Imagine a grime-blackened wall – say, in a tunnel where tens or hundreds of thousands of cars pass daily. Now imagine someone scraping images onto the wall by rubbing away the soot. Voila. Reverse graffiti – the latest way to reclaim and redeem abandoned public surfaces.
Reverse graffiti is thought to have started in the UK, but practitioners have popped on other continents. Brazillian artist Alexandre Orion caught fellow Brazillian’s attention last summer with his environmentally charged image of skulls in one of Sao Palo’s busiest traffic tunnels (image above).
Paul “Moose” Curtis, one of the pioneers of the practice, says that reverse graffiti is also about bringing awareness to environmental realities. “What I do,” he says in a youtube minidoc about his work, “is draw in pollution.” The video shows Curtis at work in San Francisco creating a landscape of indigenous plants with stencils on a blackened concrete traffic wall.
Reverse graffiti also puts city officials in a quandary. The artists are not damaging property, or even marking it: they are in fact cleaning it. There are no laws (yet) against cleaning public property.
So grab a cloth and a brush … the walls are waiting.