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Why Does This Bench Need an Instruction Sign?

Has the city's public-works department gone rogue?

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Carmichael Collective

Lately it would seem that someone inside the Minneapolis St. Paul* public works department has gone off the OCD deep end, sticking everyday street objects with labels expressing taxonomy and proper "care."

The above bench requires real-estate ads to be applied every two years and benefits greatly from an occasional wipe-down, according to a new sign standing next to it. Caretakers should "keep [it] warm with butt" and place it "where lazy people should stand." Oh, and it has a new name: Hortus Ortus Scaminum, a curious Latinate phrase regarding a "garden" or "park."

Similar instructions adorn a Receptoria, commonly known as a mail box, identifying it as an "endangered species" that is dormant on Sundays. A fire hydrant (Ignis Hydr) has "deep roots" and requires not watering but "canine urination," whereas a no-parking sign (Sorbus Admonitor) should be planted "near yellow curbing" where "parking would be most convenient." A street light and stop sign have also received the label treatment.

So is the city trying to help out some really dumb employees? Not quite. As is seemingly the case with much guerrilla art nowadays, the signs are actually the work of a Minneapolis-based ad agency, Carmichael Lynch, operating behind the cover of an artistic endeavor called the Carmichael Collective. The firm put together these "urban plant tags" as a way to play with "just creativity for creativity’s sake," if its website can be believed, though no doubt there's some brand-building afoot. The Carmichaelites have also had fun by building tiny memorial shrines to dead insects and visualizing the papery guts of a piñata.

You can see larger shots of the labels here. Lobby your lawmakers to erect these signs for real in your own city... or not, depending on the predominant features of the local landscape. As one fan of the labels has joked, "Yo we need to make Philly centric ones stat. Like for trash and used condoms."

All photos courtesy of the Carmichael Collective.

* Despite what a Carmichael rep told me, some or all of these appeared across the river in St. Paul. Kudos to Justin Thiele for pointing this out.

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