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January 18, 2007
Grafitti made by cleaning away soot and pollution to reveal the underlying surface. Photo copyright Alexandre Orion
Yet another reductive form of art-making (not too disimilar from photography):
By selectively cleaning away layers of automobile exhaust soot from the walls of a commuter tunnel in Sao Paolo, Brazilian Alexandre Orion, created a vast and appropriate mural of stacked-up skulls. The not-so-subtle rebuke against pollution at first angered police, but there was no law on the books against "cleaning walls" even if the cleaning was "selective".
So, city workers were dispatched to eliminate the artist's statement from the tunnel, which they did by washing away his mural. But the artist merely returned and continued his practice on the other side of the tunnel, which had not been cleaned.
This kind of upstart art obviously demanded a more thorough form of censorship. Not only did Brazilian officials clean the entire tunnel but also every other tunnel in Sao Paulo!
Orion fears this solution is short-lived, however. The tunnels will be black with soot again in four months unless the clean-up crews stick to a regular schedule. As he points out, however simply, the real crime is the pollution.