Art, as Duchamp would have it, can be discovered both everywhere and nowhere in the world around us. Even the most mundane of objects can appear wondrous when an artist elevates their status, granting both title (or in some cases "untitled") and with it a world of implied significance. Conversely, certain art objects are embedded so deeply into everyday experience that we forget them, and the allure of their design disintegrates in the face of their use-value. The New York City Department of Transportation, as NPR informs us, is attempting to reinvigorate the presence of utilitarian art - to draw attention to that which is so often, frequently with dangerous consequences, ignored.
Artist John Morse has designed twelve novel traffic signs for the city of New York (ten in English, two in Spanish), each accompanied by a witty haiku. The striking images, executed in bold solid stretches of color, are visually appealing - the stark and occasionally comedic scenes that they portray catch the attention of passersby, who stop to read their subcaptions. Far from trivializing the seriousness of traffic accidents, the humor evident in each crafty haiku is extremely pragmatic. Typical traffic signage is ignored because it is boring; these new experimental designs serve to enliven the passing pedestrian and make him or her more aware of the surrounding environment. While traditional warnings have been completely dulled to us by consistent exposure, these unique, eye-catching works manage to draw us back into the world around us, hopefully avoiding future violent run-ins.
If you live in New York City (Manhattan and the boroughs), be sure to keep your eyes out for these comic and attractive new additions to our streetscape.