From Wikipedia: “Reverse graffiti also known as clean tagging, dust tagging or grime writing, is a method of creating graffiti on walls or other surfaces by removing dirt from a surface. It is usually done by removing dirt/dust with the fingertip(s) from windows or other dirty surfaces. Reverse graffiti on windows/glass can be highly visible due to the reflection of sunlight. Due to the lack of paint it is often considered legal and used for Advertising, with companies such as Microsoft and Smirnoff, have had their products advertised this way.”
Brazilian artist Alexandre Orion turned a São Paulo transport tunnel into a kind of graphic charnel house, lined with skulls.
He created the images, the project’s website explains, “by selectively scraping off layers of black soot deposited on those walls in the short life of this orifice of modernity.”
And what a lovely orifice it is…
Specifically, Orion scraped, cleaned, and rubbed down through soot “until reaching the natural color of the walls” – inevitably leading me to wonder what other worlds, of figures and images and narrative sequences, might exist in some future graphic tense beneath layers of urban pollution…? And could one prepare for the accumulation of soot by attaching stencils to the walls of tunnels – only to remove those in five years, revealing imagery?
Interestingly, the rough geological equivalent of this procedure can be found throughout the American Southwest, in the form of various “newspaper rocks“
– where layers of desert varnish have been scraped away to reveal natural rock pigmentation, thus allowing the production of representational art.
In any case, the descriptive text on Orion’s website seems to go downhill fairly quickly – we’re soon scraping soot off the walls of repression and peeling away consciousness itself, and we’re meant to be very, very angry while doing so – but the funny thing is, because voluntarily scrubbing sections of a public underpass isn’t actually illegal in São Paulo – and would seem, in fact, to be a sign of refined citizenship – try as they might, Brazil’s patient and well-organized police force couldn’t charge Orion with anything.
Instead, the fire crews showed up and washed it down with hoses.