Thursday, 15 December 2016

Space Invader Strikes Back!

Interview with the UK Reactivation Team

Photos Dave Stuart except where stated

Planet Earth faces invasion and the insidious arrival of aliens has been going on for years with few people noticing. This is not the formulaic plot of yet another sci fi blockbuster, this is an invasion of street art masterminded by a secretive French street artist known only as Space Invader.

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_044
All hearts for LDN_044

A love of Space Invader’s mosaic pixel street art comes naturally to that generation of street art afficionadoes that came of age with early generation console games providing the most advanced “race into space” era addictive technology buzz. Scoff not ye youngsters, paddle tennis had us obsessed and Space Invaders on arcade machines saw many a precious pound note converted into 10p pieces. It is not merely a nostalgia trip though, a Space Invader mosaic located high on someone else's building in a built up part of London was a marvel, how did he get it there!!

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_055
LDN_055 - 30 points

Over the years many Space Invaders fell prey to age and avarice, it seems that there are people who think that Space Invaders can be sold in some kind of nightmare trade in the stolen artefacts of someone else’s vandalism. Thankfully, a small band of heroes calling themselves the UK Reactivation Team are coming to the rescue and reinstalling old, long lost iconic Space Invaders.

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_058
LDN_058 - a measly 10 points

Thanks to the magic of technology, Graffoto has secured a private interview with the anonymous UK Reactivation Team which sort of addresses the who, why, what and where. I’m kidding about the “who?” bit actually, you didn’t think that was going to be revealed did you? Space Invader, despite a significant cameo in Banksy’s street art documentary “Exit Through The Gift Shop”, is himself notoriously secretive so it feels appropriate the UK Reactivation Team should follow invader’s lead. The force shield around their identity is impenetrable.

Reactivation work - in progress
LDN_73 Photo: Reactivation Team UK

We came together as a handful of street art lovers that felt upset and annoyed that so many street pieces by Invader have been removed. We wouldn't be doing this if people would stop removing them thinking they can make money out of them”.

The “no shit Sherlock” revelation embedded in that statement is that the UK Reactivation Team is not Invader himself, though these guys have previously disclosed via their instagram account an important tacit approval from Invader HQ:

A final special Thank You to @invaderwashere for allowing us to form the team and put his trust in us to Reactivate his amazing works of art

Reactivated Space Invader - LDN_048
LDN_048 hits Warp Speed - 20 points

The ambition of these guys doesn’t limit itself to the smaller “fit in your DJ bag” sized invaders, when pressed to see if they would follow the lead of the French Reactivation Team who have reactivated really big Invaders in Paris (e.g. PA758), the UK Reactivation Team declare yes why not, one day. Major space cadet badge stars and intergalactic worship shall follow if they manage to reactivate this enormous baby:

Vintage Space Invader LDN_101
"LDN_99, I Am Your Father" - LDN_101

As they boldly go forth, the Reactivation Mission isn’t limited to just cloning the old invaders, several disfigured and damaged mosaics now look in pristine condition thanks to some judicious cleaning and replacement of missing parts.

Vintage Space Invader LDN_054
LDN_054 - Potential TLC Mission

But what happens if the wall that the original Invader took up station on no longer exists?

If the wall has gone then obviously the invader is dead.

Oringinal Space Invader
LDN_75, Original invasion target: Dragon Bar, Shoreditch. Mission terminated. (photo Sep 2007)

In their opening “Mission Profile” briefing, the UK Reactivation team announced that 65% of the London Invaders had been “stolen or destroyed. London’s invaders have so far arrived in 18 waves and a total of 150 invaders have taken up station on London streets, so shaking these numbers about a little suggests the UK Reactivation Team has pretty close to 100 missing-in-action soldiers to reactivate in London. These ambitious Space Rescue guys recognise the galaxy is bigger than just London. We hope to reactivate all the missing/stolen space invaders in the U.K. Already they have reactivated a couple in Manchester (012, 026, the later now gone again) and a quartet in Newcastle (003, 006, 015, 022).

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_009
LDN_009 - now a pillar of society. 20 points.

