Archives de Tag: Writing

Le site industriel rue des Grands Mortiers est une friche culturelle occupée depuis 2001 par la Compagnie Off et le pOlau – pôle des arts urbains.
En cours de réhabilitation, il sera inauguré en janvier 2015.
Son nom, le Point H^UT, fait écho à sa tour de 22 mètres qui s’élèvera depuis le hangar central.
Le 18 et 19 février 2014 a eu lieu une rencontre entre artistes visant à penser la ville du futur à l’horizon 2032 (« Du virtuel au vivant, la ville aux mains des artistes »).
En marge du projet « Objectif 2032 », (co-porté par le Festival d’AurillacHorsLesMurs et le pOlau …) j’ai filmé l’Action Painting d’Antoine Bonnet Alias « Kik », (membre du Graffiti Research Lab (France) et de la Brigade Neurale) en plein bombardement d’une façade du chantier.

Pour voir le projet original c’est ici :

Et le mode d’emploi est là :

Amusez-vous bien !

Le Nid-de-Poule Cracking (voir ma petite gallerie : ) est un nouveau jeu exploitant une faille de sécurité urbaine.
Je vous invite à lire ce petit billet publié sur le site du Collectif Citoyen Métèques & Aliens.

?? Vous êtes encore là ? Allez ! Ouste !

Cholo writing is the style of graffiti used by Mexican gangs in Los Angeles. Unlike its bulbous comic counterpart on the East Coast, Cholo has roots in curiously formal calligraphic and black letter traditions. This unique typographic language has been documented in a new book, Cholo Writing: Latino Gang Graffiti in Los Angeles (Dokument Press), by François Chastanet, who previously published a photographic survey of graffiti in São Paulo, Pixaçao (disclosure: I contributed the foreword). Chastanet, an architect, graphic designer, typographer and photographer from France, has spent much of his time documenting graffiti and its relationship to architecture. His current analysis illuminates how important these cultural writing (and tagging) forms are to their makers, and how they mark territories much like flags and coats of arms. In this interview Chastanet gives us a condensed lesson in Cholo’s history.

Cover of the book, Cholo Writing: Latino Gang Graffiti in Los Angeles by François Chastanet (click here for a look inside ).

Heller: What is Cholo writing?

Chastanet: The term cholo derives from an Aztec word xolotl meaning ‘dog’ that was later turned on its head and used as a symbol of pride by the Mexican-American community in the context of the ethnic power movements of the 1960s, from which emerged the idea of La Raza or Chicano nationalism (e.g., Brown Berets in Watsonville). Cholo writing originally constitutes the vernacular handstyle created by the Mexican gangs in Los Angeles as far back as the 1940s: a neglected phenomenon that has a specific place in the history and development of the urban graffiti of the Western world, it is probably the oldest form of the “graffiti of names” in the 20th century, with its own aesthetic, evident long before the explosion in the early 1970s in New York. Cholo writing or placas can be seen as cousins of the baroque gothic calligraphies typical of Mexico, as a genuine expression of a border culture between Mexico and the United States. It has had a major influence on the visual expressions of Californian popular culture, including the lowrider, surf, skate and hip-hop movements.

The book Cholo Writing explores the genesis of these specific letterforms that paradoxically gave a visual identity to Los Angeles’ infinite banal suburbia. For the first time ever a historical series of photographs from the early 1970s in L.A. is presented together with a contemporary collection, which gives a unique insight in the history of Cholo writing from an aesthetic point of view. Howard Gribble, an amateur photographer from the city of Torrance in the south of Los Angeles County, documented Latino gang graffiti from 1970 to 1975 with the simultaneous idea of “portraying the city.” These black-and-white photographs, frontal visual recordings of various Cholo handletterings, constituted an unique opportunity to try to push forward the calligraphic analysis of Cholo writing, its origins and formal evolution.

Heller: What are the messages in this form of graffiti? Are there any “stars” of gang graffiti, or is it meant to be anonymous?

