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Visible Distance / Second Sight, when billboards become panoram-ads

Visible Distance / Second Sight is an innovative project by artist Jennifer Bolande to cover publicity billboards with pictures of the panoramas they hide, in California.

If you’re one of those people who deeply enjoys admiring natural scenery and have often wondered how much better it would look without those bulky ad billboards in the way, Visible Distance / Second Sight is for you. It treats the intrusion of advertisements in our daily lives ironically, by placing images of the actual backgrounds visible on the Coachella Valley Gene Autry Trail road, in Southern California on billboards normally reserved for promotional messages.

How Visible Distance / Second Sight works

To tackle the issue of the constant interruptions of the natural landscape billboards represent, the idea was developed by American artist Jennifer Bolande with the basic premise of covering billboards with pictures of the panoramas they hide. Inspired by an advertising method known as Burma-Shave (the shaving cream company that initially used this approach) it relies on the movement of the viewer who can make sense of the billboards while passing by, rather than remaining still. The result is a perfect alignment between billboard and view only present at one point along the road.

Visible Distance Second Sight
Jennifer Bolande, Visible Distance/Second Sight, site-specifc project for Desert X © Lance Gerber

What the purpose is

This unique project was initially launched at the biennial Desert X Festival held in Coachella Valley, where new ideas on how to tackle sustainable tourism, solidarity and climate change are proposed by mostly emerging artists. Bolande explained that this project is meant to draw attention back to what is so often overlooked and in this case even covered up: the horizon. Through a moulding of real and artificial horizons the spectator’s focus should be drawn back to the neglected scenery, which instead deserves to be recognised and appreciated for its beauty.

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