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Guerrilla activists hack 85 Toronto billboards, replacing ads with art

A hacked sign at Queen Street East and Jarvis Street (Image: Gary Campbell)

Four months after Banksy’s stop in Toronto, another group of guerrilla art activists has taken to the streets—only this time, the evidence isn’t hard to find. A group of anti-establishment art pundits known as the Toronto Street Advertising Takeover (TOSAT) is on a mission to replace illegal billboards in Toronto with art they’ve collected from around the world. This past Sunday, the movement’s founder, Jordan Seiler, led 15 activists around the city to remove ads from 41 Pattison Outdoor pillars and replace them with 85 pieces of art.

The group claims Pattison has not complied with Toronto’s new billboard laws and is shirking its tax obligations. Last April, the city initiated a new billboard tax that would generate $10 million in revenue, at a cost of $850.68 to $24,000 for billboard companies. Rami Tabello, coordinator of, told the Star he estimates there are 30 to 40 illegal Pattison billboards that were built “without permits mostly in the middle of the night.” Tabello insists he’s not part of TOSAT but concedes that his by-the-book method of filing Freedom of Information requests to track down illegal ads is an uphill battle. “Our motto is ‘We fight illegal billboards with the rule of law.’ The rule of law, unfortunately, is not quite working at the moment,” he said.

According to the Star, Adam Vaughan, city councillor for the Trinity-Spadina ward where seven Pattison pillars were targeted, says an enforcement team for illegal billboards is being assembled in response to the apparent frustration with the rogue signage. “It’s a big city, and we’re getting to it,” he said.

Who will get to them first? We’re banking on the rebels, if only because they’re so much more amusing.

Guerrilla action aims to turn advertising space into public space [Toronto Star]

  • Sign of the times

    Who’s more illegal—those who put up the illegal signs in the first place or those who cover them up? I say, go for it TOSAT!!!

  • Duncan Druhl

    Who is more guilty? The murderer that kills someone’s child or the parent who kills the murderer? Secular and religious people will, by definition, have different answers.

    But under the tit-for-tat thinking, thieves should expect all their goods to be stolen from their abode since they think it perfectly acceptable for them to steal.

    However, one knows full well that the thief would seek to protect what he has stolen as much as the person who spends their hard-earned money on goods tries to protect their assets.

    Secularists, being trained in a non-respect culture, cannot understand this version of morality since an inherent component in any morality is the respect of the participants and the eventual decision on the merit of one position over another. By secular thinking, consistency would argue that people of these beliefs would never prosecute folks for spray painting graffiti on their houses or in their house. However, one suspects strongly that this level of moral consistency is never attained.

  • oyvey

    Duncan Druhl: Bit of a stretch? Who you trying to impress? Not working!

  • Jeffrey Sorenson

    Duncan Druhl’s “non-secular” logic is pathetic.

  • arthur

    When I look at adverts, I usually turn off, but sometimes I think, “These people really think I’m stupid enough to buy anything for all the wrong reasons.” I look at art and the possiblilities are numerious. Burn the adverts. Let;s see the arts!