Automotive Ossuary

Brazilian artist Alexandre Orion turned a São Paulo transport tunnel into a kind of graphic charnel house, lined with skulls.
He created the images, the project’s website explains, “by selectively scraping off layers of black soot deposited on those walls in the short life of this orifice of modernity.”
And what a lovely orifice it is…

Specifically, Orion scraped, cleaned, and rubbed down through soot “until reaching the natural color of the walls” – inevitably leading me to wonder what other worlds, of figures and images and narrative sequences, might exist in some future graphic tense beneath layers of urban pollution…? And could one prepare for the accumulation of soot by attaching stencils to the walls of tunnels – only to remove those in five years, revealing imagery?
Interestingly, the rough geological equivalent of this procedure can be found throughout the American Southwest, in the form of various “newspaper rocks
– where layers of desert varnish have been scraped away to reveal natural rock pigmentation, thus allowing the production of representational art.

In any case, the descriptive text on Orion’s website seems to go downhill fairly quickly – we’re soon scraping soot off the walls of repression and peeling away consciousness itself, and we’re meant to be very, very angry while doing so – but the funny thing is, because voluntarily scrubbing sections of a public underpass isn’t actually illegal in São Paulo – and would seem, in fact, to be a sign of refined citizenship – try as they might, Brazil’s patient and well-organized police force couldn’t charge Orion with anything.

Instead, the fire crews showed up and washed it down with hoses.

(Via Paul Schmelzer’s Eyeteeth, which quotes a nice recap of Orion’s project).

10 thoughts on “Automotive Ossuary”

  1. bah! i used to do that all the time as a kid by scraping drawings onto the side of our house and on the window sills.

    yes, we lived next to a monsterous steel plant – lol!

  2. Seeing the image of the firemen spraying the down the walls after this artistic endeavor gave me the feeling I was living a scene from Fahrenheit 451. The state eliminating art to keep the masses unaware of any sort of civil discontent. Maybe if the images were of pink bunnies and puppies they would have stayed, but I prefer the inpermanent skulls any day of the week.

  3. Rafael Trelles has been doing high-water-pressure removal graphics on Puerto Rican sidewalks and walls for a little while now…
    here. I had been meaning to do an archinect feature on him for ages. Maybe a painting by erasure collaborative is in order.

  4. Jav – You should still do that Archinect feature; with all these different artists/projects, you could really make something of it. It’d be fun.

    Speaking of which, thanks kosmograd and elizabeth! Nice links.

  5. just came across this moose goose.

    my wife has been doing the same sort of graffiti application for a few years. she has some pretty interesting social commentary ideas. she doesnt suck up and sell out to corporations for a few bucks.

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