Space Invaders do not operate in a vacuum, international alliances have been formed with French and Dutch reactivation teams; the UK and Dutch Reactivation Teams share intelligence and the French Reactivation Team has helped with advice and installation, no frontiers shall hold back the Reactivators.

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_033
LDN_033 - 10 points

One slightly tricky issues arises from the project and it’s to do with the ephemerality of street art, we have to ask – should lost Space Invaders be reactivated? Space Invader doesn’t have an issue with it, these reactivation guys are dedicated to their work and I and many others are delighted to see old friends taking up station once more on London’s walls.

We like to see the Invaders in the street, if someone removes them we don't have to just shrug our shoulders and say "it is what it is" If we want to put them back then we will do just that.. and the best thing is others appreciate that view and like to see them too”!

The process of reactivation has actually become an art project in itself. The whole craftsmanship of reproduction, the planning and the installation, the decisions on what invaders to reactivate at what time, all has a complex beauty that still wows but the finished work is what matters.

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_048
Lurking. LDN_048 - 20 points

A particularly furtive red faced blue eyed invader re-appeared in May this year on the front of Harper and Tom’s flower shop in Notting Hill, neither Sophie who has worked there for a year nor Alex, 4 years, recall the original. I thought it was cool when I saw, it looked like a cool bit of tiling, it was like some kind of street art or something said Sophie.

Space Invader created a smartphone App for tracking scouts to seek out and “flash” the invaders, coordination with Space Invader HQ means the reactivated invaders work on the app so these are no mere facsimiles of invaders, they are officially recognised as fully functioning invaders. In researching preparing this star (b)log my Invader app score went from 1200 to 1550 driving me up to the giddy heights of the top 2300s on the scores list!

INvader Ap
On the very cusp of the top 2221!

Speaking of craftsmanship and creation/recreation, just what are the invaders reactivated from?

Sourcing the correct tiles is sometimes easy sometimes impossible, it does limit some reactivations going ahead, but you'd be surprised where some of them pop up from.
said the UK Reactivation Team

UK Space Invader Reactivation
LDN_091, Photo: UK Reactivation Team

UK Space Invader Reactivation
Sid LDN_073, Photo: UK Reactivation Team

At the time of writing, a grand total of 21 London space invaders have now been reactivated, one or two have had a deep clean pampering session and there are also a total of six reactivated invaders in Manchester and Newcastle. In addition to the photos above of reactivated London invaders, a photo collection of completed London reactivation missions to date follows below.

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_001
LDN_001 - London was warned! 30 points

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Shaken, not stirred - LDN_007 10 points

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_013
Phone home - LDN_013 - 20 points

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_021
LDN_021 - 20 points

Reactivated Space Invader - LDN_034
Exploring forbidden planets LDN_034 - 10 points

Reactivated Space Invader - LDN_045
Can Al get 10 points for flashing LDN_045?

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_051
This is not Greece. True or False? LDN_051 - 10 points

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_053
Saree for the poor photo. LDN_053 - 10 points

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_082
Bear with us. LDN_082 - 20 points

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_083
No parking actually. LDN_083 - 30 points

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_091
As broad as it is long LDN_091 - 20 points

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_092
Fancy a 3-some? LDN_092 - 30 points

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_097
Almost riveting LDN_097 - 30 points

Reactivated Space Invader LDN_099
Spying on unwashed Richards LDN_099 - 30 points

Go scan the skies, monitor the Reactivation Team's instagram account and scour the streets, those invaders are watching you from the walls, waiting for you to go and flash them.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Stik That In Yer Auction

Loathe though we are to see street art pieces being removed from the streets and entering in the commercial market on this occasion, a piece of Stik street art to be auctioned has Stik’s blessing so I guess we can be ok with it.

Stik Magpie
Photo via Stik

From a message issued by Stik:

Street Artist Stik has agreed to authenticate and approve the sale of a street art piece he once painted on the front of the Magpie Social Centre in Bristol. This piece appeared in 2009 on the front wall of the not-for-profit social centre which was evicted earlier this year and is currently looking for a new premises.

