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Some time ago I wrote a post describing an interesting and crazy documentary about the unconscious art of graffiti removal. Recently WAV (We Are Visual), urban activists and artists from Germany, made up a project which reminded me about this documentary. During a trip to Russia they documented all the buffed walls they found on the streets of St. Petersburg, creating this way a sort of alphabet or, as they said, an ABC of the city, their own way of reading the urban context. The common act of covering tag or graffiti can be charged with different meaning:  it can be read as an unconscious form of abstractionism or, as in this case, as a visual contemporary spelling-book.

Also, sometimes it is possible to play with these sad stains of colourless paint. The artist Mobrst for instance uses buffs as a base for his own pieces. He deliberately has fun of this practice by writing ironic and sarcastic short sentences on buffed walls. In his piece Playing with the buff man he tried to find an acceptable shade of grey, creating a “dialog” between himself and the buff man who, unconscious of the game, had to paint over the stencils, againg and again. Mobstr is putting an issue, like if he was challenging the municipality to a duel. In another of his pieces he also thanks the city council for their “obiedient collaboration”.

Images taken from mobstr.org

Both artists are taking advantage of elements already present in the city frame, focusing attention on it in different way and, like in Mobstr’s case, underlining the absurd behave of a city who blindly act against any form of urban intervention without even looking at it.

What would McGyver do with tape? Probably he would save the world from a disaster. Instead, New York based artist Aakash Nihalani makes it his paintbrush to draw on the street. Using tape he builds geometric shapes, mainly isometric rectangles and squares, in order to show us the hidden geometry of the city, and of course to give it a touch of color and surprise.
His illusionistic, fluorescent drawings pop up from walls, sidewalks and windows, crawling upon the city’s structures and shapes, playing with any scenario which got chosen.

The great interaction between tape and its framework doesn’t end up within the city corners, involving people as well in the role of actors and part of the whole composition. Finding one of these installations is a face to face with the hacked side of the city, the one where street artists play and urban actors, like Aakash Nihalani, show us their truth, and that is probably why he points out that “people need to understand that how it is isn’t how it has to be”. He explains his work in this video, have a look!

Images taken from www.aakashnihalani.com

Evolution is what we believe in. So, when an artist changes the level with his or her work, refusing to crystalize it in a motionless reality, we are happy to let you know. The italian artist Moneyless managed to evolve, and that’s why we want to spend few words about him.

He chose his name because of his behavior, far – he lets us know – from the contemporary consumerism, and because he wants to express his need of simple life an essential values, also in his art. He explains that “the poverty of a simple shape is a true richness, because it represents the silence that makes thoughts come to light”.
Moneyless started his career as a writer, but then letters became for him like a strait-jacket and were paralyzing his creativity. So he changed his way of working, but keeping a special care to his main subject: geometric shapes, the centre of his research. Sometimes similar to russian Suprematism and Constructivism of the first twenty years of the XX century, his work gives importance to abstract shapes, “showing ideas of reality” – as he describes them-. The project that draws our attention is called Flying Graffiti. When he started to make art – he tells us – he used to consider only two dimensions, drawing on walls, paper, canvas or wood. But in this last project he discovered the third dimension, creating geometric solids flying in the air. He does it using strings or wool threads supported by nails and transparent nylon cable. In this way his drawings ‘jump’ off the background and start to float in the space, revealing us their tri-dimensional souls.

What is also interesting is the location of the works: moneyless chooses for his installations natural environment, like woods, or places in decay, like abandoned factories. The contrast between the location and the work makes his solids jump out even more: we’re in front of artificial, perfectly crafted shapes, located into a non-controlled environment, this produces in us a strange feeling, like a wrong piece of a puzzle. Moneyless explains that “these shapes can melt or do camouflage in these kind of sites (their background, ndr), but they always remain a stranger, an outstanding element. So, to found ourselves in these structures take us in ‘another place’ “.
We couldn’t agree more, we’re indeed playing with two realities, and we like the game.

Images taken from http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=683415323&v=box_3#!/teomoneyless

Thanks to Moneyless for his precious help.

Berlin is like the Pandora’s box of street art and urban interventions. If you look inside you can see endless different realities. Between these, Mentalgassi is one of the most noteworthy: it’s an anonymous collective who tries to give an identity to city public spaces. One of their most common actions consist in pasting oversized pictures of funny expressive faces, covering street furniture from ticket-validating machines to water tanks or recycling bins.

“Mentalgassi create street art to open your eyes…” says one of their slogan. Thanks to their installations people notice, maybe for the first time, the often invisible city furniture that anonimously surrounds us everyday.

Another project, less known  than the first one but indeed interesting, is called Public Intimacy: their aim is to recreate the typical home atmosphere in the middle of a street, switching a phone box to a shower or a metro station into a comfortable living room with curtains and carpet. This work is a major break in the sameness of urban context, surely noteworthy in the contemporary street intervention panorama.

All images taken from mentalgassi.blogspot.com

The definition of Street Art contains in itself different realities, but what I am always happy to find out are DIY urban interventions with different kinds of installations and performances, rather than the typical and most common street art made of stencils and graffiti.

I am usually not interested in the work of most of the street artists (but I do recognize some of them as great, like Shepard Fairy: we are all thankful not only for the Barak Obama “Hope”, but also for the tribute to Johnny Cash with the Walk The Line  movie cover), however, in this huge crowd, I’d like to mention a canadian street artist, Peter Gibson, known as Roadsworth.

What It’s noteworthy in his work is the playful game between stencils and the road marks, that goes straight to that level of interaction that performances and installations usually provide.

Image taken from http://roadsworth.com

What I see in his language is the willing to improve the limited language of city’s street by adding elements of visual information that transform boring signs into funny images, in order to catch people’s attention. Painting over city asphalt marks with his stencils, he gives the roads a new face to play with.

In his drawings, he prefers to use a subtile irony rather than the abundant violence we so often find in much of the works of street artists. As he explain in his website “In the spirit of Marcel Duchamps, all I had to do was paint a mustache on the Mona Lisa so to speak, to introduce a glitch in the matrix”.

In 2009, a movie about Roadsworth was realized, titled Crossing the Line. Making movies about street art, in these last years, looks like something fashion and I am worried it could be ephemeral (from Beautiful Loser to The Ephemeral Rebellion, from Bomb It to Exit Through The Gift Shop), but maybe we can give it a chance.

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