Pixação vs. Graffiti in São Paulo

September 12, 2008 on 8:28 am | In global news | 2 Comments


Just weeks after the legalization of graffiti (and re-criminalization of pixação) in Brazil, there’s more news on the split between these two subcultures. Some pixadores were not too happy with the commodification of street art, so they got together to tag up an entire gallery, walls, paintings, prints and all. Read on to see the flyer they distributed to organize the event. (Via Wooster Collective.)

Update: Wooster Collective got the photos from the Gallery’s Flickr stream, and if you follow that link you can see a long list of comments from Brazilians who are fans of either pixação or graffiti/street art. There may be some interesting discussions brewing in there, so if I find any choice bits I’ll try to post translations here later.

Continue reading Pixação vs. Graffiti in São Paulo…

Undercroft saved by the Prime Minister’s office?

September 10, 2008 on 1:43 am | In global news | Comments Off on Undercroft saved by the Prime Minister’s office?

A recent edit to the Wikipedia entry for “Queen Elizabeth Hall” added mention of the Undercroft, and Graffiti Archaeology’s coverage of it. Also linked is an article in Time Out London that credits the Prime Minister’s office with saving the Undercroft from development into shops:

Are some government ministers secret skateboarders? We think they must be. Back in January, we reported on rumours that the underpass of the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank was set to be developed into retail outlets.

Last month Downing Street responded to the campaign with a statement that read: ‘The Southbank Centre (SBC) is an independent arts organisation and decisions about the undercroft are a matter for them. [But] any activity that engages young people can have a positive impact on society, and the skateboarding community that has grown up around the undercroft has brought together people from various backgrounds, created a vibrant public space and added real value to the lives of many young people.’

London’s skaters are delighted. ‘It’s rad, obviously,’ says skateboarder Ninian Doff. ‘If skaters left the South Bank now, it’d be like the Tower losing its ravens – the place would crumble.’

The next battle for the skaters is to get the area returned to the size it was before the SBC boarded up two thirds of it to use as storage during the redevelopment of the Royal Festival Hall.

Also be sure to set aside 23 minutes of your day to check out this excellent documentary about the space. It succeeds wonderfully at explaining why a shared public space like this, with its own organically-grown street culture, is so important to the life of any city.

(found via this photo on Flickr.)

Graffiti Archaeology on Systm

September 1, 2008 on 10:02 pm | In events and press | Comments Off on Graffiti Archaeology on Systm

Last week I had the pleasure of stopping by the studio of a local web-TV station to do an interview for Systm, the “Do It Yourself show for the common geek”. It was great fun, and the long format (30 minutes or so) made it easy to get into a bit more detail about the project. (Maybe too much detail… you tell me.) I also did a little demo of our photo-stitching process. So if you’ve been wondering about the nuts and bolts of how all this gets done, now’s your chance to find out! (You can watch the embedded video above, or visit Systm’s site to download it in high-def goodness.)

“Graffiti” to be legalized in Brazil?

August 27, 2008 on 11:17 pm | In global news | 2 Comments

Last week a law was passed in Brazil legalizing graffiti. But this doesn’t mean exactly what you may think. In Brazil, “graffiti” (grafite in Portuguese) refers not so much to the entire hip hop tradition of writing, but more specifically to colorful pieces, characters, abstractions, and other painted street art. In everyday speech, it’s often contrasted against pichação, which is Brazil’s home-grown style of tagging, so named because its first practicioners used tar (piche) stolen from construction sites. The semantic distinction echoes a sentiment I often hear here in the US: “I like the artistic stuff, but not, you know, those ugly scribbles.”

This distinction is part of what’s being put into law. What’s interesting about this law is that it appears to recognize the artistic and cultural value of the graffiti itself, not just the monetary value of the property it’s painted on. How will this play out in practice, I wonder?

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Brazil, graffiti is being taught in schools, recognized in an International Biennial, and receiving special protection from the buff. Sounds like a pretty civilized country to me.

Props and muito obrigado to Raquel Rabbit for the link, and for helping me out with the subtleties of Brazilian Portuguese. Read on for my poor (but better than Google’s) English translation of the first article above:
Continue reading “Graffiti” to be legalized in Brazil?…

new layers: Undercroft

May 31, 2008 on 4:25 pm | In site updates | Comments Off on new layers: Undercroft

The permissions continue to roll in for photos of London’s Undercroft. This week three more people have filled in some gaps in the timeline by contributing their photos: Dancing Fish, Patrick John Quinn, and Hatters! This brings the total depth up to 32 layers for panel2, and 25 layers for panel3, spanning a period of almost two years. Thank you all!

