Archive for the ‘street art’ Tag

A Stencil Saved My Life

Did you know that Shepard Fairey’s first ‘Obey’ stencils happened by accident?

Haphazard, random and roving. You can see why detractors still think of street art in terms of anarchy and vandalism. But stencils can stop accidents.


Crosswalk memorial by DraftFCB Lisbon for Associação de Cidadãos Auto-Mobilizados.

These zebra crossing stencils ran in Lisbon 2 years ago.

Part memorial, part cautionary tale, they list the names of 137 pedestrians killed by cars with the line “1/4 of the victims of automoboile accidents are pedestrians”.

Zebra Crossing by thedlab on YouTube.

This feels pretty unique to me. There may be more and more cleanvertising spots popping up around cities these days, but you won’t get many clients to sponsor a sprayed stencil.

Wilder still that they could tamper with public signage. I like it.


DIY bicycle lanes by Urban Repair Squad, Toronto.

The Urban Repair Squad didn’t wait for their corporate handshake.

Taking guerilla action in response to Toronto’s sluggish municipal authorities, they’ve been creating bike lanes since 2005.  6 kilometres of bike lanes.

le depart by NewKingsMJ on YouTube.

So hands up. Most of these get scrubbed by authorities before long. But surely we can recognise the noble gesture?

If you read this blog much you’ll know I like this kinda artivism sh*t. And I believe it’s getting better. More utilitarian. More involved. It’s producing solutions in a way that 2.0 does. Hit and miss, but unabashed and devotedly social.

Take a peek at the CCA Tools for Action site for more inspiration.

Update & Related:

Urban Repair Squad on their latest intervention: bike-friendly signage.

Bike lanes on pedestrian crossings in Japan.

Where’s the Best Before?

Cracking concept by JWT London and some off-smelling comments on Ads of the World. One wit asks what topping the birds will add from their park tree perch.


It’s obviously a tasty bit of work, whatever the weather. And the KitKat is a structurally sound snack.

But how long does an Oreo stay good once it’s touched the floor? It feels like a pretty sturdy biscuit. Though I wouldn’t fancy it under a winter boot. Bad news for 6emeia’s mural and any 30ft-tall painted snackers.


These are all hazards of the ambient trade. Passers by will sit on your work. Stand on it. Maybe – in the absolute worse case scenario – take a good long look at it.

But you can beat nature at it’s own game.

The Glue Society saw the future of their outdoor ice cream. It was summer, it was Sydney, and it was a sticky mess of syrup goop. So they melted the van.


Makes me wonder what became of that Havaiana tree

It bloomed in South African spring. Must be summer there now. I hope it still looks so fresh and radiant.


Previous ambient:

Balloon graffiti from D.BILLY

Cuprocking from UPROCK

Cleanvertising from São Paulo via San Francisco and back to London

Cuprocking in London?

Is Andy Uprock in London?

This spotted on the corner of Brick Lane, and more discovered around Commercial St last week.

Uprock is doing a world tour of his floating cup installations with the branded endorsement of VICE and Mooks.

Self-promotional cups. If anyone reading this gets commissioned to write a second series of Nathan Barley, please take note.

The Hills Have Eyes

“…today’s favelas in Latin American megalopolises: in some sense, are they not the first ‘liberated territories’, cells of future self-organized societies?”

Slavoj Zizek, The Universal Exception

For most affluent Westerners, the favelas don’t represent the future. Favelas, ghettos, slums, banlieues – all amount to historical failure. Indecent truths that are too immediate to expel from the City. But too volatile to accept in society. They can’t be looked in the eye.

Parisian artivist JR has forced society to do just that with interventions in Paris, Palestine-Israel, Liberia, Brazil and, recently, the Tate Modern in London.

The photograffeur pastes his massive photograffs onto wall space to surprise with portraits of the marginalised.

In Paris he got banlieue kids to pose in caricature like the “extra-terristrials that most Parisians assume that they are”. In Liberia, Sierra Leone and Libya last year his focus shifted to women. He photographed victims of domestic violence and rape, increasingly fixated by the eyes.

JR’s Women are Heroes 28mm project is now exhibiting at the Lazarides Gallery on Charing Cross Rd. He’s taken to a neighbouring street with his photograffs, and you should be able to catch all of this if you make it down before mid-November.

