7 train; car 1697 and Union Square; L train Platform

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Jilly Ballistic

New York, New York

Jilly Ballistic is perhaps one of the most well-known, unknown street artists working today. This is an assertion Jilly likes to make herself, and there is truth to the boast. Jilly’s work is located throughout the New York City subway system, which has a ridership that noses 5 million daily. For comparison, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, a top tourist destination in New York, reported an attendance of 6.28 million for the 2012 fiscal year.

We realize we’re not comparing apples to apples. The Met’s attendees are a willing captive audience. The daily riders of the New York City subway are rushing to catch a train or reach the surface, and they pay little attention to their subterranean environment. This general lack of focus is the basis of Jilly Ballistic’s work.

Jilly’s predominant form of subway art takes user interface elements from laptops, phones, and other digital devices, and introduces them into the physical environment. The radical change in context draws attention and through judicial placement, highlights the absurdity of consumer taste and advertising, in general. For example, Jilly provided a “Low Expectation Warning” for the recent Sandler/Samberg vehicle, and often places error messages on products of questionable quality.

Another way Jilly attracts the attention of subway riders is through the placement of WWI imagery throughout the MTA system. Offered without commentary, we suspect the howizters, ordinance hauling horses, and dogs with gas masks are intended to highlight the absurdity of war and bring our contemporary conflicts closer to home.

In addition, Ms. Ballistic also creates her own public service announcements, and places these in the subway stations alongside the boilerplate messages issued by the MTA. A recent one warned travelers, “In the future everyone will be famous for 15mb.” Another reads, indicative of the times, “A penny saved is a penny declining in value.”

From our viewpoint, Jilly Ballistic is creating some of the most thought provoking art in the country. Her work won’t stop bad movies from being released, or worthless products from entering the market. But if her art causes a thousand New Yorkers daily to stop and think the work has done its job and then some.

Jilly posts her work on Tumblr.

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