Magpie Social Centre

Stik states: “The Magpie Social Centre was one of the free spaces that actively encouraged street art and helped me to become the artist I am today. I don’t generally approve of the sale of street pieces but here I will make an exception. It gives me great pleasure to authenticate this piece so that Magpie can continue to support the next generation of artists.”

Stik only authenticates street artworks when all proceeds benefit the community they were painted for. The artist was approached by the community centre earlier this year and helped set up the sale with London auction house Phillips. The piece titled ‘Magpie’ has been preserved, framed and logged and comes with a certificate of authenticity.

End message quote

The Stik piece being auctioned tomorrow is more clearly visible in a photo I took back then:

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Photo: Dave Stuart

More details about the auction were released in a later message which came in from Stik today:

Stik met with the director of Magpie Project Space this week to authenticate the fundraiser sale on Thursday 8th December at Phillips Auction. Seen here at the private view the sale is expected to raise enough funds to rehouse the community centre.

Stik with Natty Lee form Magpie Social Centre at Phillips Auction Private view.
Stik with Natty Lee from Magpie Social Centre at Phillips Auction Private view. Photo via Stik

Details of the piece are:
STIK – Magpie
Lot 90, Phillips
New Now
London Auction
8 December 2016

Signed, dated and authenticated 'STIK 2009 2016' on the reverse. Spray paint on wood, in artist's frame.
139 x 29.8 cm (54 3/4 x 11 3/4 in.)
Executed in 2009. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the artist's studio.
£8,000 - 12,000

To participate in this rare opportunity to acquire an authenticated street piece:
Contact Specialist
Simon Tovey
Head of Sale
+44 20 7318 4084

End Stik’s second message quote

Interestingly there is no real disclosure regarding the ownership of the actual property that the Stik piece was painted on though the catalogue confirms, as indeed Stik also does, that it is a genuine Stik authenticated by the artist and the catalogue baldly states “Provenance: Magpie Social Centre”. Doubtless Phillips will have done their homework to establish who owned the piece of property that the Stik is painted on and the proof is likely to be buried in legal property or lease agreements. They will have done that won’t they? At least the photo I took is pretty conclusive that the Stik piece was indeed a fixture within the property occupied by the Magpie Social Centre.

On the surface it feels like this has a lot of similarities with the famous case in Bristol where Banksy’s Mobile Lovers was removed by the proprietor of the Riverside Boys Club and which ultimately led to Banksy authenticating the street piece and using language very similar to Stik’s to confirm that he was ok with it being sold as a fund raiser for the Boy’s Club. The clear difference is that while Banksy’s Mobile Lover was almost certainly done without permission, Stik is likely to have had the blessing of the Magpie Social Centre to create his work.

All photos via Stik except Dave Stuart where stated.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Advertising Shits In Your Head

all photos Dave Stuart except Dog Section Press as noted

Street art is nothing without an element of subversion.  All street artists doing permission murals or safe pasteups in highly tolerant art zones should be grateful to the proponents of illegal, subversive street art who boldly risk everything to lend street art its veneer of edgy coolness. 

Cut Up Collective, 2008

In the early days of street art an anti advertising posture was the default mantra trotted out as the justification for damaging public property with visual media.  Billboard media was often the host surface to which parasitic street art images adhered, they didn’t ask your permission for their adverts, why should you ask theirs for use of their canvas for your art?   Pushing back against advertisers’ use of OUR public common realm to coerce desire and demand when otherwise none would occur were crack ad space hijackers like D*Face, the Cut Up Collective, Zevs, Poster Boy and more recently Mobstr and Hogre.

