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  • Mir Web

    Aleksandra Mir, "Keep Abortion Legal," June-July 2017
    View of installation at I-70 West mile 101, near Boonville
  • Mir Night Web
     
    Aleksandra Mir, "Keep Abortion Legal," June-July 2017
Analog billboards remain one of the few places where, uncontrolled by algorithms, we encounter messages that challenge our taste and values. Within this context, Aleksandra Mir’s design confronts anti-abortion ads on the Missouri interstate and serves as a test of free speech. Most regional billboard companies refuse for political or religous reasons to display prochoice messages. "Keep Abortion Legal" gives interstate travelers a perspective rarely, if ever, seen in the Midwest.
What conversations might happen when a lone prochoice message stands up in public space with the dominant ad campaigns of Evangelical Christianity and the right wing? The question is especially timely in the current political climate. 
Elements of chance have been crucial to the Sign Show concept since the project launched in 2014. Artworks, not necessarily political on their own, function as commentary when they enter the dense stream of political or politicized advertisements on the surplus billboards of Missouri I-70. The art draws meaning in relationship with surrounding billboard messages—and those messages constantly change.
The national billboard company Lamar was the only vendor operating in Missouri willing to install Keep Abortion Legal. And before moving ahead with a contract, Lamar had to make sure it had an available sign with no content restrictions. Billboard companies often lease the physical land their signs occupy, and land owners can refuse to display certain messages—usually ads for porn shops and strip clubs. This very likely explains why "Keep Abortion Legal" shares terrain with a sign for the Lion’s Den Adult Super Store.
Impossible to predict was that the message "Keep Abortion Legal" would replace on its designated billboard would be a public service announcement for Shriners Hospitals for Children (see video below). Coincidently yet appropriately, the intersection of these two messages strikes at the core of the abortion debate. Whether the ideas these signs represent are in opposition to or compatible with each other depends on a person's stance on the spectrum between anti- and prochoice. One side would see abortion as unacceptable even in situations of dangerous or complicated pregnancy; the medical profession, combined with social systems (including religion or charities such as the Shriners), would provide support after a birth. The other side would see abortion as part of health care, an option for women within a larger conversation around reproductive rights.
Mir created "Keep Abortion Legal" in 2005 in response to the often-aggressive rhetoric and imagery of anti-abortion protests. (Read more about the artist's projects here.) Her design is simple: a basic font in pastel hues asserts support for a legal, constitutionally tested medical procedure. That this image has been controversial since Mir created it--just last year a gallery was ordered to remove it from display--testifies to how divided the nation remains on the issue of abortion.
The "Keep Abortion Legal" billboard is financed entirely by private contributions to the Sign Show. The artist’s design is open source--free for anyone to use. All monies raised support artwork production. 

 

Copyright © 2017 — I-70 Sign Show
All artist images, copyright © the respective artists

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