Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Invaders Don't Die

All photos: DaveStuart (NoLionsInEngland)

About 3 weeks ago in Kings Cross I thought I saw a ghost, my eyes seemed to be playing tricks. A old, long departed friend, a Union flag Space Invader which had disappeared a few years ago had magically reappeared.

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Rule Britney, sorry - Britannia

Subsequently I read a blog post by Art Of The State, great friend to this blog about the 12 new Space Invaders put up during the 18th invasion of London by Space Invader but this Union flag seemed to be counted outside the canon, the new dozen. I assumed it was a cheeky little bit of restoration as a side project on Invader’s most recent visit.


A week later, whilst standing and admiring another long lasting Invader presence which I had the good fortune to catch as it touched down about 7 years ago, which event I remarked upon in a little bluster of words about how much I enjoyed the constantly changing gallery of street art in Shoreditch, I spotted something new. It was an Invader sticker and the caption around the edge was most intriguing, “Reactivation team UK” it said. This made immediate sense in the context of the Union flag re-materialising back on the walls of Kings Cross.

Reactivation Team UK - #Protect Them


Based on my own admittedly unreliable memory this may well be the third Invader incarnatin on that very spot.

Further discussion with AOTS revealed that Invader reported earlier last week that LDN_01 had reappeared at its original location. Annoyingly my photo of the original LDN_01 has hidden itself somewhere on my computer but here is confirmation that it has indeed made a re-appearance.





So, Invader is reinstating older Invaders which have been zapped into oblivion by the ravages of time, authority, heavy handed property owners or plain old sticky fingered fans. Then last week I had the pleasure of a chance encounter of the first kind with Scraffer Arts who unsurprisingly is a passionate Space Invader geek. He told me that apart from the one I had seen on the Ladbroke Grove Bridge there were three others in the vicinity so, what could I do but extend my bike ride even further to investigate those restored Invaders. I didn’t see any of these Invaders in their original manifestation but they do look stunning in their re-born forms.


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The concept resurrected Invaders is not without its problematic aspects. We are generally agin the preservation of street art. Generally it is only Banksy street art that gets that treatment (yes, there is a plexiglass covered C215 on Brick Lane) and indeed Banksy is an exceptional case where his art on the streets is close to taking on "national treasure" status. Some artists get a bit angsty when their art is damaged or painted over but frankly if you are sensitive about that, if you aren't prepared to let your art go, then the streets is not really the right gallery for you. This Space Invader action though is in a different category. Invader so often invades virgin territory and when you are genuinely first to annex a particular spot for a piece of street art, its yours and you should go back and reclaim it when your piece is gone. If you look at all the "restoration" projects mentioned in this blog, that "my wall" status does seem to apply.


Which other Space Invaders would you like to see restored?  here's a few on my wish list:

For George - with thanks!

Brick Lane


Borrowing an iPhone with a freshly downloaded Flash Invader app, I was able to throw myself into the geeky joy of “flashing” street Invaders for the first time.

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Found Like A Boss!!!

Nice Shot!

The UK isn't the only place benefiting from a Restoration Team, there is also one in France but keep those eyes peeled, who knows these may be part of an even larger invasion but we just don't know it yet.

UPDATE: Star Date 3 June 2016

Two weeks ago I wrote the above Graffoto Post about Space Invaders being “reactivated” in London, I included images of 3 old lost and lamented Invaders I said I would love to see ressurected. This morning, my wish was granted, the CCTV invader is back! I spoke to the man in the kiosk next to this Invader who said it wasn’t there last night and this morning it was there with some plain paper over it. Ironically, I flashed it with the Invader app and got no points, “no invaders around here” it said, so too early for the app to have been updated.

Space Invader

Thursday, 17 March 2016

No, I’m Banksy (The Bandwaggon Post)

Photos: Dave Stuart aka NoLionsInEngland (except where pretty obvious)

Yesterday morning I read a rather unexciting blog post by my friend RJ on Vandalog saying he doesn’t need or want to know who Banksy is, I’m with RJ on that one and its how most of us feel, its just a bit unexciting really. RJ was drawing attention to something I hadn’t read, a blog post last week by artist David Choe ridiculing an academic’s efforts to unmask the secretive political stencilist and group show organiser Banksy. I read Choe’s post, thought “Blimey, he’s suffered for his art”, agreed with his sentiments, thought nothing more.

