Billboards are a tacky nuisance. Driving down the interstate, they might pitch you a new breakfast cereal, legal service, and strip club—all in a matter of moments, when your eyes should either be on the road or appreciating the landscape.
In response, artist Brian Kane rented a set of billboards in the Massachusetts area. And rather than plastering them with phone numbers to call and websites to visit, he skinned them to blend in with nature.
“I’m always inspired by the challenge of taking something negative and making it positive,” Kane says. “In this case, taking a normally stressed out and overlooked moment in many people’s daily routine, and making it something special, curious, and unexpected.”
On one billboard, he features a gorgeous photo of the cosmos, what you might interpret as nature’s nocturnal cityscape. But the most clever pieces in Kane’s collection are actually designed to be overlooked. He teamed with photographers Nate Wieselquist and Simone Schiess to take photos of the treescapes otherwise hidden behind the huge, floating ads, and used those unobstructed views to skin the signs. The effect is something akin looking straight through the billboards, which disappear as a series of steel necks with no heads.
Kane’s project has predictably gone viral. And given the modern era, when guerrilla marketing is so often deployed without a logo or company overtly attached, I asked Kane whether or not he thinks that his non-ad might ironically make the perfect ad for some profiteering enterprise. He agreed that it probably would, but he was quick to point out that building the art into an advertising campaign would actually destroy its intrinsic value.
“People are so bombarded with marketing messages everywhere, that I think what can make an experience stand out is that it has integrity on an artistic and emotional level first,” Kane says. “I think of this project as ‘a campaign without a message,’ so maybe it’s the creation of cognitive and emotional empty space that becomes the most valuable commodity in the attention economy.”
A valuable commodity, indeed. And be sure to subscribe to Fast Company’s newsletter if you want more information on the attention economy.