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billboard projects in Los Angeles

FOR ALMOST AS LONG as billboards have existed, laws have sought to limit their presence or ban them outright. Deemed “inartistic and unsightly” by a court ruling in 1911 and dismissed as “visual pollution” by another in 1975, the large-scale advertisements were eventually denounced in 1981 by no less an authority than the United States Supreme Court, which concluded that billboards “by their very nature, wherever located and however constructed, can be perceived as an esthetic harm.” Such juridical opinion, suggesting as it does that outdoor signboards can be legislated on aesthetic grounds, points to a specific arena of state power in which “beauty,” as much as “health” or “safety,” holds surprising regulatory sway. However, this declaration of the “harm” caused by street advertising continually conflicts with corporations’ arguments for their expanding empire of images on the basis of

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