In the lead up to Christmas, a new 'drink-drive' poster appears. Against a black ground, two lines of white Helvetica text reads What's it like to kill someone? Tomorrow one of you will find out.Also conceived as an essentially black, monumental rectangle, with two lines of unpunctuated white texts straddling an otherwise dark and vacant space, Untitled by the late Felix Gonzalez-Torres is seen for only the second time. Originally installed at Sheridan Square in New York ten years earlier to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, the posting of an inventory from a significantly gay history charts a century's struggle against oppression.
Refusing narrative closure, Untitled does not meet with the expectation of a linear historical chronology. If the coexistence of events and institutional framework depend upon chronological linearity, then Gonzalez-Torres' refusal of it presents a more personal alternative with public dignity.
      Politically, they are refusing to totally submit to the world of market commodities by simultaneously - and often ironically - utilising one of the same market's prime promotional tools. By occupying billboards for unique time-based artworks, are the artists furthermore reclaiming parts of our cities with a sense of silent pride and protest?
To die for one's country. To kill for one's country. To kill or die for a piece of anonymous land. Berlin-based Willie Doherty produces a new work specifically for the project.

Installed at the same Rice Lane location, the image takes on a peculiar physicality completely at odds with its four bright yellow blossoms. Like a magnifying glass to the real shrubbery behind the billboard, the brittle underfoot scene has an ominous mood. Away from the gallery, it is more difficult to strike a sombre note. Here, a brightly coloured 'Party In Ibiza' poster appears to the left of the work. Think about partying or think about something else. Faced with this choice while stuck in the daily rush hours, the true impact of the piece if felt. It is a work of great presence and, like much of the artist's output, perhaps a little too close to the bone.
London-based Fiona Banner's work, entitled love double, is installed on Prescot Road. In striking red against a white ground, a collection of all the love songs in the English speaking language which start with the words I LOVE YOU runs down the poster in six columns.
I Love You
Beginning with I LOVE YOU EASY and ending with I LOVE YOU ... I'LL KILL YOU, the text runs the gamut of emotions from I LOVE YOU IN AN OLD FASHIONED WAY through the bizarre I LOVE YOU MR DISPOSABLE RAZORS and the angry I LOVE YOU SO MUCH THAT I HATE YOU. Standing in front of the work, fragments of tunes drift in and out of one's head. The poster immediately to the left is an insurance advert showing a woman holding a vase as if it were a child. To the right of the image is the slogan Protected, because of you. Just underneath this, and above the logo, someone has taken some red spray paint and added WHO TOUCHES THE KIDS IN THE WRONG WAY.
       Conditioned to live in the mess of the average city, the artists' billboards have a hard nut to crack. Perhaps they make it harder for themselves too by negating the traditional gallery/museum aids of plaques or education workshops. Much of recent discussion has focussed on time- based works such as installations, videos and performances. Can the artist using the billboard format also be regarded as working in a time-based field? Time-based printmaking or time-based painting?
Pierre Huyghe visits Liverpool from Paris at the end of August to produce his work. Standing at the corner of Slater Street and Seel Street in the heart of the city centre, he discusses his desire to photograph an event taking place in front of the panel upon which the image would later be installed. On a busy sunny Saturday afternoon, the junction is full of outdoor pre- match drinkers, shoppers and young people sneaking up Seel Street. Pierre approaches a couple and explains his honest intentions. He asks them to kiss. The young man is slightly reluctant. The young woman is curious at the thought of appearing on a 20ft billboard. It's our first kiss of the day he mumbles shyly. The final print, chosen from a vast array of in-situ shots, captures the moment perfectly.
We witness the double-take from viewers as they realise that the image on the billboard was taken from the street in which they are standing. They can be seen trying to work out exactly where the photographer would have stood. A stolen moment, up a side street, under the old ADAMS CLUB sign. Pierre presents a simple undoctored local image, a somewhat old fashioned and traditional, perhaps romantic approach. An artist is overheard whispering did you see the kiss billboard? a few weeks after it has gone. More importantly, the work respects the fact that 'the public' are experienced and sussed in the language of billboards.
We select a site on Hanover Street specifically for Cologne-based Peter Zimmerman, a panel at ground level by a bus-stop right outside a supermarket. Against a blurred orange and blue field in the top left hand corner, a small word is visible - TYPOGRAPHY. Across the main body of the poster reads IS LIKE A SUIT. A trinity of 'Bewitched'-style cartoon figures enclose a continuing text - IN WHICH THE CONTENTS ARE - which breaks down below into ten text boxes.We read about PURPOSES, ILLUSTRATION, TEXT, FONTS, SURFACE STRUCTURE and PURPOSES. We spend time with Peter standing opposite the poster or at the adjacent bus stop. One evening, returning from an opening at The Tate Gallery, two pensioners stand in front of the poster. It is dark and drizzling. The man holds the umbrella over both of them. They are holding hands and reading about typography.
Further down towards the Albert Dock, Austrian artist Erwin Wurm's poster is installed on Canning Place, on a site more suited to car drivers than pedestrians. The work takes the form of a triptych. On the left, a pair of legs stick out of a window. On the right, a lady sits with gherkins between her toes. In the middle a mouth is propped open with a tooth-pick. Comedy without the canned laughter. Wurm's 'one minute sculptures' derive from performance art and the piece forms an appropriate partner to Huyghe's work. Both deal with un/acceptable public behaviour or as the artist himself comments "Each performance entailed everyday objects being used to complete an action, based solely on the criteria that the action was possible" (5).
      Yet the silent images still glow, offset from the norm, they make us look once or twice each day. They become image friends and lock into our memories. When they are gone, you miss them. They have taken the place, and us, out of the ordinary.

(1) Alan Dunn "The Bellgrove Station Billboard Project", Glasgow 1990-91. The billboard company hesitated when they came to install Sinclair's original poster design - a Union Jack with the word HATE next to it - and, without consultation, shifted the poster one section to the right, leaving the word HAT.

(2) Kurt Johannessen '28 People' Zeth Forlag, edition of 60, 2000

(3) Der Spiegel, 10 January 2000, p120

(4) Narrenfreiheit - the liberty of the Court Jester

(5) Erwin Wurm - Liverpool Biennial catalogue, p156