Fancy spray paint with a dozen different caps. Professional photographers. Scissor lifts. Street art doesn’t have to be so complicated. Just take Dave the Chimp. His little characters, “human beans” as he calls them, are generally simple and small figures, but because they’re site-specific, they’re more surprising than most bombastic murals.
Dave’s beans respond to their environment, whether it’s acting shocked at strong language (or perhaps at the buff) or offering a joint to another street art character, Berlin’s walls are Dave’s playground.
Since the best thing about Dave’s work is that there’s the potential for surprise in real life, the potential to look at a wall or a tag in a different way, it feels a bit silly to say this, but Dave only just got on Instagram, and I’d suggest giving him a follow.
And can we all agree that we need more of this? Is site-specific street art, something beyond wallpaper, too much to ask?
Caroline and I are headed to Chicago today. We’ll have a few days to explore, so any suggestions are appreciated. Here’s your links:
El Toro, Dave The Chimp, Invader, Flying Fortress, Mr. Penfold and others sent in stickers and other small artworks to This must be for you, who put all the work together into little folders and lift them as free gifts around London. Giving out free gifts unexpectedly to random people with no expectation of anything in return, sounds like fun to me (although of course very similar to Papergirl). Check out the video here.
Earlier this week, I hosted a movie night at The Wren’s Nest in Atlanta for the Living Walls Conference. Living Walls asked me to put together a list of some short films to show, and I ended up with 27. A few people have asked me to post those films online to share with friends or just to see a film that they missed while they were getting some food, so after the jump you’ll find embedded versions of all 27 films that were screened at the movie night (many of which have appeared on Vandalog before). Enjoy! Continue reading “Vandalog Movie Night as a blog post”
For me, involving the word “freedom” with a barrier built around one half of a city, a barrier involving not just a wall but barbed wire, guard dogs, machine gun implacements, search lights, and soldiers with the instructions “shoot to kill”, doesn’t make sense, and I wanted to use this opportunity to remind people of just how disgusting it is to divide a city and it’s people. The barrier built between the Russian sector and the British, American and French sectors of Berlin was, in many cases, built down the middle of streets, dividing friends, families, and whole communities. Over night on August 12th 1961 relationships were destroyed and freedom, a natural human right, was viciously snatched away from millions of German citizens, people just like you and me. I tried, in my simple way, to show this with one of my “one line” drawings. I hope it will stand as a reminder of the reality of the Berlin Wall, and of the walls dividing people in other parts of the world.
The other side of my wall is a little lighter, showing the words “Every Wall Is A Challenge”. This is both intended as a reminder of the many people from the East that escaped, and of the teams of West Berliners who dug tunnels and found other ways to rescue and reunite families, and as a cheeky nod to the graffiti writers of the city today.
With two new videos that have come out this week about artists making machines to spray paint using skateboards, I thought I’d mention some bike-based graffiti-making machines that have been made in the past before posting those videos…
D*Face returned to California to once again paint The Ridiculous Pool, an empty pool used for skating. Except that he didn’t paint it in a traditional way. Instead, he came up with a device that hooked up a spray can to the bottom of a skateboard so that the lines of each skater in the pool are painted onto the pool. Pretty cool. Check it out:
But that device is overly complex and difficult to build. Certainly not how I would have made it. Why did D*face have to cut the deck up? Dave the Chimp has a much simpler solution, and he’s been taking it to the street:
Dave says he made his device to encourage a punk/DIY spirit and get people to actually do stuff instead of just sitting around all day and thinking it takes money and months of research to do something cool.
Dave the Chimp takes a little look at “the buff”, it’s uses and misuses, and where it can head in the future.
I used to live by a small park. Kids walked through the park to take a short cut to school. Drug dealers worked the same route. There was a garage there covered in tags. I had the idea to paint the garage with some friends, covering the tags with a brightly coloured mural. The idea was to make the space a little brighter, a little less like a spot where drug dealers would hang out. I made a fake letter from my local government authority giving me permission to paint the garage, just in case anyone asked, and set to work. This is the result:
One of my neighbours saw me painting and later told me she thought I was doing “community service”, which in England is an alternative to a prison sentence!
ESPO made his own “community service” projects as a way to get his name up, starting with his “Exterior Surface Painting Outreach” program in New York (those infamous shutters), and later with his “Community Service” project in LA, where he buffed graffiti in the way we are all familiar with today (blocks of colour) so that the buff-marks spelt his name.
What I like about this latter project is that it uses the anti-graffiti weapon as the weapon, like a martial artist using their enemies’ strength against them. It also sits nicely with the way graffiti is abstracted so that it becomes a code that can only be read by certain members of society. And it’s incredibly amusing.
Here are some photos of some abstract compositions I made earlier this year by adding my own buff marks to a wall that had been buffed, and other buff marks that I added to spell my name, much like ESPO did, though I created huge letters by only painting the negative spaces in the letters. I didn’t think much about this piece. I had a bucket of paint that was left over from another project I was working on at the time, and I just walked outside to see how I could use it, and this was the result. I’m sure with more thought better pieces could be created with this method. Feel free to take this idea further.
Another body of work utilising the buff was the Toasters‘ Bluff Buff, which inserted the shape of their toaster into areas of buff, as a comment on the inaccurate colours used to cover graffiti: here and here.
I painted characters so they looked as though they were behind areas of buff in Berlin and Hamburg, and turned the actions of the buffer into comedy:
And in this case, the original piece was buffed for real, so I pulled out a marker and turned the buff into fog:
He is featured in an upcoming documentary, along with other buffers such as the “Silver Buff” from Berkeley, California, who believes there is too much “visual noise” on the streets. Watch the trailer here. Something I found interesting is that one buffer in the movie talks about how buffing makes him feel “in control” of life. This suggest that the actions of graffiti and street artists can make people feel like they have no control, making them victims. This is something to consider next time you hit the streets.