Cut Up Collective 2008

Hogre, Shoreditch, 2016

In the past couple of weeks we have spotted a new round of ad busting credited to an artist  using the ID @proteststencil.   As I rushed  past some illegal flyposter adverts in Shoreditch a couple of weeks ago I spotted the lyrical but brutal slogan “advertising shits in your head”.   I thought “wow, someone could really do something with that”.  The next day an email informed me that someone had!  Sadly in my rush I hadn’t stopped to photograph the subverted flyposting in its pristine form and when I returned a certain amount of decay had already set in but you get the idea from this photo:

@ProtestStencil 2016

A late excursion to Islington confirmed that all the @stencilprotest ad heists had gone with this one exception:

@ProtestStencil 2016

Was there a point to this new ad busting campaign?  Well, anarchy takes a lot of organising so to help get your ad hacking shenanigans structured and effective, Dog Section Press is  publishing “Advertising Shits In Your Head (Strategies For Resistance) and a crowdfunding campaign has been set up to cover printing costs.  Personally I fancy the book and the teeshirt.

image courtesy Dog Section Press 

Noted ad busting artists such as our long time favourite Dr D in London and Jordan Seiler from New York who we had the great pleasure of meeting this year have provided their insights as to why this publication is particularly significant,

“Advertising Shits In Your Head concisely describes, through unique first-hand accounts, the range of concerns adressed by today's subvertising community. From a right to the city argument, to the belief that advertising is the biggest obstacle to avoiding catastrophic climate change, Advertising Shits In Your Head envisions a movement looking far beyond culture jamming and corporate identity sabotage." – Jordan Seiler (Public Ad Campaign)

Jordan Seiler
Jordan Seiler, London, 2016

"Once advertising has shit in your head, you're going to need something to clean it up with; I couldn't recommend this book more highly." Dr. D

Dr d Curfew Zone
Dr D, 2015

Today issues such as is there such a thing as good advertising or bad advertising or is there too much advertising or where should advertising go is the subject of much commercial, municipal and academic debate. Meanwhile, advertisers advertise and street artists resist and street artists everywhere owe a debt of gratitude to advert hijackers, Advertising Shits In Your Head will explain why it is important we have people willing to stand up to advertisers and how it could be done.

image courtesy Dog Section Press

Of course the use of ad hacking and an anti-advertising stance to promote and raise awareness of one's crowdfunding of an anti-advertising manual is itself rather ironic but it has to be done.  For more examples of @stencilprotest’s efforts to support this campaign check the Special Patrol Group Facebook page

Friday, 16 September 2016

Stick 'em Up (Portland vs London)

London is constantly blessed, honoured and privileged to receive visits from street artists from foreign shores and our scene is enriched by their creative mischiefs. Since last weekend a group of artists mainly hailing from Portland, Oregon have been absolutely caning London’s walls. The artists now represented in strength in London are Arrex skulls, Voxx Romana, DRSC0, Pamgoode, Sike 1 and Tenet, all from Portland apart from Melbourne’s Tenet who hooked up with the Portland Group (for that is what I feel inclined to call them) here in London.

Arrex is a regular visitor to these shores and is a leading sticker artist using a skull motif as the basis for his colourful and surprisingly varied stickers. New cranial variations seen this time include a surreal 4 eyed skull and a very Sailor Jerry inspired sticker beautifully slapped onto a very relevant sign.

Arrex Skulls

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Arrex Skulls

A new direction so far as Arrex’s wall decoration in London goes are paste ups, though the skull remains ever present.

If Consumed - Plan Funeral, Arrex Skulls

Arrex has also put up a whole bunch of stencils, again we haven't seen this aspect of his practice in London in the past. Smaller stencils employ convention bridges in hanging details like the eyes, these give the skulls a robotic cyborg kind of appearance. Larger stencils though adopt the mesh mounting technique, perhaps that's an American thing.

Arrex Skulls

tn_IMG_1918 copy
Arrex Skulls

Voxx Romana’s Einstein-in-a-helmet motif has regularly appeared on London’s streets, this time is no different, the cheeky little specimen below is a transparent sticker hiding it’s black image against a black pole, you’ve got to have your special street art night vision peepers fully operational to spot a self effacing sticker like this!

Voxx Romana (note D7606 in the background - see "PDX v LDN" below)

Voxx Romana paste ups have appeared here in the past, one thing that must give Voxx Romana and Arrex Skulls a special tingle is finding that numerous specimens of art from their previous visits are still visible in certain select locations. This new example is stenciled onto an original map lobbed by Voxx's local library.

