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August 2014

Graffiti Is As Old As Time

This article titled “Graffitists who leave their mark on history may have had their time” was written by Jon Henley, for The Guardian on Tuesday 4th March 2014 17.51 UTC

Our urge to scrawl on a wall has been around for pretty much as long as there have been walls around for us to scrawl on. The workmen who built the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza left behind scribbles that may explain how they did it. An ancient Roman scratched what is often interpreted as directions to a nearby brothel into the paving stones at Ephesus, while others were leaving declarations of love, political slogans, rude gossip and scandalous accusations all over Pompeii.


In later times, it became customary, if not obligatory, for anyone who visited ancient sites to record the fact upon them. As early as 1240BC, “Hadnakhte, scribe of the treasury” was inscribing an account of his trip: “came to make an excursion and to amuse himself on the west of the Memphis, together with his brother, Panakhti” on a temple wall at Giza. The Romans effectively saw the Great Pyramid as a giant visitor’s book, and generations of European tourists, from Napoleonic soldiers to Lord Byron, left their marks across swathes of Greece, Italy and Egypt well into the 19th century.


The practice was so common that during a tour of Egypt in 1850, the French novelist Gustave Flaubert expressed his great irritation, in a letter to his uncle, at “the number of imbeciles’ names written everywhere”, declaring himself particularly unamused by the fact that in Alexandria, “a certain Thompson, of Sunderland, has inscribed his name in letters six feet high on Pompeii’s column … It can be read a quarter of a mile off. There is no way of seeing the column without seeing the name of Thompson. This imbecile has become part of the monument and is perpetuated with it.”


From the mid-20th century, though, as travel writer Rolf Potts notes in an informative essay, despite the best efforts of US GIs who left “Kilroy was here” inscriptions from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to the Marco Polo Bridge in China, the practice was widely condemned – but it still persists, even if, these days, defacing a historic monument can have hefty consequences. In Egypt, the offence carries a fine of more than $20,000 and up to 12 months in prison. In India, where the Taj Mahal and Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens and Purana Qila fort have been badly affected, graffitists risk up to 1 lakh (about £970) in fines and up to two years in jail. And in Britain, a man who spray-painted slogans on Clifford’s Tower and the statue of Constantine in York was recently handed a four-month prison term.


To counter the scourge, English Heritage – which reckons up to 70,000 historic sites and buildings in Britain could be damaged each year by crimes including graffiti – recommends “passive design and active management measures” such as lighting, CCTV, barriers such as shrubs or fences, and landscaping solutions such as walkways, but recognises these aren’t always possible around listed buildings. Easy-clean anti-graffiti polymer coatings, widely used on modern buildings, can be problematic on the more porous materials found in many older buildings because they can slow or prevent water evaporation, leading to mould or salt crystallisation problems (although, as part of an EU-sponsored project, a German firm has now invented a promising “breathable” coating).


Or, like China, you can set aside a whole section of one of the world’s best-known ancient monuments for tourists to carve their names on. Authorities in Beijing recently designated Fighting Tower 14 of the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall a “free graffiti zone”, and are considering setting up two similar areas in Fighting Towers 5 and 10. Which is decent of them, because the most recent international graffiti scandal was provoked last year by a 15-year-old from Nanjing who, much like the scribe Hadnakhte 3,500 years ago, cheerfully scratched the words “Ding Jinhao was here” on a 3,500-year-old Luxor Temple carving in Egypt. Scrawling on a – preferably ancient – wall is plainly a habit that will die hard.


Yarn Bomb Artist Olek Goes Underwater

OLEK says she wants to “bring awareness to the state of the world’s oceans and promote the preservation of marine life.” With this new project she is definitely making waves. In a new project with PangeaSeed and sculpture Jason DeCaires Taylor, the Brooklyn based street artist dove to the ocean floor off the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico to create these astounding, poetic, and inspiring underwater images. As she has done in other projects on land OLEK created costumery for friends and others to model, and these crocheted mermaids are the bomb. The yarn bomb. Brooklyn-street-art-olek-pangeaseed-isla-mujeres-mexico-08-14-web-12 Brooklyn-street-art-olek-pangeaseed-isla-mujeres-mexico-08-14-web-12

Thank you to BSA for the reportage

Brooklyn Street Art - this week

BSA Film Friday 08.15.14
Editorz, 2014-08-15 04:02

Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities. Now screening : Sea Walls – Murals For Oceans. Isla Mujers, Mexic HERR BÜTTNER for Whale Rights in Penang, Malaysia “90 Percent” from Save Our Seas Foundation BSA Special Feature: Sea Walls – Murals For Oceans Isla Mujers in […]

Graffiti and Street Art Lock Up “21st Precinct” in New York
Editorz, 2014-08-14 04:02

This weekend the NYPD police precinct is hosting a graffiti and street art show, and the public is welcome to see every floor completely swimming in aerosol and plastered in wheat-paste. Admit it, it is not often you receive an invite like that. Pesu (center), Pixote (left) and Bill Claps Morse code writing the history […]


Stikman: An Enigma Marching On
Editorz, 2014-08-13 14:00

His rigid wooden stick constitution keeps him from faltering even when bending and his ubiquity on the streets and in small secret hiding places keeps you from forgetting him, the ever-present Stikman. Expressed in wood, fabric, vinyl, paper, steel, plastic; embedded into pavement and stuck upon every surface, Stikman is timely and timeless. Stikman (photo […]


Fairy Doors Make it to NYC

Untapped has reported on the arrival of fairy doors -- some of which have money in them.

A couple days ago we came across this adorable find by Scouting NY on Wythe Avenue in Brooklyn. In fact, these architecturally detailed miniature doors, looking just like the series of fairy doors in Ann Arbor, have been popping up all over New York City, tagged with QR codes that lead to the Speakeasy Dollhouse. Conveniently, we’ve been covering the Speakeasy Dollhouse and other theater pieces by Cynthia von Buhler for quite some time now so we could ask her some questions about it.

The craziest thing about these fairy doors is that von Buhler isn’t putting them up herself–it’s her fans. Speaking with von Buhler, she tells us that said fans have been installing them for two and a half years: “About 150 doors have been put up. Some have doormats with secret keys underneath. A few actually open.” Design-wise, the fans have been inspired by von Buhler’s book, But Who Will Bell the Cats?


And like all great crowdsourced art projects, the doors have evolved. As von Buhler tells us, “Now the fans are also doing wheat-paste posters. A group of actors and I found mobster Dutch Schultz’s secret stash of money upstate and we gave the money to our fans to give away to the public in payment for all the strife that evil man caused. The posters with a drawn door have money behind the door. If you take a key edge and drag it along the dotted line you will get the money.”

Miniature Door-Cynthia Von Buhler-Speakeasy Dollhouse-10th Avenue-37th Street-NYCMini door and welcome mat, photographed by Seen in New York

Finally, what is the Speakeasy Dollhouse, you ask? It’s an interactive experience that encourages guests to play along, talk to strangers and inhabit Prohibition-era New York for a couple of hours. Plus, the play is based on the real-life murder of von Buhler’s own grandfather. Italian immigrant Frank Spano owned a speakeasy and may have had mafia connections. In 1935, he was shot and killed, and von Buhler brings her guests into the action, starting with actual newspaper articles and an autopsy report which are sent to you before the event.

It helps that von Buhler sets the spectacle in one of the Lower East Side’s most unique and authentic bars–the Back Room–which was in fact a speakeasy. (It also made our list of New York City’s best hidden bars and speakeasies.)

Miniature Door-Cynthia Von Buhler-Speakeasy Dollhouse-11t Street-East Village-NYC11th Street, New York City. Photo by Bryan Thatcher

Fairy Doors-Speakeasy Dollhouse-Cynthia von Buhler-NYC-006Photo by Peter Moses

Fairy Doors-Speakeasy Dollhouse-Cynthia von Buhler-NYCPhoto courtesy of Cynthia von Buhler

Fairy Doors-Speakeasy Dollhouse-Cynthia von Buhler-NYC-002Photo courtesy of Cynthia von Buhler

Fairy Doors-Speakeasy Dollhouse-Cynthia von Buhler-NYC-004Photo courtesy of Cynthia von Buhler

Fairy Doors-Speakeasy Dollhouse-Cynthia von Buhler-NYC-003Photo courtesy of Cynthia von Buhler

Miniature Door-Cynthia Von Buhler-Speakeasy Dollhouse-Brooklyn-Rough Trade Record Store-NYCNext to Rough Trade record store in Williamsburg. Photo by Instagrammer ipinchu

This March, von Buhler also staged another interactive piece about the sibling rivalry of the Booth brothers, the infamous one who assassinated Abraham Lincoln, and his brother Edwin Booth who founded the Players Club in Gramercy Park.

See a photo essay on the fairy doors of Ann Arbor, Michigan and check out the Speakeasy Dollhouse here.

Additional reporting by Laura Itzkowitz.