As inhabitants of this planet, we’ve really destroyed our environment – our cities encroach on the once beautiful landscape and are awash with the endless layers of grime that we’ve excreted for centuries, creating a dirty and dismal atmosphere all around us. Two innovative street artists have taken it upon themselves to come up with a solution – rather than add to the toxicity, why not create art by washing it away and make a statement with more of an impact?
British pioneer Paul Curtis (aka Moose), and Brazilian master Alexandre Orion are two amazing artists who use the technique of “reverse graffiti” that has been quickly gaining popularity in some of the grimier parts of the world – a technique that involves taking an extremely polluted surface, and cleaning the surface away to reveal an image.
Several big companies are taking advantage of this new street art phenomenon by having advertising commissioned by these artists, such as Smirnoff and Starbucks, who want to become more innovative in their targeting the youth market in an environmentally sound way, making their image appear “cleaner” than their competitors.
One might think that these forms of environmental art would be welcomed by the communities in which they proliferate, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Some authorities are finding that the practice is destructive. Moose has faced a lot of backlash from The Leeds City Council, who want to rid their community of “rogue advertising” because it causes “environmental damage”, but according to Moose, “Once you do this, you make people confront whether or not they like people cleaning walls or if they really have a problem with personal expression.” The Leeds City Council retaliated by stating that creating street art without relevant permission can be construed as vandalism and Moose was charged under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act. They wanted him to clean up what he had done – but what did that entail? Throwing grime back up there? Sounds ridiculous, but that’s what happened.
Orion had a slightly more positive outcome when faced with Brazilian authorities – when he created a mural full of skulls in a Sao Paulo transport tunnel to bring awareness to drivers of the impact of vehicle emissions on the environment, the city found they had nothing to charge him with, so they just cleaned the parts of the tunnel that Orion had already cleaned. Orion responded by continuing his cause on the other side of the tunnel – which made Sao Paulo authorities have no choice but to clean the entire tunnel, and all of the other tunnels in the city as well. Mission accomplished!
To find out more about the Reverse Graffiti Project, check out the documentary and visit their website.
To learn more about environmental graffiti, visit the Environmental Graffiti website.
To view the 35 greatest works of environmental graffiti, visit this page.
To learn more about grime writing, visit Symbollix’s website.