Chastanet: The gang culture is a truly simultaneous phenomenon of the suburban Californian dream. Latino gangs are a parallel reality of the local urban life, with their own traditions and codes – from oral language, way of dressing, tattoos and hand signs to letterforms. Without ignoring the violence and self-destruction inherent to la vida loca (or “the crazy life,” referring to the barrio gang experience), one needs to document the visual strategies of this subculture to survive as a visible entity in a suburban environment. These inscriptions have a totally different function than what we call graffiti nowadays, i.e., tags representing individuals’ nicknames mainly (usually with additional crew names associated with them). These wall-writings, sometimes called the “newspaper of the streets,” are territorial signs whose main function is to define clearly and constantly the geographic limits of a gang’s influence area and encourage gang strength, a graffiti made “by the neighborhood, for the neighborhood.” Writing a group’s name makes it immortal. The image stays while the carnage between gangs continues—name writing has always been closely linked to death and memory. So, in Cholo writing the image of the name of the gang is at the heart of the writing practice. Most of gang members produce graffiti but at different levels: in each gang there are lettering specialists, usually one skilled writer writes for the whole group for large inscriptions, and some guys are genuine lettering experts, both today and in the past.

Roll call of names in Cholo writing, c. 1970s. (photo: Howard Gribble)

Heller: There appears to be a lot of references to gothic and inscriptional lettering. Is this studied on the part of the gang members, or naïve? Are there any rules governing Cholo, whether artistic or territorial?

Chastanet: Everything but naïve. How we make things, how we represent ourselves, how we display our name in that case: the style tells who we are. Drawing letters is a practice where identity and origin questions are essential. Cholo inscriptions has a specific written aesthetic based on a strong sense of the place and on a monolinear adaptation of historic black letters for street bombing. There are very precise calligraphic codes, constant through time and different generations of gang members, even if continuous evolutions appear. To represent their name with the maximum aura and “officialdom” Chicano writers have chosen since the 1960s (and even probably before) black letters like Engravers Old English or Goudy Text Old Style (mainly in uppercases) appearing in all sorts of official printed ephemera of that time (like school diplomas, birth certificates, etc.) to create the classic Cholo handstyle. Lettering manuals like Speedball Textbook for Pen & Brush Lettering by Ross F. George—his work appears in the Speedball Lettering catalogues from the 1930s and ’40s—seem also to be obviously known by some Los Angeles gang writers. In the Mexican community gothic calligraphy consciously communicate tradition, taking the written name to a certain degree of importance, to an almost religious level. What is impressive is to see that this style has a kind of geographic homogeneity through Los Angeles county even if each gang, each territory tries to have its own “corporate” identity through lettering details inside the Cholo script rules.

Detail of Cholo writing, c. 1970s. (photo: Howard Gribble)

Heller: The look of Cholo writing is decidedly different from East Coast and European graffiti, in part because it’s monochrome rather than chromatic. Why is this?

Chastanet: Los Angeles gang graffiti is much older than what we see as normal or regular graffiti today, which are variants around the New York model of tags (based on the gestural signature aesthetic), throw-ups (quick efficient bubble letters) and pieces (based on comics lettering with highly colored inside surfaces, outlines and background). To the contrary, Cholo writing and placas are traditionally black. This is mainly due to the fact that their influence is based on typographic headlines and titles from newspapers for example, mainly black prints. At the same time, their ambition is not decorative but mainly functional, it is clearly a tool for gangs to create a simple, efficient and legible signage system. Nevertheless, nowadays you can see more places written with all sort of colors; white or silver are occasionally used on walls with dark backgrounds for better visibility of course. Their lettering culture is much closer to epigraphy, in a way, no ligatures between signs. Since the beginning of the 1980s a kind of New York style of graffiti—(mainly individual and going all-city, not confined to the neighborhood/turf limits—started to appear in Los Angeles streets, but it has only a very limited influence on gang graffiti.

Heller: You had to go through many gang neighborhoods to document Cholo. Did you have any scuffles?

Chastanet: Not really, but I was close to it several times—I had to run a couple of times. Approximately half of the photographs are shot from the car while driving slowly. Howard Gribble was using the same method back in the 1970s. I was usually shooting photos in the early morning, from 7:00 to 11:00 a.m. (mobsters don’t wake up very early), and after 12:00 p.m. it was only possible to do some recognizing of neighborhoods by car and walking, no cameras with me. It was problematic because most of the gang graffiti is removed within 12 hours by the different municipalities of Los Angeles county. Basically, I wanted to work with an SLR camera first, but the street context didn’t permit it many times. I had to be as discreet as possible so I used a digital point-and-shoot camera—sometimes taking the picture under my arm and shoulder to hide the camera while walking. In all neighborhoods most of the people believed I was a cop. Rarely it was possible to engage in conversation, but I was not expecting it. I had to jump over fences for some pictures, and also had some problems with LAPD while shooting photos from the banks of different freeways.

Cholo writing on a Los Angeles street, c. 2000s. (photo: François Chastanet)

Heller: You’ve documented graffiti in São Paolo, Brazil, and now L.A. What is it that appeals to your eye and sense of aesthetics? Do you have your sights set on another genre of graffiti to document next?

Chastanet: In my work the main idea is to document original graffiti phenomena that created their own visual culture, different from the New York kind of graffiti that became almost a worldwide conformity today, partly because during a long period New York graffiti was the only graffiti visible in traditional media. Tags and pieces from New York were also over-documented in the graffiti fanzines and books world. A book like Subway Art by Henry Chalfant and Martha Cooper (first published in 1984) had a massive impact worldwide and made the global emergence of graffiti possible worldwide, spreading mimicry among the youth. Even young Japanese writers don’t write with their own characters and choose to follow the existing practices based on the Latin alphabet (only a few are using Japanese signs). The New York myth of the origins is still so strong today that very few people worldwide try to surpass it or to find another way, their own way linked with a specific urban context. And the internet reinforces the recurrent tendency toward sterile mimicry, a lot of “me too” people.

Only few original alternative models exist independently to the now global New York experience/aesthetic—the São Paulo pixação scene and Cholo writing in Los Angeles are two pretty rare examples and constitute geographical aesthetical particularities. We can observe the emergence of a genuine “urban efficiency” in (illegal) architectural lettering, the illegal and hand-crafted context bringing new formal solutions. The fact that these letterings are illegal is essential; pixações from São Paulo can be seen as an alphabet designed for urban invasion, a beautiful “total coverage” writing system. So both the pixações and Cholo letters can be seen as an expression of the consequences of the 21st-century megalopolis conditions on the drawing of letterforms, as an unexpected evolution of the Latin alphabet. São Paulo and Los Angeles Cholo writers were able to create their own original identity through letterforms, this fact being pretty unique in the visual communication of subcultures. As an architect interested in urban planning, and a graphic designer and typographer by academic training, it was hard not to be interested be this.

Detail of contemporary Cholo writing, c. 2000s. (photo: François Chastanet)

Heller: Do you link this to typographic or calligraphic history?

Chastanet: Like many people I always have been fascinated by the history and evolution of letterforms, calligraphy, etc. But I had the feeling that calligraphy was a field mainly marked by historic mimicry rarely questioning what is writing today, what is writing without a broad pen (the contrast of “translation,” according to Gerrit Noordzij’s analysis of the letterform) or without a pointed flexible pen (the contrast of “expansion”), but with tools of the 20th century such as ballpoints (Bic Biros) and felt-tip pens (Pentel’s SignPen) producing writing without contrast (without classic thick and thin effect). In a way, calligraphers produce calligraphy, not today’s writing or useful models for the masses. Nobody is using a broad pen anymore in its everyday practice, even graffiti writers that were obligated to use broad pen markers because the only really big markers existing on the market—for many years were broad pens—recently created their own tools, giant markers with round tips (mop markers and squeezers). We have to accept that we are now a monolinear writing civilization based on ballpoints and felt-tip pens way of thinking since more than 50 years now, and the consequences of this is too rarely observed in today’s type design production (mainly never-ending re-conducting the historical existing type of contrast with only slight variations in proportions, weights and outlines). Nevertheless, quality typefaces like Flora by Gerard Unger—who worked on his own handwriting with a ballpoint for this font—or ABC-Schrift by Hans Eduard Meier constitute interesting projects.

Album cover for Rank Strangers (Taxim Records) using Cholo lettering by Rick Griffin.

Both São Paulo and Los Angeles offer us a chance to see other and different ideas, changing the structure of the letter itself, even if the people practicing it are not totally conscious of what they are doing. These two examples are not just vernacular phenomena, there is an authority, a real knowledge in the mastering of drawing written signs, imparted year after year through generations (like calligraphy and its transmission through history), a shared knowledge with a relatively long history in the case of Los Angeles. I am not interested in vernacular for vernacular, I am interested in trying to describe the genesis of innovative shapes, mainly letterforms, urban contexts offering many examples from my point of view. It’s a matter of drawing quality, whatever the categorization of a given practice (whether institutionally recognized or not), playing with letter strokes and intelligence of composition with architectural space. Large-scale writing (off the page) is maybe one of the last spaces where handlettering/gestures resist the keyboard ever-growing monopoly.

