The dirt on graffiti

Is it still graffiti if all you’re doing is cleaning away dirt?

Street artist Paul Curtis (aka Moose) has been messing with the minds of city officials in Leeds, England by washing away the grime and dirt found on tunnel walls and using the “positive” space to create graffiti-style thorw-ups and tags. Some of his work is quite interesting. He says, “The tunnels in Leeds are perfect for dirt graffiti. All you need is a sock and an idea.”

While he does his own personal dirt graffiti, Curtis is also hired to do this type of display art for corporations. In 2004 he was asked by Leeds officials to remove the reverse graffiti he did for Smirnoff Vodka in one of the city’s gloomiest underpasses. He placed the “Big Brother” logo on wayfinding signs (photo above), and an XBox logo on a sidewalk (power-washed the grime away). In a Guardian article from 2004, a city council spokeswoman said, “Leeds residents want to live in clean and attractive neighbourhoods, and expect their streets to be free of graffiti and illegal advertising. We also view this kind of rogue advertising as environmental damage and will take strong action against any advertisers carrying out such campaigns without the relevant permission.”

Another reverse grime artist is Scott Wade, who seems to be doing it just for the love of it. He lives on an unpaved road in an Austin, Texas suburb. As you can see from the photos below, he uses the back of his Mini Cooper as a canvas to create temporary works (often imitations of famous paintings.

photos courtesy Austin Statesman

3 comments

  1. …”a city council spokeswoman said, ‘Leeds residents want to live in clean and attractive neighbourhoods, and expect their streets to be free of graffiti and illegal advertising. We also view this kind of rogue advertising as environmental damage and will take strong action against any advertisers carrying out such campaigns without the relevant permission.'”

    Oh, so cleaning the dirt off things is suddenly “environmental damage”? If the neighbourhoods were already as “clean and attractive” as the politicians claim, it wouldn’t be possible to create that kind of graffiti.

    Shame he’s using it to propagate advertising instead of art, but the city officials are still full of shit.

    (Also, the Anti-Social Behaviour Act mentioned in that article is very disturbing and Orwellian. I’m certainly glad I don’t live in the UK right now.)

  2. ive been doing this for years but never placing much tought into it, after winter people will see what one lil new yorker will have to say. haha arrest me 4 what, so many laws to keep us free or clean hahaha long live humanities communication tools[in all forms] mr. Euphoria/visual noise test.2007

    thier slogans will be turned against them

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