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7 Street Art Works Without A Drop Of Spray Paint

Now artists take the streets with laptops, robots, programmable paintball equipment, and even explosives.
November 1, 2011, 7:54pm

Digital art has long consumed the art community by giving us new artistic techniques and informing our aesthetic, so it was only a matter of time until technology infiltrated even the most populist form of art and entered the realm of street art. In some ways, this pairing was meant to be. Street artists have always been known innovators, the “hackers” of the art world, transforming urban environments with found materials. For their part, digital artists have often treated the web as if it were their street—a public forum for them to display their craft, to make it accessible to all and bypass the traditional “art institutions.” The creative energy on the streets is alive and well, but today’s generation of street artists have got new tools in their arsenal—and they’re not your typical spray cans.

M.I.R.I.A.M. X Vhils – Orelha Negra

UK-based Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto (aka Vhils) creates gorgeous, large-scale portraits and images in situ, often taking away bits of plaster, brick, or other wall materials in order to fashion his designs. To do this, he often employs some experimental, and incendiary techniques, like the explosives he rigged to create the designs above. When we spoke to the artist regarding his creative process a few months ago, he commented on how he was interested in working with elements he could not control. Using a stencil as the only fixed element, the image that forms is the result of precise calculations, and a bit of luck. The design takes shape as the dust settles. "I like the uncertain, the unexpected," Vhils explained.

Narcélio Grud – Sonic Spray

Born in the Brazilian state of Ceará, Narcélio Grud gained popularity for crafting musical instruments with material found from junkyards. The video above features one of his latest projects, Sonic Spray, with sound sculptures built from recycled materials. He spoke to us here about his urban interventions using sound and paint to project visuals.

Graffiti Research Lab – LASER Tag

By now, you’re probably familiar with the tremendous work in graffiti innovation done by the creative minds that comprise the Graffiti Research Lab (GRL). Co-founded by Creator James Powderly, the GRL contrived a system that allows individuals to draw on buildings remotely with a laser. The movement made with the beam is programmed into computer graphics and then projected onto the building’s facade, which means that the work is impermanent, but also property-damage free.


Facadeprinter works as a large-scale inkdot printer. Essentially a software-controlled robot, it creates an image by shooting multicolor dots at a wall, following a preset graphic pattern. The system is similar to the idea of a paintball gun, but instead of pelting the enemy team, here your bullets are propelled onto a wall to make drawings composed of giant melted pixels.

VR/Urban – SMSlingshot

We first encountered this playful tagging device last year when VR/Urban debuted SMSlingshot at a media festival in Europe. It enables you to type a message onto a mobile phone device set in a wooden slingshot, fire it at a wall, and splat! You have your own text message splashed in a color explosion on the wall.

Recyclism – LCD/Sonic Graffiti

In an art form that is predominantly visual, it’s refreshing to see a project that explores the possibilities of audio street art. L.S.D/Sonic Graffiti uses visual elements from the street—namely, light sources— and translates that data into sound. By using light dependent resistors mounted on a suction cup, the artist can mount sensors to any light-emitting surface, such as a crosswalk light or billboard in New York. A synthesizer converts the light into sound waves, which change frequencies according to luminance.

Bijari – Mapping 3D Planeta Humano

Projection mapping may be becoming the most prevalent form of this new generation of “street art,” and in fact, several of the projects mentioned above make use of projection technology as well. One fine example of the form is from Brazilian group Bijari, who projected a large scale visual on The Sao Paulo Museum of Art (MASP). In an earlier interview, Bijari explained to us that "because MASP is a 70-meter long facade, one sole projector wouldn't work, so we used three 30,000-lumen projectors for this huge structure." The 12 minute video was projected on loop for three hours to promote the launch of the series Human Planet on the Discovery Channel.

What sort of new creative techniques have you seen out there on the streets? Show us your favorites in the comments below.