Then in the evening, puzzled by the tag on a piece of street art I particularly like I was googling to see if I could find out who the artist was, in fact here it is, perhaps you can help decipher what the tag says:


The work resembles somewhat that of French street artist Jérôme Mesnager but I’m not convinced, no search revealed any indication of Mesnager visiting London recently. The work also reminds me strongly of a similar piece painted last year just yards from the same spot which bore the stencilled tag “JUST”.

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Dancing figures painted in negative space on the same wall, on the same street yards apart, one last year, one a few weeks ago, although the later piece is much rougher and has a freehand rather than stencilled tag, would you say the work looks to be by the same creative hand and mind?  I'm not convinced.

I’m a stickler for accurate attribution, so among many other relevant searches I googled “Street Artist Just”. The results included a link to an article published in the Smithsonian 3 days ago about BLU taking out all his own work in Bologna rather than have it sequestered and exhibited in a so called “Museum of Street Art”.

The first sentence of that article had a link intriguingly captioned “the scientific campaign to confirm the identity of Banksy”. That link brought up a news story from Queen Mary University of London about an academic paper correlating the occurrence of Banksy’s street art with addresses supposedly connected to a specific individual identified as Banksy in a 2008 Daily Mail article (Daily Mail -leading street art authority? Not really). Those 2008 claims were never verified.

Moorfield Hospital Rat
Banksy at Moorfield eye Hospital,; Banksy also believed to support Sightsavers; So Banksy is perhaps an optician?

So, then I did something I never ever usually waste time doing, I read a piece of academic research.

Banksy. Or Not?  Pt II
Banksy: believed to have been in shops (this is speculation)

Backing up for a moment, the authors are using what they sinisterly call Geographic Profiling to analyse locations and then draw conclusions about …an epicentre. The list of citations in the research shows it is used for some pretty interesting stuff like mapping the spread of disease and therefore locating its source, pretty much a hi tech update on what John Snow did in the 1850s to finger a particular public water pump as the source of London’s Cholera epidemic, or modelling bumble bee foraging, who knew bumble bees foraged?

So, these “Evil scientists” as David Choe calls them got hold of a copy of Graffoto co-blogger and good friend Shellshock’s classic books Banksy Location and Tours Vols 1 and 2 and noted the locations of Banksy’s work which Shellshock had diligently documented, stuffed the coordinates into a computer, compared them to locations where the supposed alleged Bansky character is supposed to have lived and shagged and went “Ha – it could be that guy”.  It’s a bit like mapping incidents of football violence and plugging in Stamford bridge’s post code and voila, “football violence happens around football stadiums”.

Banksy Toxic Rat
Banksy - Toxic Rat

The Evil Scientists then scooped national press attention and international blog posts because Banksy is media chocolate. The game for academics is quite simple, published research secures funding and tenured positions and you want to be published in the most prestigious publication you can and to be referenced as much as possible (fill ya boots Ms Hauge, citation below). I have no idea how esteemed the Journal Of Spatial Science is but I have little doubt that the work that went into this paper was pretty straight forward as the academics had the analytical tools already and the data conveniently to hand. The trickier bit is getting published, all that peer review and shit. So, if you find a journal that will publish it, then the Banksy tag will bring the world gawping, it’s a bit like academics prostituting themselves for “likes”.

The Journal of Spatial Science (source: Taylor and Francis Online)

It seems to me that the “science” in this case is flawed, not the theory whatever that might be but the rejection of the possibility that the data that might point to alternative conclusions.

I am aware of many many artists who came from Bristol to London, who did street art and graffiti, and who have returned to Bristol.   Then there's the huge number of London artists who visit Bristol, the "reverse bumpkin" syndrome.   There are a load of talented Bristol/London based artists, potential candidates who the evil scientists have ignored as potential Banksys, they chose to investigate only the one who was named in the press years ago.