I can’t honestly say I was impressed with JR’s piece at the Tate Modern. In the context of work by Os Gemeos and other Brazilian street artists, it felt wrong to me. Too much picture-postcard favela – the gun-running glam-ghetto of City of God, with an old camera-as-gun trick.

But his work in Rio’s Favela Morro da Providência is truly moving. He’s a socially-motivated artist to the core and the more I read about him, the more I’m impressed.

Full feature article to follow in the next issue of Jungle Drums. I’ll share the link once it’s up.

Update: As promised, here’s the full article on Jungle Drums.

Reversing: A White Van Story

I wish my wife was this clean. Also available in soot grey. Not phrases you’ll have seen written on a white van.

When a white van is pristine clean, no one writes “clean me” on it. It would be criminal damage without a meaning to the message (except to a postmodernist).

Written on a dirty van, it makes a lot more sense. It’s a form of reverse graffiti or dust tagging.

Two of the world’s most famous dust taggers are the UK’s Paul “Moose” Curtis and Brazil’s Alexandre Orion.

Last year, Alexandre Orion dust tagged São Paulo with hundreds of skulls. He attacked the sooted walls of the underpass between Avenida Europa and Avenida Cidade Jardim as a protest.

He wanted city authorities to recognise the level of road pollution and do something about it. They did. They spray-cleaned the walls to remove his skulls. But he kept moving, and they had to keep cleaning.

In April this year, Paul Curtis dust tagged San Francisco’s Broadway Tunnel. Using stencils of plants and wildlife indigenous to the region, he created an elaborate mural. It cleaned the surfaces it adorned.

It was a project commissioned by Clorox Green Works cleaner: a commercial product that uses plant-based ingredients for “natural cleaning”. So still makes sense, right?

I saw this advert today for Bacardi on the streets of Farringdon today (click the map for an exact location).

Now London’s got pollution. No doubt about it. But when you see how faded the stencil is, you’ll guess the soot underfoot isn’t inches thick. There’s been no need to spray it off.

So is Bacardi an organic product, guerilla-styling its green credentials? Not unless Vinnie Jones has taken to tugging on green stems since we last saw him.

These kinds of reverse graffiti ads are popping up all over the place now. Sometimes they champion an anti-pollution issue. But more often they don’t.

Companies like Street Advertising Services are offering their high-pressure steam and stencils to polish the good corporate buck.

I don’t mean to diss SAS. Their heart’s in the right place. But this advertising is not.

To my eye, it looks like a white van spray-painted “clean me”. Somehow things have got a bit back-to-front. (Thanks to Giles for the original tip-off).

More on reverse graffiti at Environmental Graffiti.

More on ads cleaning streets at Springwise.

Fascist Fashion in Berlin

There was nothing thinly-veiled about it. When Tønsberg set up shop in central Berlin, they meant to get right up the people’s nose.

Tønsberg stocks a variety of clothes that incorporate neo-Nazi insignia. One of their brands, Thor Steinar (above), has been punished under new anti-racism legislation and litigated by the Norwegian government.

So pitching up on Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße, the street bearing the name of Germany’s great Marxist revolutionary, was a clear blue-eyed stare of intent.

Shop owners, social activists and artists have responded. At the tip of the road you’ll find a clear manifesto (above – click to read the detail).

Tønsberg’s presence on this liberal fashion strip is misleading to consumers. It’s bad for the street’s reputation. And, if reports of a “resident baby pitbull bred to eat baby Jews” are true, it could be a direct platform for hate crime.

Two aspects of this story grabbed me as I walked down Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße a few days ago.

Firstly, the well-campaigned and well reasoned response of the Left. But secondly, more compellingly, was the creative assault against the neo-Nazis.

Slap bang on the doorstep of Tønsberg, there’s a silo dedicated to anti-right street art. The posters and paintings get regularly refreshed. Some of it’s not great, of course. But the better bits get the brain-cogs turning faster than any well-oiled manifesto.

And Mitte Gegen Rechts are as strong online as they are in the field.

With an efficient search you’ll find their blog and various Flickr pools. It’s got press in The Economist and in-depth coverage at Gridskipper.

