Daily question: Reverse graffiti


Paul “Moose” Curtis is a British artist who pumps high-pressured water through stencils to remove dirt from tunnels and walls to create large-scale urban “reverse graffiti.”

A video by Doug Pray depicts a recent project by Moose in San Francisco:



Apparently, however, not everyone is happy with Moose, says Guardian:

But, in Leeds, they do have a problem. Gerry Harper, a city councillor, described it as vandalism.

“It’s totally ridiculous really,” Mr Curtis replied. “All I am doing is cleaning their walls. Councillors only want me prosecuted because they’re embarrassed by how dirty their cities are.”

He claims his art is legal because he isn’t actually painting anything on to the walls or street.

No other similar case has come before a court, but the crown prosecution service says he may be in breach of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act.

A Leeds city council spokeswoman said: “Leeds residents want to live in clean and attractive neighbourhoods, and expect their streets to be free of graffiti and illegal advertising.

“We also view this kind of rogue advertising as environmental damage and will take strong action against any advertisers carrying out such campaigns without the relevant permission.”

Should Moose be forced to get “the relevant permission” to create his reverse graffiti?

11 thoughts on “Daily question: Reverse graffiti

  1. Pingback: Daily question: Pay to read aloud books? « counternotions

  2. That’s ridiculous! I love how they had to say ‘illegal advertising’ – of course, residents shouldn’t be offended by the tripe that costs millions. Oh no. We love that! I am not a resident in Leeds, but I think this applies to any city. Councils need to get a grip.

  3. This was linked to my blog post of the effort in SF, so I figure I’d chime in. I find to be farcical for someone to be condemned for “strategic cleaning”. As noted, if someone is truly unhappy with the work’ the way to erase it would be to simply clean the rest of the wall, correct? There’s no damage and it isn’t offensive imagery, only a harsh reminder of the effects that pollution produces and the ineffectiveness of government to control or clean it and to vilify someone because they’re pointing that out is just plain stupid. It’s simply the powers that be, trying to protect their “flawless” image and ironically, damaging it further by doing so.

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  6. Environmental damage?! Come on! Don’t get me wrong – I hate graffiti, but some of these claims are crazy. Did anyone see the recent news story about a businessman who cleaned a public washroom out of disgust and billed the city $150 for it? Maybe this guy should try billing the city. It would be quite entertaining.

  7. Stephen Pace : “I seem to recall that IBM hired a company to do some reverse graffiti”

    Yes, IBM tried that in Boston, NYC, SF and Chicago. But it was of the paint spray kind, not reverse graffiti. Your point begs the question, however, as to what would happen if reverse graffiti were of a commercial nature, in whole or in part.

  8. As long as it isn’t obscene, I don’t think he should be forced to ‘reclean’ it. However, I seem to recall that IBM hired a company to do some reverse graffiti for them a few years back, the end result of which was the city required them to clean the entire affected area and refrain from future activity. This is the disadvantage of name brands using the approach because it is easy for the authorities to figure out who originally commissioned the work and (for right or wrong) hold them accountable.

    Keep in mind, power washers can easily do damage to surfaces, so if he damaged property using this approach (concrete work, brick mortar, underlying paint or decals), I’d hold him responsible for repair.

    Otherwise, I have 100% zero tolerance for graffiti, especially since I not long ago had to powerwash my fence and nearby sidewalk.

  9. I think that so long as he’s not hurting anyone or anything as judged by impartial observers that they should leave him alone to post his art. It’s easy enough to remove if the building owners really don’t like it — not like paint or carving it into the surface.

    Now, if he was deliberately defaming people or companies, or damaging the building, it would be a different matter, but he’s not, and he shouldn’t be treated as though he was.

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