Heller: What other graffiti or cult letter cultures intrigue you?

Chastanet: China and Japan (kanji civilizations) are definitely interesting me. I have seen some interesting examples of inscriptions mixing Japanese and short English acronyms made by the Bosozoku, Japanese motorcycle gangs (pretty strong in the 1970s and 1980s) and also some graffiti poetry and messages traced to Kyoto’s different temples by the same anonymous author, inscriptions made in the 19th century apparently. I also have personal type design projects around questions of monolinear writing, changing the usual referent in a font project, i.e., working from today’s different handstyles of the Latin alphabet.

by Steven Heller
Source :

Steven Heller, co-chair of the Designer as Author MFA and co-founder of the MFA in Design Criticism at School of Visual Arts, is the author of Merz to Emigre and Beyond: Avant Garde Magazine Design of the Twentieth Century (Phaidon Press), Iron Fists: Branding the Totalitarian State (Phaidon Press) and most recently Design Disasters: Great Designers, Fabulous Failure, and Lessons Learned (Allworth Press). He is also the co-author of New Vintage Type(Thames & Hudson), Becoming a Digital Designer (John Wiley & Co.), Teaching Motion Design(Allworth Press) and more.

In 1995 when I started doing graffiti, there were not many books and magazines & nothing on Internet to see what was happening.
Since the beginning, I’m only interested by tags & throwies, the pieces are sometimes pretty cool but I don’t always find the energy inside…
The first fill’in that struck me was from USA ( Iz, Cap, Ghost, Quick, Reas, Espo, Chino, Cope 2, JonOne, Veefer, Oze…)
But in 1997, some french magazines & fanzines began to include photographs of painted walls providing an overview of the Europe style and made an effort to give us the right thing about « hardcore » graffiti, which was popular among French writers of our generation.
When I discover the stuff of GT, UV & VMD crew, I felt less alone in my delusions and thought to myself  :
 » This is it ! There are guys in France who have some good taste ! « 

« Pro » is one of the best writer of our generation.
Parisian born in 1976, influenced by American comics, science fiction and horror movies, painting pieces in a retro-futuristic style with Egyptian symbols and secret societies signs + post-apocalyptic scenery…

« Pro » foremost for me a pioneer in France in terms of fluidity of the line.
This week I talked with him about our first met in 2001 and I thought it would be an opportunity to make a post with some recent photographs.
Even if I present some paintings and sketches of his own (which are crazy too) I want you to remember this typical flow of a throw-up master !

Eloisa Cartonera is an independent book publisher where Buenos Aires’ that sells recycled, hand painted books written by some of Latin America’s most dynamic young writers.
VC2 producers Steven Tagle and Sarah Gilbert profile the publisher’s founder as well as interview some of the young street kids who collect the cardboard and paint the books.

Every night, the streets of Buenos Aires fill with those who, before Argentina’s economic collapse, did not exist.
These ‘new’ visitors are the cartoneros, the men, women and children who sift through the city’s garbage and at dawn take the paper and cardboard to sell in exchange for cash. In 2002, one of the biggest currency devaluations in history attracted foreign tourists and tens of thousands of cartoneros to the city. Tourists compare Buenos Aires with Paris – though for the cartoneros, recruited by unemployment and an astronomical rise in the price of paper, the place is more an inferno of poverty. But it could be that the collapse has engendered, as well as poor people, creative alternatives inside the inferno.

‘It will become the most important publisher in the country, I’m sure of it.’ This doesn’t seem improbable when Washington Cucurto, writer and one of three founders of Eloísa Cartonera, says it. This is the first publisher to produce books with covers of cardboard, collected and hand-painted by cartoneros. Eloísa is autogestionado, a ‘self-start’ undertaking that has already published more than 20 titles, some by unpublished authors, others by well-established ones.

Ricardo Piglia, one of the most important living Argentinean writers, has donated a story for Eloísa to publish, as has César Aira, whose Mil Gotas, an unedited nouvelle, has already sold 800 copies – considerably exceeding the average sales of local authors by major publishers in Argentina.

The publishing experiment – made up of four cartoneros turned- artisans and three artists – has had extraordinary results. Their books break the boundary that separates intellectual production from the street and poverty, for Eloísa Cartonera links up those who rarely meet: the cartonero and the writer.