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Voxx Romana, 2016

Another little gem from the Voxx Romana treasure hunt is this curious two colour sticker on a transparent background. At first glance it looked like two single layer transparent stickers one over the other but on closer inspection it reveals itself as a two colour transparent sticker with an offset registration, ‘cos that s the kind of thought that pops into your head when you look at stickers, innit?

Voxx Romana

DRSC0 has also gone down the sticker and paste up route. The first couple of DRSC0 paste ups sighted went up on Saturday evening (ok, some time between Saturday morning and Sunday morning) but suffered pretty swift scragging. Maybe the eyes offended a religious sensibility, certainly the quadruple eyes thing can be a bit disconcerting. By Sunday morning the damage to one of DRSC0’s paste ups had been partially made good with a little spray painted filling in.

tn_DSC_0463-001 copy

Street art soars when it has site specific relevance and DRCS0 has taken two flayed man stickers (ok, maybe I have spent too much time immersed in Game Of Thrones this year, quite possibly they are medical illustrations) and created this tiny but wonderful homage to Stik’s treasured Brick Lane couple.

DRSC0 vs Stik

DRSC0 has also deployed stencils, like Arrex favouring the mesh mounting approach, visible if you look closely at this image of a sunrise over a mountain peak.


Tenet, repping Melbourne, reinvents and rediscovers quotes from the ancient wise; pearls of wisdom and vintage photos of crusty warriors, philosophers and revolutionary anarchists who lived and learnt all that meaning-of-life-shit long ago and whose messages remain valid today.

Tenet feat Atilla The Hun

The Russian philosopher and anarchist Mikhail Bakunin (rather than the later restatement attributed to Picasso) is the source for “The urge to destroy….”

tn_DSC_0491 copy

Emma Goldman was also a noted early 20th Century anarchist once impressively dubbed “the most dangerous woman in America”; when street art prompts you to google online biographies and learn something – that’s mission accomplished.

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Pamgood2, also from Portland, spies on us from the walls. Her photorealistic mono-eye and a sternly furrowed eyebrow are surrounded by lurid coloured splats. It’s like we are on the wrong side of a peephole in a spraycan test facility.


Another artist representing Portland is Sike1 who has put up stickers and some paste ups in Shoreditch, on the stickers the art was very gothic and gloomy looking, on the paste up it still looks gothic and gloomy though at the larger scale the curious goat skull/5 branch candelabra/hooded female figure in undies composition is easier to see, who knew Death’s handmaiden looked so attractive.

tn_IMG_1936 copy
Sike 1

While Arrex and Voxx Romana have both had significant representation on London streets in the past, on this occasion there is a further dimension to the Portland Group's visit, a very short group show at the ever interesting BMST Space in Dalston. Several of London’s (umm..a definition of London extended to embrace Brighton and Birmingham and other up North spots) street artists are exhibiting alongside 5 sons and daughters of Portland (note Mad1 from Portland also in the show, street art output not yet discovered by this scribbler). This is open for a limited 3 day period from Thursday 15th to Saturday 17th of September so don’t delay, hurry and get along to see how this curious geographic face off works indoors.

tn_201609015 BMST SPace PDX v LDN
Flyer from BSMT Space

What is evident in the work this group has put up in the space of a few short days is their energy and the evident enjoyment. Life has no greater thrill than the adjustment of the urban landscape in the company of like-minded friends and this brotherly – and sisterly – band have taken to our urban surfaces with glee. Participation in the Portland>London face off in the gallery may be their reason for coming over but in the battle on the streets, Portland has taken a sticky grip on our walls in the past few days.

Jana & JS (Fr), Arrex Skulls, DRSC0 and friend of the Portland Group WRDSMTH (his recent visit)

The tardy protracted creation of this blog post (each day as I approached a conclusion, these blighters put up even more work that caught my eye) means that I have just returned from the show and that exuberant energy that has marked their cutting a swathe across London's walls transports itself into the gallery. The artists are to a soul personable and friendly creatures and I understand that they will all (the Portland Group faction at least) be present in the gallery on Friday evening (16th Sep) as well, for those of you reading this in time.

PDX>LDN opening night

All photos: Dave Stuart (NoLionsInEngland)


Arrex Skulls:
Voxx Romana:


BSMT Space: