Signs of life

Monday, May 9th, 2016
  • Street art paris

    Living in a city like Paris there is an abundance of street art. Not everybody likes it, and let’s be honest, not all of it is good. But one street artist has gained quite a following and critical acclaim for his art that involves ‘hacking’ street signs.

    At 49 years old some might say that Clet Abraham is old enough to know better than to vandalize municipal property, but the naysayers — not to mention the fines he’s received over the years — have done nothing to deter the French artist from ‘hacking’ signs across the world.

    Abrahams says that the omnipresence of street signs can verge on the absurd, but he doesn’t agree with authorities that say his street art is vandalism. In fact, not all authorities deem his work to be against the law. In the 13th arrondissement of Paris, where I am currently staying, the mayor was so amused by Abraham’s work that he arranged to collaborate with the artist, allowing him to freely ‘hack’ signs around Place d’italia.

    By day Abrahams is a painter and sculptor, but undoubtedly it’s his street art that has bought him the most attention. From his studio in Florence, Italy, Abraham makes the stickers that can easily be applied — as well as removed from signs.

    Working mostly at night or in the early hours of the morning, Abrahams rides around on a bicycle looking for signs to ‘hack’ then simply props his bicycle against the sign and applies his pre-made stickers in just a few seconds.

    “Vandalism is destroying, and art is building,” he says. “I want to get to touch the heart of authority. It’s the story of a man who wants to get rid of prohibitions.”

    He’s particularly fond of no-access signs but has ‘hacked’ a wide variety of signs around the world in clever ways that he hopes brings a little amusement, and a pause for thought, to those who see them.

    “My adhesives are developed to add a further level of reading [to street signs] constructed on the base of their original signification in order to maintain its utility but give it some intellectual, spiritual, or simply amusing interest. The final objective? That traffic keeps flowing without us feeling spoken down to!”

    Watch a short (and sweet) animation about Clet’s work. Also, see a video of him talking about ‘hacking’ signs in New York City.