Street art mocks permanence and stillness. Even though there may be a documented trace of a graffiti on a wall, nothing can predict the length of time it shall stay up, whether it will stand its ground for years or barely a night. It could stand the test of time or end up covered in countless other layers of street art or censoring paint. However, the power lies in its creation and its interaction with a space that remains unclaimed and untamed, without artistic boundaries. Perhaps, then, it made sense that street art would meet animation within Blu’s work.
Blu is an anonymous Italian artist, who has been doing street art for years, working with white housepaint and black outlines to convey monstrous, changing figures with social and political sharpness, adapting to the architectural space and political mood of the city to his murals, always created within a space for free. Even though Blu has been noticed by museums and galleries alike, collaboration has not always been successful: he was invited by the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Francisco to paint a mural for their “Art in the Street” exhibition which was promptly covered up the next day. Most recently, his animosity towards street art within the museum took a distinctly radical turn. Upon learning in March about the exhibition Banksy: Street Art & Co in Palazzo Pepoli, within his home town of Bologna, in which his street art featured amongst many others that had been removed from the street without their artist’s consent, he painted over 20 years’ worth of his street art within the city. The gesture was a defiant sign of protest against the commodification and hoarding of art that ought to remain within the public realm. He has also painted over his own work to resist an area’s gentrification because of it.
Resisting stagnation and fears of destruction, sometimes conducting it willingly in order to move forward, it perhaps made sense that Blu would look towards animation. The animated mural he worked on in Buenos Aires, MUTO, took him a year to complete, for seven minutes of film.
It is a disturbing and dynamic metamorphosis in constant evolution, which maps the walls of a run-down part of the city, spreading into rubble and derelict buildings. Just as one painting replaces another to create movement on the walls, the effects of this creation are left visible, through the white paint residue of erased artwork and the time-lapse of the sky, moving cars and passers-by. The effect is not “clean” or seamless, on the contrary letting us peer through all the cracks, breaking the illusion. In another animated mural, BIG BANG BIG BOOM, the painters themselves are left as part of the final effect. This only adds to the effect when the paintings interact with actual objects; here, Blu also plays with stop-motion animation on city objects and detritus of the everyday, as well as some passers-by turned actors.
Animation has no rules – except, perhaps, the constraint of expressing a succession of images in sequence. The original animations were made on Ancient Egyptian murals so that charioteers riding past at full speed could see different images following each other at such a rate that persistance of vision would blend them into a movement. In the same way, Blu’s EVOLUTION OF MAN , while not a video in itself, would probably create an animated effect at a faster speed – or would slow the process of animation and change down into a thoughtful, contemplative walk alongside the walls of an anonymous street to follow the stories of an anonymous artist.
Blu’s animated stories have only one space in which their display reflects their true spirit: the street. Attempting to preserve a fragment of the story warps its driving creative force, the power it draws from the ephemeral, the city and its fleeting encounters.