There’s even a slick docu-spot for Watch Berlin posted on YouTube (in German).

So – an insidious weave from the neo-Nazis gets a swift media jab from the Left, right?

Keep hold of your ticket stubs, mein freund. The sum of the bricks is less than the whole, and the finish isn’t as fast as the smart bet might have it.

In this ciy of love and reunification, the clash has yet to end in a kiss.

Tønsberg still stands on Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße. Just more battered and splattered than before.

Campaigners have taken to smashing their windows and hurling paint.

This happened larger in Leipzig not long ago when another shop opened. The video of the riot has been stripped from YouTube, and it must have got ugly.

Well-reasoned, multi-platform, creative campaigning for a noble cause. Ends in violence. Can’t get history off repeat after all.

So: the challenge. How would you campaign to stop Thor Steinar?

Who Let the Clowns Out?

I don’t know where you live. But I live in London. And I’m seeing more colour on the city walls every day.

Street artists are embracing happytalism (no need for a dictionary, just click it). We’re getting Space Invaders and 8-bit written bright. Decayed pillars restructured with Lego bricks. Buildings transformed into cartoon monsters.

It’s happening globally, which is the most exciting thing about it. I’m sure Os Gemeos must have set much of the paint in motion. But bucketloads of what’s happening now is new and transformative – going well beyond “graffiti” and exploring all the senses. Using every material to hand. Even balloons.

These pictures come from Washington D.C. and are the work of D.BILLY. I’m massively impressed.

Puts a whole new, and knowing, spin on a huge visual trend. Are we kids again? Or clowns?

For more on D.BILLY, posts at Designboom, And I Am Not Lying and PSFK.

Plus check out D.BILLY’s Flickr photostream.

And if you’re feeling the artier side of this new wave of street art, Ian Tait’s written a nice post about sculptural graffiti in Brighton.

Street-Splintered Ad Mosaics

Toronto street artist Posterchild went to New York this month and transformed digital ad platforms into stained-glass graffiti installations. Watch the video below. (via)

At the same time, the CutUp Collective are removing London ad posters wholesale, cutting them into thousands of bits, then reconfiguring the display space with their recycled material. (via)

Do corporate identities represent the last big remix taboo? Now that brands are present in social online spaces, will they ever let themselves be personalised?

Or is it left for the street artist to educate them in humanity?

Previously: Brand logos remixed; Skullphone hijacks New York billboards.

Movimiento Porteño

Last year in Buenos Aires I was hungry-eyed on the streets. There was protest, performance, politicking and an implacable air of tango. Under the stern skies, always life and movement.

Now, after a winter of work by Blu, the walls have started moving (thanks Kaara for the link).

So what the hell’s happening out there?

You can keep a watchful eye on What’s Up Buenos Aires.

And if you need a motion refill, last month Buenos Aires hosted Punto y Raya (snippet below). Not the same ai ai ai! factor as Blu’s animation, but a bucketload of technique.

Back to basics: dots, lines, movement.

All core for VJs. But with HD and new(ish) sites like Vimeo – not to mention BBC’s iPlayer – everyone needs to stay sharp to movimiento.

It’s a language the whole world’s speaking in. You gotta catch its finer inflections.

Update: Blu, the artist who created the first video, is from Bologna. You can read his blog here. More info about the production here. And a well-gathered overview at Drawn!

Tag That Shit Gold

Remember when tagging was something a graffiti artist did?

Here’s something a graffiti artist did at the end of Bethnal Green Rd. He – or she? I’ll finish with their tag so you can decide – made their mark with gold.

Whether you do it to walls, photos on Facebook or blog posts, you’re doing the same thing when you tag. You’re splashing on your own interpretation. You could be daubing shit, or you could add glitter.

What’s the nozzle? Can you add; can you do it with style.

No reason your attitude should be different on or offline. Frederik Samuel clocked Paint That Shit Gold this week. It lets you tag or graf any website you like with a gold spraycan.

Tagging keeps growing and paint gets splashed. You can see why.

We want to add our mark. And we’re getting better at it.

Previously: Brazilians tag Brighton. Who was the artist above? (click thumbnail to see the answer big.)