More layers and more walls to come. Stay tuned.

new wall: undercroft/panel2

May 20, 2008 on 8:55 pm | In site updates | Comments Off on new wall: undercroft/panel2

Shown here: undercroft/panel2 layer 27 of 28, May 3 2008. Photo by meophamman.

The great jigsaw puzzle of London’s amazing Undercroft skatepark continues to occupy many of my hours these days, thanks to the incredible wealth of photos available on Flickr, and the generosity of all the photographers who have allowed us to reuse them here. This week’s offering: 28 layers on the new wall “panel2”, plus an additional four on “panel3”. (Don’t ask about the numbering scheme—it makes sense to me, but it’s completely arbitrary.) The list of contributing photographers here is almost as long as the wall itself: Pierre Andrews, bryans_d80, Paul Carstairs, Jason Delport, Matthew Gidley, Michael Godek, Samuel Judge, Amit Kanekal, Will King, Leeks, meophamman, RedLeeroy, Roberta (retrotravelbug), Romanywg, and thirtyfootscrew. And that’s just the people who responded within the first 48 hours of my request for permission! There are many others out there, and I’ll continue to post their contributions as the permissions come in.

new location: the Undercroft

May 10, 2008 on 5:07 pm | In site updates | Comments Off on new location: the Undercroft

Shown here: undercroft/panel3 layer 14 of 17, featuring work by BLAM and BONZAI, January 13 2008. Photo by Leeks.

Today Graffiti Archaeology finally leaves the confines of North America with our first international location! “The Undercroft” is a skate park located under the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London’s Southbank. It gets its name from the vaulted spaces under cathedrals, to which it bears a strong resemblance thanks to a series of flared columns that run through it. The spot is frequented by skateboarders, BMX bikers, the occasional unicyclist, and of course, graffiti writers. The wall shown above is just one of about a dozen panels that surround the space. I’ll be building out timelapse montages of the rest of the walls as time allows. Many thanks to Flickr users Jason Delport, Uli Rahms, CourtneyLouise, jessthecat and Leeks for their photo contributions.

See our Flickr group for more photos of this amazing space.

Apparently there is some danger that this cultural hotspot and meeting place may be shut down or made inaccessible to the public in the near future. If you live in the UK and are eligible to vote, there’s a petition you can sign to appeal for its preservation.

Improving the UI

May 10, 2008 on 12:55 pm | In site updates | Comments Off on Improving the UI


I gave an informal talk about Graffiti Archaeology at Stanford the other day, and the questions from the audience reminded me of some of the limitations of our current Flash interface. For one thing, the list of walls has gotten so long that it bleeds off the bottom of most people’s monitors. Also, there’s a lot of information tucked away in our XML data structure that we could be making better use of at the UI level. As a first baby-step in that direction, I added a new tooltip that appears when you hover over a location, telling you how many walls and layers that location has. (This also gave me an excuse to start cleaning up some of our messy old code. Geek joy!)

More improvements to come, as time allows…

new layers: cavern/westB

April 27, 2008 on 12:57 pm | In site updates | Comments Off on new layers: cavern/westB

Shown here: cavern/westB layer 49 of 54. Piece at left by SILENCER.

Just brought cavern/westB up to date with 15 new layers (one of them courtesy of Flickr user Luba Roniss) featuring new work by SILENCER, SAGER, RYZ, KEAP, MESR, AURA and many others. The buff patrol also made a cameo appearance (20 January 2008), but it took no time at all for the wall to bounce up to new heights, with a CMM blockbuster and some stunning new burners. Enjoy!

Graffiti Archaeology in Architect Magazine

March 30, 2008 on 12:46 pm | In events and press | Comments Off on Graffiti Archaeology in Architect Magazine


Architect Magazine runs a monthly column called “Screen Grab” that covers websites of interest to their readers. The March 2008 column is about Graffiti Archaeology. It’s a very short read, but it was a fun interview to do, because I got to try to think about the project from an architectural perspective for a change. One minor correction—this quote was taken out of context:

Since its launch in 2002, Curtis says, the site has helped make the urban art form “a more unified global cultural phenomenon” by offering an interactive database for visitors to peruse.

I wasn’t talking about Graffiti Archaeology there, but about graffiti websites in general! Grafarc.org was not the first such site, and it won’t be the last. If anyone should get credit for making graf a more unified global phenomenon, it should be Art Crimes.

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