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Tag Archives: Blek le Rat

Jet Set Street Art

Where in the world is HaHa? Dabs and Mylar have returned to Melbourne after several years abroad. Melbourne street artists are travelling the world. Street art is the most extensively travelled art movement of all times. It is one of the necessities of working on the streets means finding news cities and places to exhibit.

Many street artists from other countries have visited and left their mark on Melbourne’s streets. Looking through my collection of photos of Melbourne street art I have many examples of these international artists. I have listed the visiting along with their country of origin and year/s that they visited Melbourne. Most visited in conjunction with an exhibitions as and I have noted if they also participated in major festivals or events.

A1one - Gertrude St. Fitzroy

A1one – Gertrude St. Fitzroy

A1one (Iran, 2008, Melbourne Stencil Festival)

Aerosol Arabic, Thirst for Change, Sparks Lane, Melbourne

Aerosol Arabic, Thirst for Change, Sparks Lane, Melbourne

Aerosol Arabic (Britain, 2008, Melbourne Festival)

Above, Melbourne

Above, Melbourne

Above (USA, 2011 & 2012)

Now destroyed Banksy's  "Little Diver"

Now destroyed Banksy’s “Little Diver”

Banksy (Britain, 2003, a covert visit, see my post)

Blek le Rat under perspex Parhran

Blek le Rat under perspex Parhran

Blek Le Rat (France, multiple visits)

Choq, Fitzroy

Choq, Fitzroy

Choq (France, 2012-13)

Celso Gitahy, Brunswick

Celso Gitahy, Brunswick

Celso Gitahy (Brazil, 2008 & 2009, see my post)

Keith Haring, Collingwood

Keith Haring, Collingwood

Keith Haring (USA 1984, see my post)

Nash, Sparta Place, Brunswick

Nash, Sparta Place, Brunswick

Nash (Netherlands, 2012, Project Melbourne Underground see my post)

Snyder, Rocket Pop Boy, Hosier Lane

Snyder, Rocket Pop Boy, Hosier Lane

Sydner (USA, 2012, private initiative see my post)

Peat Wollaeger, Keith Haring Stencil and tribute at Collingwood Technical College

Peat Wollaeger, Keith Haring Stencil and tribute at Collingwood Technical College

Peat Wollaeger (USA, 2008, Melbourne Stencil Festival).

This is not at all a complete list of artists who have visited Melbourne. Nor does it include foreign street artist who have made Melbourne their home.

I am not writing about these international artists out of a cultural cringe away from local artists. Australian culture has long had a belief in a superior foreign culture – be it French, British or American. I am writing about these artists to demonstrate that street art is a global style. Images of street art are so easily transmitted around the world by the internet and travel is also easy. So many notable street artists have become international nomads. And it is one of the strengths of the art.

Which, if any, visiting artist do you think has been the most influential on Melbourne’s street art?

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Stencils – propaganda in WWII

This is written for all the stencil artists out there on the streets, especially the ones doing political stencils. Or anyone wondering when did stencil graffiti start? This is also for all the politicians who think that they can stop graffiti; yes, I’m talking to you Steve Beardon. (But I suspect that it will probably be mostly read by WWII buffs.)

Italian fascists, Americans and local resistance forces, used stencil graffiti for propaganda in Europe during WWII. The  French street artist, Blek le Rat became aware of stencil street art after he saw a stencil of Mussolini amongst some WWII ruins during a trip to Italy. “The fascists in Italy used a lot of stenciling during WWII. They would do Mussolini’s portrait. I had seen this when I was young, and I remembered that when I was considering how to interface with the street.” (Blek le Rat in Swindle Magazine)

The use of stencils as propaganda tools is described in declassified OSS files (the OSS being the forerunner to the CIA) from WWII:

“These (stencils) have been especially designed for clandestine work and are small enough to be concealed in shirt or coat pockets…A special paint brush combination is designed for use with the stencils also small enough to be carried in the pocket. No special paint container is necessary…Any paint can be used, old or fresh…it is necessary to carry a rag with which to wipe the back of the stencil…Little risk is involved in the use of stencils, and a sign can be painted in 7 seconds, with implements concealed immediately. This method of spreading propaganda has a special appeal to the young who can have little other part in the action against the enemy.” (Quoted in Psywarrior)

The final two sentences of this description makes it clear the futility of anti-graffiti campaigns; even in Nazi occupied Europe there is “little risk” and “this method of spreading propaganda has a special appeal to the young”. So unless an anti-graffiti campaign is more draconian than the Nazi occupation of Europe there is no hope of its success.

The OSS stencil “Parole Heimat” (Password Homeland) was approved on 7 July 1944 and 300 stencils were delivered on 9 August 1944. What happened to them then is not known but there is photographic evidence of the Polish resistance use of stencils.

WWII graffiti - Grunvald on a wall, from Wikimedia Commons

It is interesting to note, in this propaganda war, that the ethics of graffiti is the same for military and anarchic psychological operations. Melbourne street artist, Junky Projects says: “Never hit churches, houses or small business” and the Canadian PYOPS manual: “PSYOP personnel should discourage graffiti on historic, religious, or private structures.” (Canadian 2004 Joint Doctrine Manual B-GJ-005-313/FP-001 Psychological Operations)

It is important to note that, as is the case now, most graffiti in WWII was not propaganda but personal – basically tagging. Examples of WWII tagging can be seen in the photos of American WWII graffiti by Paul and a gallery of photos of Soviet WWII graffiti at Trend Hunter.


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