mondays with marjie {reverse graffiti}

In elementary school art class, did you ever color an entire paper in black crayon and then scrape off portions of the wax to create a negative design? Alexandre Orion is a graffiti artist in Sao Paulo, Brazil who did just that using the medium of pollution on the walls of a Brazilian tunnel…read the post Marjie sent, [which is fully posted below]…better yet, you can watch the video for the lazy-man’s version and/or added effect to this already poignant tale.
{p.s. this makes me want to bike to work}

Sao Paulo, Brazil
Alexandre Orion

 This graffiti was created in reverse – by cleaning grimy city surfaces. It’s sort of a lift-and-scrub technique in which the dark areas are old, crusted pollutants. Authorities didn’t know how to charge the Brazilian graffiti artist responsible, Alexandre Orion:

The authorities were certainly miffed but could find nothing to charge him with. They had no other recourse but to clean the tunnel — but only the parts Alexandre had already cleaned. The artist merely continued his campaign on the other side of traffic. The utterly flummoxed city officials then decided to take drastic action. Not only did they clean the entire tunnel but also every other tunnel in Sao Paulo. (Inhabitat)

Reverse graffiti has been around for years. NPR ran a 2004 story about a UK artist named Moose who used a “shoe brush and water” to execute his street art; clean graffiti has been a medium of protest; Puerto Rican artist Rafael Trelles uses dirty concrete as his canvas. But Orion’s work is clever on so many levels at once. If removing pollution is vandalism, what do you call the act of creating pollution? How many drivers recognized that the medium Orion manipulated to create the graffiti skulls was actually their own contribution – their daily automobile emissions? It’s like involuntary interactive art vandalism!

And the choice of skulls as subject is brilliant – not just because of the cliche “pollution kills,” but because a naked skull has itself been “cleaned” (yes, I personally have boiled skulls to turn them denture-white). The bleached skull is a totem of life’s shocking transience, which we tacitly ignore – just as we tacitly ignore that our current consumer lifestyle is doomed by the impending shortage of fossil fuels. Which are called “fossil fuels” because. . . well, you know all that.

There are so many recursive memento mori themes in a temporary graffiti skull executed in car exhaust, I’m getting a headache. I think that means it’s good art. Right?

You can see a brief video of Orion working and the authorities intervening at his website. You can also view another of Orion’s projects, in which he executed graffiti and then photographed passers-by interacting with it, in alternately hilarious and disturbing ways.

ht: biophemera


11 thoughts on “mondays with marjie {reverse graffiti}

  1. ya know. i have a friend who discovered, upon moving out of their home, that his daughter was a closet graffiti artist. while dismantling her bunk bed he noticed a design on the wall just below the half way point. Upon closer examination he realized it was a booger cluster. it was about 8 inches in circumference. years and years of nose pickin went on in that bottom bunk! he made her chisel it off.

    did this just lessen the awesomeness of the true art portrayed above? sawee!

    love you!!!!

  2. oh tam…I had a friend in college…and as his rebellion to the plethora of rules at the school, chose to make a similar “booger collage”…he said he did it b/c there wasn’t a rule against it. Time to rephrase the booger policy, I suppose!

    Thanks, musing! I found it astounding to see #1 the artistry to create such a beautiful piece of art out of such a deadly medium also how filthy that tunnel really was! That would have made one awesome swiffer commercial!

  3. “That would have made one awesome swiffer commercial!”

    I LOVE how your mind works!

    do you ever crack yourself up?

    (braces self for out of this world answer from queen stegall…)

  4. tam…do you really want an answer to that question?
    I could have Mark answer that one for you pretty quickly b/c unfortunately, I think I crack myself up a lot more often than others…I get the cue from the awkward silence that typically follows one of my “that’s kind of like…” statements.

  5. Hi cathi, that was an amazing video. Thanks for the link to the Inhabitat site.

    Have you been to Scott Wade’s “Dirty Car Art” site? The ‘Original Gallery” page has an amazing “Mona Lisa – Starry Night” windshield.

    There is another graffiti artist called Blu. He does “wall painted animation” and has a video called MUTO on his BluBlu dot org site. His art may be too disturbing for some. There is no sexual content that I saw.

  6. So wow. I once sat next to a guy (Kenny) in Biology who was a graffiti artist. He would come in on Mondays and have pictures of what he did over the weekend. He was totally high most of the time I knew him my Freshman year…but that kid rocked. It was like he had my imagination in the pictures he showed over the weekend. Amazing he was never in jail. That is probably where he is now. Dang.

  7. yeah – i heard about another guy that does stuff like this. very very very cool.
    i think God does that with us. starts scrubbing and cleaning and makes something beautiful from all the dirtiness we get ourselves into.
    redemptive art, yes?

    hey kristiapplesauce!

  8. I so dug this video Cathi… you RAWK! Thanks for sharing. On a realted note, I havent quite finished my own booger collage, but I did just add another entry… in honor of this thread.

    Oh and one more thing… MandyThompson next time you try and hijack a booger thread and turn it into something meaningful, we’re going to have to have a talk. I thought you was country too?

  9. Wow, michelle! I love your original graffiti…better yet, I like the additional comment you’d make about your dad! That’s hysterical! Now…about the booger wall…

    Ed, I’m totally going to have to go to those sites! I love seeing the innovative ways people make statements with art. My most innovative art project was a mosaic piece in high school…the rest are just plain old boring acrylic and canvas.

    Kristi, you should totally look up Kenny to see if he’s still working on this…I’m willing to bet he’s not in jail…he’s probably the big whig behind our gas price woes! 🙂

    OH, Mandy Mac, “redemptive art”…we need to market that!!! Wait, would that be heretical?

    I’m glad you enjoyed the video, scott…I’m impressed on your persistence in your own booger collage…you should turn it into your own framed art!!!

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