The supposition that there could only be one person common to all those relevant addresses they believe that Banksy candidate frequented requires us to ignore how street artists behave in modern urban society. Hell, don’t the authors know about transport…you don’t need to live at the “epicentre” to be the source, there are pretty sound reasons why a lot of Banksy’s work appeared in Shoreditch and around West London, that would be because its where all the other graffiti writers and taggers were doing their thang and they kind of hang out in the same places for the same reasons.  They live in the same locales.   There are patterns underpinning the ebbs and flows of a graffiti writer's or street artist's social and working life which would see them frequenting the same locations and it isn’t exactly a trip to outer Mongolia, yes we do have cars and bikes and mass transport systems in London and Bristol.

Banksy "Take This Society"
Shephards Bush Roundabout: accessible by only one known individual

As the authors by their own admission are “assessing the evidence supporting one prominent candidate”, it seems odd that the Bristol home address for that person is 8 times less significant (HS percentage 5.5% vs 40.1%) than the location of that person’s school according to the quantitative scores they tabulate. Do you really think that the known Bristol works highlighted in Shellshock’s books were mainly painted by Banksy on his way home from school? My guess, just a guess, is that the work of that era (as covered in Shellshock’s book) post dates Banksy’s school years.  I take the results of their work as heartening evidence that the 2008 speculation is even less likely to be correct than we might have feared.

In my day job as a street art tour guide, guests are often inclined to pin me against a wall and demand to know who Banksy is. My stock answer is we don’t know who “he” is, nothing has ever been confirmed, nor denied, just left in limbo as a guess with no credible corroboration from someone we would trust to know and anyway, I don’t want my belief in the myth shattered, his anonymity is as important to me as it is to him, I need him to be secret. Let me echo David Choe’s castigation of the academics: exercise restraint, don’t crush the fragile flowering of talent, you really don’t need to know who Banksy is in fact you are better off not knowing, exactly what David Choe says.

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Banksy: leave him alone

The author’s certainly got their moment in the sun, the story ran in many newspapers worldwide and even the BBC, though on the BBC the research was ridiculed by a boffin credited as running the only geographic profiling course outside the US.

Here’s a final thought, perhaps the academics could try putting other people’s post codes into the software and see who many more millions could be Banksy. In fact, I lived for a couple of years in Bristol in the early 1990s and I lived (still live) a mere bicycle ride away from all the East London and West London work in the 2000s, so there you have scientific proof that despite the absence of any sign of wit or creative talent, I am indeed Banksy.

Ebay Banksy Stencil
Becoming Banksy (scary thing: 4 watchers)


Michelle V. Hauge, Mark D. Stevenson, D. Kim Rossmo & Steven C. Le
Comber (2016): Tagging Banksy: using geographic profiling to investigate a modern art
mystery, Journal of Spatial Science, DOI: 10.1080/14498596.2016.1138246


PS – if you know for sure what the tag in the photo says – drop a comment below

Monday, 25 January 2016

Banksy is Miserable over Calais Jungle

Photos: Dave Stuart aka NoLionsInEngland except where stated

News involving refugees is a daily staple, police using CS gas makes disturbingly frequent headlines, a new Banksy appearing in Central London, that IS hold-the-front-page news!

Banksy -Les Miserables

Banksy has appropriated and modified the image of Cosette, victim/heroine in les Miserables originally drawn by Émile Bayard to illustrate the first edition of Victor Hugo’s epic tragedy of doomed French democratic resistance. The addition of the French tricolour came about in the promotion of various musical versions of Les Miserables.

Cosette by Émile Bayard
Cosette by Émile Bayard (wikipedia)

Les Miserables. (off the net)

Bansky’s contemporary vesion shows an even more distressed Cosette wreathed in teargas from a CS gas canister lying at her feet.

Banksy Les Miserables

Banksy Les Miserables

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It is hugely political as the best Banksys are and to ensure the point is not missed, Banksy has provided a QR code which directs you to 7 minutes of recent footage of French police attacking refugees with CS gas. The aerial bombardment of the camp occupants with rocket launched multi headed gas canisters drives home the senseless deprivation of basic human rights the unfortunate occupants of the refugee camp are subjected to.

The unrelenting assault doesn’t injure the camp occupants but it in the footage it becomes clear that the authority’s intention is to irritate and unsettle the occupants.

video courtesy Calais Migrant Solidarity

At one point we see a water canon being sprayed onto the occupants, echoes of a central feature at Banksy’s Dismaland there, the police's actions just add further mess and misery to refugee's lives.

Dismaland, 2015

Attitudes to the refugees and the conditions they are forced to endure is a subject Banksy has repeatedly focussed on in the past year, he has already made several pieces in Calais relating to society’s attitudes to refugees seeking sanctuary from the war in Syria, as well as donating many materials left over from his Dismaland exhibition last year to provide shelter for displaced persons in the so called Jungle in Calais.

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"We're not all in the same boat". image copyright Banksy.co.uk

A Banksy hallmark is ideal placement and this image has a wonderful context placed directly opposite the French Embassy in London. For a bit more context, the French Embassy is located in Knightsbridge, yards from Hyde Park corner and you can hardly find a swankier spot in London in which to do a little criminal damage, nor a bigger contrast with conditions in Calais Jungle.


It is directly under the gaze of a CCTV camera mounted on the French building which now points directly at the image, this raises the one question which is the mark of a great piece of street art: “how on earth did Banksy get away with doing this”. The more security there is generally the faster the creation of the street art needs to be. This Banksy piece has very complex stencilism in the portrait of Cosette, it has multiple colours, it has freehand spraypainting in the gas and it has the detached stencil element of the CS gas canister. So how did he do it?

CCTV, an embassy!
CCTV Cameras. Guess where.

On close inspection it becomes apparent that the plywood surface the image was painted on was a different quality ply to the plywood in the adjacent windows. T he Cosette element of the image is actually spread on two separate sheets of plywood which Banksy ADDED over the existing plywood over the window, so he turned up with that plywood pre measured, the image ready sprayed and probably with the screw holes already drilled. Saves a bit of time that!


The security guards in the Embassy opposite say someone dressed in workers clothing was seen in the middle of Saturday night creating the work but they didn’t intervene as it was someone else’s private property

We know Banksy hates his street pieces being removed from their public site and disappearing into private collections and auction houses and it is noticeable that many of his recent pieces involve placing the art onto different surfaces, ideally as in the case of the Cheltenham GCHQ piece, with multiple owners of the different component surfaces which are intrinsic to the appreciation of the whole piece.

Photo: Shellshock Photos

This morning, workers renovating the premises Les Miserables is placed on were “under instructions from the Manager” removing the plywood image of Cosette but the fate of the CS gas canister was still under debate.

One little “booby trap” Banksy left the unsuspecting art heist merchants was that as well as the screws, the additional layer of plywood had been glued to the plywood below, which defeated the workers efforts to remove the top layer.

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0930 Monday morning. stuck.

One suspects that once they have a replacement plywood sheet ready to go in they will actually remove the whole ensemble.

Still stuck!

This raises an interesting legal question – who actually owns that added piece of plywood. We can be pretty sure Banksy won’t be too stressed about the destiny of the physical piece, his objective will be met by the newspaper, tv and internet coverage.

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Earlier this week after the blog post preceding this one I emailed blog compadres HowAboutNo and Shellshock (check the records, he has posted!) and observed that our next blog post would be our 300th. Our 200th blog post was about something we felt passionately about, the ludicrous and disproportionate sentencing handed out to a graffiti writer, 10FOOT for the crime of changing the colour of some surfaces without permission. Should we mark this milestone with some kind of synopsis of stuff which had raised our ire or floated our boat street art and graffiti wise since then, or should we just wait until something cropped up to write about in the usual course of events. Well, without wishing to gloss over the political point Banksy is making with this new work, a new Banksy on our doorstep after a 3.5 year gap is pretty exciting, let’s hope we don’t wait so long for the next one. Graffoto isn’t stopping any time soon!

