Reverse Graffiti

Reverse graffiti, also known as clean tagging, dust tagging or grime writing, is a method of creating temporary graffiti on walls or other surfaces by removing dust or dirt from that surface.

This artistic medium has been used by independent artists, activists and also by companies,  to reach consumers through “clean advertising.”

One prominent reverse graffiti artist and self-proclaimed”professor of dirt” is Paul Curtis aka “Moose.” Moose prides himself on highlighting the striking contrast between clean and dirty. In 2008, Curtis was recruited by a company, looking for a creative way to promote a new green product line. At the center of the Reverse Graffiti Project, Curtis assisted this guerilla advertising effort by creating a mural featuring indigenous plants. The mural stretched along the length of San Francisco’s Broadway tunnel.

Curtis used traces of pollution to make an artistic and environmental statement challenging us to face “the cold realization that the world is really, really dirty.”

Get a first-hand look at the creation of this project here:

For another great example of grime writing, take a look a the work of Brazilian born graffiti artist and photographer Alexandre Orion. While Curtis used large stencils to create his massive tunnel mural, Orion takes on a humble approach by wiping away São Paulo’s Max Feffer Tunnel grime with nothing more than a wet cloth in hand.The video below features Orion’s determined efforts, run-ins with puzzled authorities, and a conclusion leaves you wondering if seeing his work washed away was indeed what Orion intended from the start.

For those who hold a deep appreciation for public art and free expression, but draw the line at defacing public property, perhaps reverse graffiti is the green outlet you’ve been looking for. Imagine the art we could create if we started creatively cleaning NYC… any ideas?


Tonya Marie Reid, CUSSW ’10


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