large pure oh action!

July 25, 2005 on 7:03 am | In events and press | Comments Off on large pure oh action!

Graffiti Archaeology just got a nice writeup in Spiegel Online. If you can’t read German, there’s always the Babelfish autotranslation: “If one decreases/goes back the years, one becomes a witness a large pure oh action.”

Update: we now have a much better translation, thanks to Gisela Rodenbeck (Eric’s mom!)


Anthologie der Wandschmierereien

by Verena Dauerer
(translated by Gisela Rodenbeck)

We are used to advertising using graffiti by now, but the real art is still to be found “under the bridge” as you can see if you access “Grafarc.org”. The website catalogues secret graffiti walls and their evolution over the years.

Sprayers consider themselves artists, though the public hates them. New works are usually removed chemically as soon as possible. Graffiti originated as “street culture” in the 70’s, but long ago found it’s way into galleries and museums – still is considered vandalism though. Like all sub-trends of young people the trend was commercialized in the mid 80’s and now adorns sport stores etc.

The New York Post photographer Martha Cooper popularized graffiti. She observed the kids on the streets doing their breakdance and so got to know the early sprayers. In her book “Subway Art,” Cooper highlighted the sprayed art work in the NY subways – until this day the accepted standard for graffiti art. For the first time the public was introduced to the subway yards where the trains overnighted. She let the public look into the blackbooks, the books where the sprayers designed their drawings and their tags.

Today the internet makes everything easier. Illegal graffities are shown on sites like Art Crimes, however an orderly recording was difficult to find so far. The web site Grafarc.org now records in detail since the end of the 90’s which walls were used repeatedly. The self titled “Graffiti Archaeology” chronicles in laborious detail and collects pictures from walls, subway tunnels, abondoned houses or columns in the San Francisco bay area.

A total of 8 different locations are offered, which were visited by various photographers over the years. On a timeline, you can click on various years and see the different paints that the spray cans left. Like on a walk, the visitor can switch from one picture to the other and zoom in on them.

Interesting details are visible. On the west side of the “Cavern”, a concrete wall, all that’s left today are little skinny violet men. If one goes back through the years one can witness a big cleaning up campaign. The first pictures came 1998. They spread like a wildfire over the whole wall, first next to each other, than over each other and than one layer over the other, as soon as another artist looked for immortality. It is common that a sprayer sprays over his own work – a reflection of the fleeting quality that defines this form of art.

“Graffiti Archaeology” doesn’t only want to record history — it also sees itself as an interactive site: Sprayers can forward their art for discussion. Recently the site even was given an award from the Academy of Digital Arts und Sciences. Even in San Francisco one can’t just take a look at the originals, there is no map to show the way. Most of the works are just not sprayed on walls legally.

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