‘That is an historic alliance,’ explains Piglia. ‘New networks are being created in Argentina, and writers are finding ways to connect themselves to the new social situation. It’s not about making a cult of poverty, but rather, not allowing oneself to be intimidated by it.’

Writers report with words, but Eloísa converts those words into a working tool to give to someone who’s unemployed.

Without access to credit – scarce since the economic collapse – nor help from the state; without a formal distribution system or publicity, but with hand-painted covers which make every book unique, with the artisanal work of fourcartoneros who until a few months before were scouring the city at night in search of cardboard, few people now doubt that Eloísa Cartonera is the cultural event of the year in Argentina.

Piglia echoes this when he says: ‘Literature is a strange industry that shifts a lot of money… but impoverishes the writers. A very modern factory that sustains itself on the archaic work of those who write in a room. Eloísa is closer to that [archaic] location.’ And, distanced from the big business of publishing, it is enlarging the circle of readers with the cheapest books on the market, selling in the most popular bookshops for a dollar apiece.

Washington Cucurto – known for his portrayals of the Buenos Aires underworld – divides his time between the municipal library where he works, and the workshop where the books are produced. Here, on one of the shelves, is Eloísa’s latest gem: the posthumous work of the Brazilian poet Haroldo de Campos, a bilingual edition of a previously unpublished work in two volumes. Cucurto says with pride: ‘It’s our best book; not yet published in Brazil.’

Fixing the photocopied pages of a book to the cardboard cover, Cucurto explains how they pay five times what the recycling companies pay for the materials that the cartoneros bring.

All the books are made with photocopied pages. ‘We have a dream of buying a press to bring down costs, but we don’t yet have enough money,’ he says.

Here there are no plans to take over the means of production, nor to abolish waged work; what’s at stake is subsistence, the daily plate of food. For unemployment, in a state that prioritizes the payment of debt to Japanese or Italian bondholders, means hunger.

‘The project comes out of necessity,’ explains Cucurto, whose small publishing house crumbled when the devaluation of 2002 increased the price of imported paper by 300 per cent in a few months. ‘Would that many Eloísas might appear so that people might live a little better,’ he adds.

Every evening at six a train arrives in Buenos Aires from the suburbs. That’s how the cartoneros travel: on the Tren Blanco (‘White Train’) which the rail company – privatized, like everything else, in the neoliberal feast of the 1990s – puts on for the use of the ‘new’ visitors. Some mothers leave their children in special kindergartens for cartonero kids; other children follow their parents and collect cardboard. The return train leaves every day after midnight. As I am about to go, I ask Cucurto about the future of Eloísa. ‘I can’t think about the future,’ he replies. ‘I only think about the work of today, from one day to the next.’

Eloísa Cartonera talked with Tomás Bril

To contact Eloísa Cartonera, email

From paper to electronic ink and back again, Moleskine comes full circle with protective covers for the Amazon Kindle, the world’s most popular e-book reader: a new analog-digital hybrid  designed for the e-bookworms.

The features and style of the cover are those of a classic Moleskine notebook: sleek rounded corners, strong elastic band, and the legendary smooth black cover. Inside, a suede lining protects the electronic device, while four corner elastic bands hold it in place.

Each cover includes a package of two reporter-style notebooks with black flexible cover, rounded corners, and blank ivory paper for jotting notes and insights.

The very idea of this new cover came from the Moleskine « notebook hackers », who create their own custom-made accessories weaving together paper pages and digital tools. Throughout the web, hundreds of communities and discussions can be found where such Moleskine « hackers » publish their inventions. Dedicated blogs, Flickr pages, and even YouTube videos highlight the power and vitality of the Moleskine digital-analog connection.

Available on Amazon.

The Curated by Arkitip project launched with the KRINK Sleeve, a collaborative project between Incase and artist Craig Costello, a.k.a. KRINK or KR. Craig Costello is one of the most visionary and inspirational artists working today and is also the creator of KRINK, a line of the finest quality handmade inks and markers, beloved by artists and vandals alike.

KR’s products gained notoriety through their association with his work in the street, the studio and his dripping ink aesthetics. Curated by Arkitip merges KR’s artistry with the Incase notebook sleeve, a signature piece within the Incase line, resulting in a refined version of the classic sleeve.

Curated by Arkitip is a project designed for Incase aimed at delivering artistically embellished Apple products to users who have an appreciation for the creative arts and technology. All artists are carefully chosen by Arkitip for their dedication to their respective art forms and unique points of view.

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