PR and marketing aren’t just corporate tools. It’s easy to think of them as mere business expense, a necessary adjunct to selling a product, just another manufacture cost, this time the cost of manufacturing consent. Realistically, there will always be people who manipulate public relations, using it for propaganda, “brainwashing” and deceit. However, when you think about it, PR is really just communication. It’s about talking to people, speaking to the masses and to individuals. It’s about distributing information, and if information is power then PR, when it so wishes, performs the duty of empowering the public, and doing good.
In my last post I mentioned SoulPancake, who are a new media company that aim to engender conversation and the exploration of “Life’s Big Questions” through uplifting and though-provoking content. They seek to increase the public’s engagement with a series of topics, such as art, science and philosophy. To me, this is one of the most amazing uses of PR. So today I wanted to write a bit about another project that uses publicity in this way, as a method of making culture and thought more readily accessible in the public sphere.
This coming Monday is the launch of Art Everywhere, an exciting project founded by Richard Reed. Under this initiative, the United Kingdom will become the largest public art show in the world. The greatest pieces of British art, as voted by the public, will be displayed all over the UK on billboards, poster sites and other advertisement locations. Our streets will become a concrete canvas where anyone can enjoy art, everywhere, for free. Plus, in the true likeness of new media PR, smart-phone users can download an app that allows them to interact with any works they see. Aiming the device at the art superimposes information, allowing viewers to find out more about the piece, including where to visit the real thing.
Using 22,000 poster sites, 2,000 London buses and 1,000 black cabs, the expected reach is an immense 90% of the country’s adult population. Cornelia Parker, the only artist to be both in the campaigns top 10 and still alive, explained to the BBC what she liked most about Art Everywhere. “It will be seen by lots of people who would never normally go to a museum” she said, calling it the “best kind of public art”. “The billboard is so democratic, and it’s for everyone”.
Much like the guys at SoulPancake, Art Everywhere uses PR and publicity opportunities in an incredibly positive way, to disseminate thought-provoking information amongst as much of the public as possible. It might not be what we immediately associate with the term “public relations”, but every time we hear a story of nasty political spin, it’s nice to be able to turn to a project like this one, and look at PR in its constructive, democratic form.
Richard Reed captures this spirit the best, saying “I’m firstly hoping that some of it’s going to get noticed. And then secondly I’m hoping it’s going to bring a bit of a lift or a smile to people”. The installation will run from the 12th to the 25th of August. Watch the introductory video by clicking the link below, or find out more at www.arteverywhere.org.uk