Graffiti speaks, as spray paint comes alive

New video for a U.K. DJ makes one wonder what the city would be like if graffiti murals--and other things--"came to life" and told their stories.

Edward Moyer Senior Editor
Ed is a many-year veteran of the writing and editing world who enjoys taking sentences apart and putting them back together. He also likes making them from scratch. For nearly a quarter of a century, he's edited and written stories about various aspects of the technology world, from the US National Security Agency's controversial spying techniques to historic NASA space missions to 3D-printed works of fine art. Before that, he wrote about movies, musicians, artists and subcultures.
  • Ed was a member of the CNET crew that won a National Magazine Award from the American Society of Magazine Editors for general excellence online. He's also edited pieces that've nabbed prizes from the Society of Professional Journalists and others.
Edward Moyer
2 min read
Graffiti speaks. Or tries to. Here, it watches somewhat peevishly as it gets painted over to make way for the next spray-painted rapper. Screenshot by Edward Moyer/CNET

A new music video for a U.K.-based hip-hop artist showcases a fun idea: talking (and moving) graffiti.

The video, by British design outfit Paintshop Studio, features, in the words of Paintshop's blog, "animated graffiti rappers, created entirely in spray paint and brought to life by painting and repainting key elements."

Now, whether the idea of talking (and moving) graffiti is fun or horrifying depends on your point of view. Imagine if every tag you walked past in the city shouted the name of the tagger at you. (Then again, someone like street artist Banksy could no doubt work amusing, and even profound, wonders with this--as could a group of experimental poets, composers, and urbanists.)

Of course, this particular graffiti mural is confined to a video. But it does make us think. What if you combined this idea with QR tags and augmented reality? We've seen similar things before. Artists have "hi-jacked" billboards using iPads and AR, and damaged murals have been "restored" using QR tags. It might be pretty sweet if you could hold your smartphone or tablet up to a piece of graffiti or a mural and watch it come alive.

Beyond that, we like how the video shows the process of creating the mural. And that makes us envision a day in the not-too-distant future when--with the help of QR tags, AR, and/or similar technologies--the city itself, and all our physical surroundings, have become a kind of textbook or encyclopedia.

What if everything carried a discreet QR tag that let you see how it was created? Frank Lloyd Wright sometimes "signed" his buildings with a little red tile. What if future architects embedded such tiles in their works--tiles that let you access interviews with them and watch footage of the building being designed and built? What if a chair--or a can of spray paint--could show you its trip through the factory?

The possibilities are endless.

Until they unfold in some future time, here's DJ Format's "Statement of Intent." Let your futurist, sci-fi imagination run wild. And tell us about it in the comments section.