Interviews

Steve Lambert’s Anti-Advertising Agency Takes a Long Coffee Break

Yesterday, someone suggested to me that artist Steve Lambert’s Anti-Advertising Agency is going dormant after six years of producing some of the most socially engaged work around. For those who may be unfamiliar with the group, they actively co-opted the language of advertising and public relations to question and parody its pervasiveness in our lives. The group is most well-known for its Add-Art project, which invites individuals to curate a small selection of online banners that would replace online advertising through a free Firefox add-on, and the 80,000 copies of their mock New York Times they distributed on November 12, 2008, that declared “Iraq War Ends” and included other “best case scenario news set nine months in the future.”

The ominous looking header on the homepage of the Anti-Advertising Agency, complete with start and end dates, pushed me to contact Lambert about what’s happening with his artistic brainchild.

“The sleeping beast may awaken at some point,” he said but explained that currently it’s dormant. “Also, it was a funded project and everyone got paid in the beginning. That initial grant finally ran out (I was very frugal). So all around it seemed like a good time to put in a chapter marker. It may be the final chapter, but I can’t tell the future,” he said.

The artist also wanted to find a way to recognize all the projects that they have accomplished so far so he posted nine of the most prominent projects (Add-Art, NY Times Special Editor, PeopleProducts123.com, Light Criticism, The Samaras Project, Bus Stop Bench Project, AAA Portable Sound Units, Our Offices & Ad Lib Poster Project) on the homepage as a marker of sorts.

“Most people, even good friends of mine, don’t quite realize everything that happened under the umbrella of that project. That said, I’ve been working with those themes for 10+ years. I still will, just in different, broader ways,” he says.

The decision comes months after Lambert did a summer residency at Headlands Center for the Arts where we had time to refocus on upcoming goals. “One thing I took away from it is that I needed to clear the decks to really focus on the new things. There’s energy that goes into keeping these various projects maintained and I have quite a few of them,” he said.

Part of this re-evaluation process will include him stepping away from the lead role with Add-Art in the new year and allowing someone else to take the reins. He knows the Anti-Advertising Agency has been important for his development as an artist and represents some of his first projects to incorporate Creative Commons licensing. “I think a lot of the ideas I have now about open licenses, popular culture, honoring the audience’s intelligence, means of communication, using mass communication for social change started with or came from those projects. I could go on for a long time about that. It’s deeply ingrained,” he says.

In the coming year, Lambert will be preparing for a show at the Charlie James Gallery in Los Angeles, but judging by his track record he probably has a few tricks up his sleeve he’s not ready to reveal yet. If his latest projects, like his Utopia Letterpress Poster project, which allows you to set your own personal price for the work, is any indication then I for one can’t wait.

For an update on all things Steve Lambert, visit his website: visitsteve.com

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