Alexandre Orion: Subversive Commentary Through Erasure

I previously threw out a link (I believe in the site feed -- Yet another reason to bookmark/syndicate the feed!) to a street/commercial artist in England who used the technique of cleaning dirty surface to both create art and advertising on public walls. While not technically a crime, this technique was quite controversial. I recently came across the new works of Alexandre Orion (via the Wooster Collective). I feel Orion's new series, titled Ossário, which consists of fields of skulls erased out of the petroleum grime of tunnels in São Paulo Brazil, is far more successful by being un-coopted by the forces it protests.

These images, with iconography seemingly derived from both comic book and Panamerican cultural traditions serve to question the toll of our dependancy on petroleum and other (and far more hazardous) chemicals. As the artist notes: "‘Cleaning’ is not a crime. What is a crime is the environmental damage caused by unashamed pollution." Interestingly, such an intervention is only possible as a result of the grime generated by the exact wasteful processes that they are critiquing. Therefore, the critical response becomes subversively part of the system it questions. As such the ultimate goal of this expression is to prevent its own existence by erasing the cause of its media (the grime caused by the abuse of the environment); this I feel has the capability to render it almost incorruptible by commodification. Although, given the way things have been shamelessly going, I wouldn't be surprised to see BP erasing ads out of the grime caused by their oil plumes. Anyway, back to the art:

As Professor José de Souza Martins of the University of São Paulo reflects:

"These images speak to us of love and hate. Love for the city we live in, love for the city we could have, love for an urban utopia that belongs to everybody not just for a few; love for those inhabiting the city who take it to heart and make it part of their own consciousness... Hate, because the city is being consumed in a predatory manner by... those who think they are smart because they appropriate that which does not belong to them."

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