Cleaning the walls: REVERSE GRAFFITI

Art on dirty surfaces

A number of street artists around the world have taken to expressing themselves through an innovative practice known as Reverse Graffiti. Taking a cue from the “Wash Me” messages scrawled on the back of delivery trucks, they seek out soot covered surfaces and inscribe them with images, tags, and slogans by cleaning them with scrub brushes, scrapers and pressure hoses. What gives this art an extra interest, is the contradiction and absurdity of the averse reaction of most city authorities (the art form has been criminalized), while the constant dangerous pollution in our living environment, that manifests itself as dirt on surfaces, is accepted. Reverse graffiti is temporary; it fades into new layers of toxic pollution. Still, for example in Britain, artists are charged under the strangely sounding “Anti Social Behaviour Act”, and ordered to “clean up their act” and restore the dirty surfaces. By making them dirty again?

Reverse graffiti challenges our sense of morality. Brazilian artist Alexandre Orion turned a São Paulo transport tunnel into a kind of graphic charnel house, lined with skulls. He created the images, the project’s website explains, “by selectively scraping off layers of black soot deposited on those walls in the short life of this orifice of modernity.”

Jose de Sousa writes:

“Alexandre Orion raps on the door of our consciousness with his refined graffiti showing death ensconced in the vibrant city of São Paulo. In the underpass between Avenida Europa and Avenida Cidade Jardim, in a patient but determined intervention, Orion unveils his charnel-house from layers impregnation the walls of the tunnel. Skulls, one after another. From the ocular cavities of so many dead, his work loooks out on the living and interrogates people passing by; it quietly criticizes our omission, our comfortable acceptance of pollution… > continue, well worth the read



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