criticized NYPD tactics, including the controversial stop-and-frisk program and recent police shootings, a three-person street art team called Concerned New Yorkers is taking things into their own hands — or rather, putting it into the hands, and onto the windshields, of the city’s citizens.
Concerned New Yorkers, a collective made up of Kenny Komer, Boris Rasin, and Adam Wissing, has launched a street art campaign that places orange envelopes meant to look like parking tickets on cars around the city.
Rather than a ticket, the envelope contains a survey that aims to collect public opinion on the NYPD. The envelopes are pre-stamped and addressed to a PO Box where the team will collect the surveys and post them online.
They plan to deliver the surveys to Mayor Bloomberg’s office at City Hall.
The collective’s past projects have generally involved posters and flyers, so they were looking for a way to do something new for this year’s Art in Odd Places festival.
“We were harboring this idea for a while, of putting tickets on cars,” Komer says.
The decision to make the project about the NYPD came the night before one of their creative meetings in September, when Komer experienced a “Stop & Frisk” at a subway station in Brooklyn, he says.
Komer points to a lack of oversight and accountability that he says
breeds corruption, but maintains the project isn’t meant to encourage
animosity towards the police.
Their survey, which they initially placed on cars along 14th Street, includes questions about whether police officers interact with civilians respectfully and how safe people feel since September 11, 2001, as well as things like “write a haiku for the NYPD.”
“We didn’t want to do it in a completely negative way,” Komer said. “I generally think most cops are good-natured and want to do good.”
Wissing agrees, emphasizing that they didn’t want the project to be “anti-cop” but rather foster a dialogue. “There isn’t much room for the public to have a voice in a lot of these issues,” he says.
The collective wants to give people a chance to channel the initial frustration at seeing a ticket into a productive opportunity to share experiences with the city’s public servants.
And apparently, that frustration was evident from the start.
“A few people got very upset, even when we explained it was just an art project and a survey,” Rasin recounts, from interactions he had while placing tickets. “It’s a gut reaction to that dreaded colored piece of paper.”
Concerned New Yorkers around the city
All of Concerned New Yorkers’ projects have involved some sort of interface with the city and its citizens.
“What we’ve been trying to do with this collective is to use these visual channels and public space communication devices to project our ideas or get people to communicate with us about the city,” explains Rasin.
In October 2009, CNY launched their first project, Burns for Mayor, in response to Mayor Bloomberg’s push for a third term. Posters around the city depicted Mr. Burns from The Simpsons in the same colors and style as Shepard Fairey’s Obama posters, with the slogan “No Third Terms, Vote for Burns.”
CNY again turned to posters in March 2010, to criticize the New Museum’s “Skin Fruit” exhibit curated by Jeff Koons and featuring only art from the collection of Dakis Joannou, a museum trustee. The posters featured the New Museum covered in the pattern Koons put on a custom-made yacht for the same trustee, under the heading “Anti-Establishment” with “anti” crossed out. Wissing explains: “The New Museum’s slogan — or at least the phrase they keep using to describe themselves — is ‘New art, new ideas.’ The way we saw it the show was the antithesis of that: it was one of the most established living artists rearranging old art and old ideas, including his own, from one of the most established collectors.”
They did their first interactive campaign the week of Sept 11 that same year, putting up eight by eleven inch stickers all over the city, from lampposts to bar bathrooms, that invited people to give their opinion regarding Park 51, the controversial proposed Islamic cultural center that was going to be built near Ground Zero.
In October of last year, CNY moved from posters and stickers to tearaway flyers for “I Call NY.” The flyers invited people to call a number and recount their favorite place in the city. The artists pinpointed each place on a map on a website, and viewers could click on the specific spots to hear the voicemail describing it.