Archive for the ‘anti-graffiti’ Tag

The window cleaner

About 18 months ago, I wrote about being on a train on the London Underground one night when someone stuck a sticker on the carriage wall (it read ‘Peak hours may necessitate that someone sits on your lap’, and looked just like the ‘official’ stickers placed on the carriage for information by the Transport for London corporation (you can read about this sticker here and updated here).

Today I was on the Paris Metro. I was sitting on one of the folding seats next to the carriage door. A man entered at the far end of the carriage and sat down. I didn’t pay him much attention at first. he was carrying a roll of paper towels and whatever the French equivalent of Windex is.

I assumed that he had been shopping and was on his way home. It turned out that this was not the case.

He seemed to notice something on the glass of the window in the door next to where I sat, and he got up and came over to look closer at it. Windows on the Paris Metro often have a lot of scratchiti and tags applied with paint or marker pen, and this window was no different. What the man had noticed was a tag, and he ran his finger over it several times, then sprayed Windex all over the glass. When the glass was quite wet, he proceeded to scrub away at it with one of his paper towels.

Because the tag he was rubbing away at was applied with some kind of paint, his efforts had no effect upon the window (except to remove whatever smudges and streaks had resulted from passengers going in and out of the train all day). Nevertheless, as the train neared the next station and people began to cluster around the doorway prior to getting off, he turned and said to another passenger, ‘That’s better, isn’t it?’

It could be that he was indeed someone who had been out shopping and who was simply inspired for some reason to use his Windex to clean the window. But I don’t think so. I think he was one of those people who make a project – one might almost say, sometimes, a crusade – out of removing graffiti from the surfaces of the city. They are not council workers or people doing this as their job; they are ordinary people who set themselves the task of graffiti removal.

For this man it meant cleaning windows on the trains in the Metro. I feel pretty lucky to have seen this guy in action – a case of being there just at the right moment (again) to witness an act of anti-graffiti taking place.

You have been invaded….

To coincide with the about-to-open show at Lazarides’ Rathbone Place gallery in London, I thought it was a good time to post this little homage to the wonderful Invader.

For those of you who don’t know Invader’s work, Invader is a French artist who makes and remakes small mosaics of the ‘Space Invader’, star of countless video games in the 1970s.

I always think of Invader’s works as occupying space in the street very quietly: due to their smallness, they tend to be unassuming and easy to miss, often placed high up on a street corner, or in some hard-to-reach location. (I’ve written recently about the appeal of the small – have a look here).

Once you do notice them, they have great appeal: as mosaics, they have an artisanal quality that provides a nice contrast with the low-culture evoked by the video game referent.

On his website, Invader repeats the trope of ‘invasion’ in another way, so that cities become sites to be invaded by the artist and his mosaic tiles. It’s obviously a militaristic metaphor, and one which is often used by the opponents of graffiti, who see illicit imagery as something which ‘invades’ a previously ‘clean’ wall. It’s one of the great things about Invader’s artwork that it can pinpoint the hysteria that underlies anti-graffiti rhetoric, for here, indeed, are the fearful ‘invaders’, and it has to be asked, who could fail to love these little mosaics?

In addition to his dedicated work in invading (to date) 40 cities around the world, in recent years, Invader has also  had a number of gallery shows. I’m unsure how successful his work is in the gallery setting, but it certainly draws a lot of strength from fine art movements such as Pop Art. For me, Invader is at his best in the street, and so, while I recommend that anyone who is in London over the next month takes a look at his gallery show, I wanted to pay tribute to the enduring charm of the Space Invaders that can be found all around us – in the streets. I believe that Invader has been busy adding some new works to the streets of London in the last little while, so keep your eyes open for those. But for now, here are some of my favourites.

In Amsterdam:

corner with stickers plus#1.JPG

In Shoreditch, London:

Various #6 alt view.JPG

Not far from the Tate Modern, in London:


In Rothsay Place, in Melbourne’s CBD:


Just off Alexandra Parade, in Melbourne, a very faded example:


In SoHo, New York City:

day bowery space invader

Enjoy the show, if you get to see it at Lazarides. But, even better, enjoy the streets if you are lucky enough to have been invaded!