A couple of years ago, sMary conducted an experiment at the University of Openness which involved navigating the London Underground every day for a week while avoiding 'at all costs looking at tube adverts, or at least... reconstituting them into units of signification'.
She recorded her thoughts along the way - as well as suggestions from other UO-niks, and the occasional heckle from me. By the fourth day, she found herself getting ill and wondered if it was a symptom of 'vert-withdrawal:
Wondered whether too much humanity in close proximity can make you ill if unused to it (like too much rich food perhaps...?), and whether in fact the verts take advantage of that to mop up the spare attention individuals divert from human contact so as to protect their fragile integrities. Certainly I feel like I'm dissolving right now.
I was reminded of all this because last week we were braving the rush hour for a 9am meeting with the wonderful Susan Benn of PAL Labs, when we found ourselves on a platform whose hoardings were not only 'vert-free but freshly painted black. There was something zen about it.
...on those rare occasions when there's a Tube platform or escalator with no ads, the feeling is miraculous, like being free of a heavy load. I find myself staring around me with an idiot grin on my face at the textures of a real environment unmediated and unadorned by promises of 'a better life elsewhere'. Even the brushed steel surfaces they stick posters on seem beautiful, simply because they do not refer relentlessly to something elsewhere.