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Neonia (Universe Of)

Brixton Bloc
Stockwell Road,
London SW9 9TP

2 Jan - 8 Jan (possibly to be extended)

UPDATE - EXTENDED TO 30 JAN, contact Neonita for details

Hello Saarf London, I see you got a new universe and jolly impressive and colourful it is too. Neonia, created by Neonita, is an all enveloping psychedelic experience, a woodland glade populated by strange fluorescent vaguely feline creatures playing with their young under a moonlight sky and watched over by some kind of Emperor Aladdin.


Neonita paraded her early characters on Shoreditch walls in 2010 and the honest reaction was “wow, different!” These fluorescent coloured nursery cartoon beasts were certainly not run of the mill street art characters nor even graffiti characters but, from practicing on the fence in her back garden Neonita soon progressed to murals in Shoreditch and unusually, for this style of imagery, painting with graffiti writers in Halls Of Fame.

Neonita, early 2010, feat Inkfetish (cheers for the shout T!)

Neonita, Leake St, late 2010

Neonita, Shoreditch, 2015

In Neonia, Neonita treats us to a totally immersive experience with every surface covered in crazy neon colours. Two special effects are then brought into play to complete the experience. The first is lashings of UV light dripping everywhere, the second is found on a small bench alongside a sign saying “please return after use”, a pair of 3D glasses. WOW, the effect is far out trippy maaaan. Orange colours lift off the walls while deeps blues recede and the combination is like some kind of hippy fractal nightmare.


Are these monsters lions or pussy cats? Friends or foes? It seems that among the lurid candy coloured brightness dark deeds may be afoot. This is an emergent post apocalyptic universe Neonita has set up, many of the creatures may be mutants after an unspecified wipe out event and not all of the creatures necessarily have friendly intentions.


The effect is impossible to recreate on a blog …unless perhaps you have both a black light fluorescent tube and 3D glasses at home. Sadly I don’t live in that kind of home.



Gentle movements of the head produce distortions of the images, a pussycat living below the moon eerily emerges out of the moonlight cloudscape and hangs in mid air and the eyes and noses of various monsters slide out of their sockets, while your brain screams “this can’t be happening, the orange and blue are next to eachother but my eyes see them sliding over eachother”. Who needs drugs?


Most compelling is the ethereal cosmos painted onto the ceilings, pinky orange clouds descend into the room and swirl around your head while behind them stars and astral dust twinkle.


Every way we turn there seem to be garish monsters preying on us.


A photo cannot convey the effect of the gaping mouth of this character as the lips move forwards to devour you while the cake-hole pushes deep back into the wall.


Neonia has emerged as a newfound state contained within Brixton Bloc, a building that is shortly to be demolished.

Brixton Bloc

Brixton Bloc

This space has history and in one or two locations there was evidence of previous occupants creating a do-it-yourself solution to the housing crisis, bedding and wall photographs were found under the concrete stairs and Neonita has retained some of these artifacts in honour of past usage.


Getting into Neonia may require some initiative, at the gated entrance a notice advises you to yell or ring a mobile number, a kindly gentleman responded to my bellows through the gate to the inner courtyard and pointed me upstairs and along a balcony to the right location but it seemed the gate may not actually be locked. I crossed Neonia’s threshold with my head in a fairly grim place thanks to the wishes of three different homicidal TfL bus drivers asserting their god given right to take over the space occupied by my bicycle on the road but basking in the lurid ambiance of Neonia had me feeling like I had spent an hour on the beach. A rather bizarre and potentially fatal psychedelic beach but very therapeutic.


Sadly Neonia’s existence is ephemeral and today is the last scheduled day but watch this space, there is talk of a couple of weeks stay of dissolution and if that materialises, do try to get there,


All photos: Dave Stuart aka NoLionsInEngland. Technical Note: photos were shot in raw and jpg. There was absolutely no point in colour correction so the colours here are as captured in jpg by the camera and are pretty spot on.