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Artist Clouds Graffitists’ Tags

Friday, July 29, 2016

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Many people wish the graffiti that covers some city walls and bridges would just disappear completely, but those who are more realistic might just wish the tags were at least somewhat legible. French artist Mathieu Tremblin has set about making the latter dream come true.

In an artistic operation he calls Tag Clouds, Tremblin has covered over graffiti across Europe, replacing often-illegible tags with simplified renderings of the same words and numbers. The idea, the artist explains, is to meld the ideas of graffiti tags with “tag clouds,” online arrangements of metadata that indicate in words what a website is about.

Tag Cloud piece, Nantes, France
All images courtesy of Mathieu Tremblin

Tremblin has covered over graffiti across Europe, replacing often-illegible tags with simplified renderings of the same words and numbers. (Pictured: Tag Clouds example in Nantes, France.)

“It shows the analogy between the physical tag and the virtual tag, both in form (tagged wall compositions look the same as tag clouds), and in substance (like keywords, which are markers of net surfing, graffiti are markers of urban drifting),” Tremblin told D+D News via email.

Much like the graffiti artists he's interacting with, Tremblin doesn't always seek the permission of the property owner before an "intervention," as he calls it.

"Sometimes I ask the [authorization of] the owner, sometimes not."

Positive Reaction

The project has been ongoing since 2010, and in a 2010 interview with the art festival Memefest, the artist explained that the practice tends to provoke positive reactions from passersby. That wasn’t necessarily his expectation.

Tag Clouds piece, Jules Ferry, France

The artist explained that the practice tends to provoke positive reactions from passersby. (Tag Clouds example in Arles, France.)

“I was surprised that they didn't see this operation as something more intrusive or aggressive than the real calligraphy, because they were facing [the] pure ego of writers without artistical part of calligraphy,” he said.

Taggers’ Response

The taggers themselves had a more mixed reaction, Tremblin said in the interview.

“Some of them really appreciate the idea because they didn't [feel offended] by my action,” he explained “They liked the idea that after covering all the hall of fame, people could read still and easily their name instead of the classical decoration graffiti fresco covering those kind of tags.

“On the other hand, some of them wrote over it as if the nicknames translated were not real writers name. They didn't show respect about the basic rules of graffiti practice: Don't write over another writer's name."


Tagged categories: Artists; Color + Design; Graffiti

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