How B****y didn’t conquer the Middle East

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When the new book by Sabrina DeTurk plonked through the letter box and I saw the title I admit I wasn’t too enthused. Firstly street art ain’t particularly my cup-of-tea and secondly the topic of Street Art in the Middle East isn’t exactly uncovered ground since the Arab Spring. I hold some vague theory that the street art that accompanied the uprisings was seized on by Western spectators as an easy visualisation of events in an otherwise politically alien landscape. It was perhaps proof this ‘backward’ region was yearning for Western values and culture. The attention on street art was another simplification of events that fed into, what David Wearing calls, “a deeply ingrained set of basically racist assumptions that frame many people’s understanding of our relationship with this part of the world.”

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Between Gaúcho’s and Cats

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This is the eponymously titled Depor Este zine which is a collaboration between two artists from Germany and Brazil. It’s a nicely produced little publication showcasing some funky styles. A few themes crop up such as ancient Egyptian motifs, cats, and high art juxtaposed with derelict graffiti covered walls. The photography throws out some cool scenes such as two gaúchos checking out graffiti or a cat perched on a piece beside an image of paw prints set in concrete.

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Wildlife Style

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Trees might seem an odd topic for the average reviewer of graffiti publications to discuss but here I find myself with not one but two graff related books about trees! The first is a large format zine called The_ Forest _Man which collects together tags scratched into tree trunks. The second is the Urban Jungle: Eindhoven which, as the title alludes to, is a graffers-eye-view on the flora of a Dutch city.

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A Morbid Fascination

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Livor Mortis is a tidy two-tone zine from the UK. The content is based around themes of decay from rundown cityscapes, derelict buildings, to graveyards. Obviously graffiti is a feature and issues 5 and 6 in particular include it almost as a representation of decline. I say almost because on the one hand a tagged up shattered pane of glass positioned alongside dark eery corridors leading to nowhere tips into some sub-genre of graff-horror. But elsewhere murals painted onto the crumbling plaster of tenement blocks signify a more vibrant deterioration of urban areas. A painting of a cat pouring out graffiti from the trumpet it’s playing or an Anarchist hitting back at the cops beating him are signs of life. And there’s humourus additions too with ET’s head on a giraffes body, two human-spiders shagging, or a throw-up across some Granny wallpaper.

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Objects in a Glass Case

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I recently got sent a copy of Scribbling Through History which was released just last year and is one of a whole slew of academic books on graffiti that have been published recently. The cover promises the long view on graffiti stretching back from antiquity to the present. Predictably enough, of twelve chapters, the two that cover modernity focus on the Middle-East and the internet. The rest of the content delves deeper into history where the modern idea of what constitutes graffiti becomes blurred with a greater variety of interpretation.

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Berlin Walls

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The Berliner Mauern zine, the title of which is taken from the graffiti/street-art blog, is now on its third edition. This issue, which came with some extra prints and stickers, is a basic black and white photography zine. The content is a mixture of tags, stencils, paste-ups and street-photography. As I was flicking through the zine I thought about what brings all this content together. Aside from the aesthetic of the zine the focus is on the illegal side of things and, generally, the more awkward stuff.

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Track & Field Interview

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Track and Field / PE zine

I recently got sent a copy of a magazine called Track & Field. Open mouthed in horror I began to read the introduction; what an earth is a defence of Thatcherism doing in a graff mag I thought to myself?! Well it turns out the short introductory essay on competition actually refers to the sporting rivalry between Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe in the ‘80s. The determination of these two athletes is used as a metaphor for the struggles of a graffiti writer. Sports fans are invited into the pages of a magazine that aims to “bring a voice to culture that shows no sign of taking a defeat just yet.” The ‘voice’ refers to the index of text, in the back pages, that follows the photography.     Continue Reading

Écrivez partout !

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Delete Elite by Ben Brohanszky is my new favourite book! Published just last year the title, taken from off the street, is intended as a statement. The book is pitched as a study of ‘conceptual graffiti’ and contains the stuff that doesn’t neatly fit within the street-art/graffiti binary. Instead it is an esoteric meander that takes the reader from the earliest roots of modern graffiti to its contemporary manifestations. From the Provo movement through to Néma this is a tour of wall writing on the boundaries of the conventional graffiti movement. The whole book is meticulously referenced, and footnoted throughout, but also has a casual style which includes line drawings done by the author with his eyes closed.

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