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