Category Archives: Reviews

Wildlife Style

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

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

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

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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Écrivez partout !

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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Framing A Counter-Narrative

When I first picked up Graffiti Grrlz I thought the book might contain an argument along the lines of how women are excluded from the masculine graffiti subculture. Actually the book’s author, Jessica Pabón-Colón, has written a positive account of female involvement in graffiti. That’s not to say the book paints a completely rosy picture but that it concentrates on how women practice and contribute to graffiti in an empowering way. Pabón-Colón wants her book to weave the “individual stories (of female participation) into a narrative about how they navigate their experiences as a collective within the subculture”. Through this narrative Graffiti Grrlz provides new and original insights into graffiti. The book explores the activities of female writers, based on interviews with the author, and how they ‘perform’ feminism through the graffiti subculture. From Africa to South America, graffiti jams to graffiti collectives, digital social networks and the internet archive there’s a broad range of experiences covered.

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(Un)Titled//Titled

Before I begin this review I have to admit to being the type of ‘non-specialised sceptic’ who Andrea Baldini criticises in the recent Un(Authorized)//Commissioned book. The publication he writes in can be regarded as a curators guide to exhibiting graffiti. This is not a topic that would usually appeal to me so, not being a particular expert nor a lover of art-galleries, I approached the book with mild cynicism. However the book brings up some interesting ideas that are worth discussing and has changed my opinion to some extent.

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for the record zine

for the record is definitely one of the more unusual publications I’ve come across. The zine documents, what I suppose could be called, ‘conceptual graffiti’. Rather than just observing the urban environment the artist abcdef acts as a kind of militant-flâneur whose photographs make a record of unconventional, often low-key, spray paint interventions. Continue reading

A Study of Dublin Latrinalia

Hard Graft zine

Scholarly books on graffiti are all the rage at the moment and a chapter on ‘latrinalia’ is almost obligatory. It seems that the study of latrinalia came about as a way for bored academics to fill their time with a quirky project. Simply nip into the university’s lavatory and, hey presto!, there’s the material for a slightly amusing thesis with some bold statements about the state of society. Continue reading

99/40

99mm green cover

The last time I reviewed the 99mm zine I was surprised to find that the publication had been in production for twenty years! So it’s good to know that it’s still going strong as Ian Vanek has recently released, what he believes to be, the best 99mm yet! This time the zine’s contents aren’t published in the standard zine scheme of black & white but a cool jazzy green with a stitched spine. Apparently this is in commemoration of its 40th edition which harks back to the zine’s origins as a blue DIY magazine. Continue reading