Photographer Chris Brennan documents the layers of colour haphazardly applied to the city walls to cover up layers of colour that were made with more thought. His photos often look like the work of abstract artists. One of the photos we see at that link puts me in mind of the work of Mark Rothko, though I doubt the buff in the street can ever be as effecting as being in a room with one of his huge, deep paintings.
Another weapon in the buffers armoury is the pressure washer, that cleans off graffiti. It can also be used to clean dirt off of walls, a fact ZEVS put to great use. Other versions of “clean graffiti” can be seen here. I’m sure we’ve all seen advertisers use this technique too, usually to place logos on city sidewalks.
It’s not unusual to see advertisers use street art techniques, just as it’s not unusual to see street artists fight back against advertising.
I like these pieces by the Thought Police member Eric Pentle, who will happily cut out your carefully constructed copy, or simply paint your whole billboard black. Unlike other artists, such as OX, that use advertising space as their canvas, there appears to be no clever message in Pentle’s billboards. He simply removes their ability to be effective. He is reacting to the lack of control he has in a world full of messages constantly being shouted at him, and thus makes his environment quieter. This is much the same as the Silver Buff does with graffiti. I find this very interesting, as I live in a country where I understand little of the language, and so advertising has no effect on me. It creates a more peaceful daily experience to not be told what to do all the time. See Pentle defuse more advertising here.
As we can see, the buff is nothing to fear. In fact, let us embrace the buff, and see where we can take it. Let us use this negative energy and turn it into a positive force.
One of the advantages of the buff is that, with a little effort, you can get the materials for the job for free. Try ESPO’s technique and tell the city you want to cover the graffiti in your neighbourhood, and are willing to work for free if they give you paint. Failing that, many cities have “paint recycling depots” where unused paint is taken to be disposed of. My friend Ekta in Sweden gets most of his paint for free by going to his local recycling depot and simply asking for the paint. Also keep your eyes open to see where legitimate painting work is happening. Brushes and rollers are often thrown away as people don’t want to make the effort of cleaning them. Soak them in water and the paint soon comes off. Or if they use an oil-based paint and you don’t want to mess around with turps trying to clean them, just wrap them in a plastic bag, they’ll be good for a few more days. Free brushes and rollers! Sorted!
As buffing requires little skill, this fun activity is open to everyone. No need to spend hours cutting stencils, screen printing posters, or learning how to draw – just grab your roller and a bucket of paint and make your mark in the world. The streets are a playground for everyone! I would suggest though that you have an idea before leaving the house, otherwise your efforts will be as destructive and unattractive as The Grey Ghost and his friends.
So come on kids, lets get buffing! Maybe by employing the buff as one of our weapons, applying it liberally around town, we can confuse city authorities so much that they start employing artists to paint art over all of the ugly buff marks in our cities. They can pay us to do what they paid themselves to undo.
I’ve got a drawer full of books and magazines to read and review right now, but Very Nearly Almost number 13 jumped to the front of the queue this weekend when I took a bus to and from Washington, DC. Why? Because it’s light and small and fits in my backpack way better than Trespass.
Regular Vandalog readers will know that I’m a fan of Very Nearly Almost, and issue 13 is no exception. Interviews with Elbow-toe, Dan Witz and Miso are great because I think they (particularly Miso) are overlooked talents. And then there’s Steve Powers who never responded to Vandalog’s recent interview request (kind of expected that to be honest). There’s even an essay by Dave The Chimp, who never ceases to entertain me, about the need to experience art in real life (as in not on blogs or in magazines). Oh and on page 74 there’s a photo of a topless girl.
Sorry if I’m sounding a bit glib. I really just want to write this post and get to sleep. Just got my flu shot and the symptoms are kicking in a bit. In all seriousness though, VNA is probably my favorite magazine and art lover should pick up a copy of their latest issue. You can get it online for £4.
In case you hadn’t already heard, one of this years most spectacular urban art events is already under way this month in Berlin. The event entitled Art Monument will see four famous street artists repaint a 46 meters high tower called Bierpinsel which stands tall in the center of Berlin. It promises to be one of the most spectacular open-air galleries in all of Europe. The aim is to create the ultimate piece of contemporary art and judging from what has already gone down over there these guys are not far off . The artists involved are Honet, Flying Förtress, Craig KR Costello and Sozyone – who can all be heard in the video below talking about their concepts and plans to combine their different styles. Other street art names such as Nils Kasiske, Form 76, Keramik, Mr. Nonski, Dave Decat, Dave the Chimp, Poch and Stak will also be presenting their artworks inside the prominent buildings.
Looks like Elbow-toe isn’t the only artist releasing art for super cheap this holiday season. Dave The Chimp is holding his Lucky Dip sale for the 2nd year in a row.
If you like Dave’s work, this is your chance to get an original piece for next to nothing.
From Dave The Chimp’s website:
Every Lucky Dipper gets an original, one-off “Human Bein” painting, pulled randomly from a stack of 70 (that’s the “Lucky Dip” element!)
PLUS a signed copy of my book “Part of Rebellion 2: Dave the Chimp”, a copy of my latest zine “Recycle Ya Bastards issue 2” (hot off the press this week) and a copy of the Vanzine, which folds out into an A2 sized 2 colour poster.
All for just 35 euros (Europe only. 40 euros rest of the world due to shipping costs)