Stop, Yield, Turn Right, No U-Turn. Traffic signs guide us throughout our urban landscape, but visual artist Clet Abraham sees them with different eyes. This French-born, based in Florence artist has been hacking the streets in different cities around Europe for the past 3 years.
A bicycle lane sign turned into a happy face, a dead-end into a representation of Jesus or a proceed straight arrow into an improvised angel. It only takes him 20 seconds with easy to remove stickers to modify the signs, giving them a witty, ironic and subversive touch. These little actions have a strong symbolic connotation and represent his particular channel to communicate with the public about the laws and regulations which he says can limit our freedom of expression.
He hits the street at night to go unnoticed and leaves his trademark trail so it is visible in the morning. His controversial outdoor art often enters in conflict with urban regulations and can be considered illicit. He has received several fines, however he has refused to pay some of them alleging he performs these interventions with no purpose of vandalizing. “Vandalizing is destroying as a mere protest and art is to build”, he explains on his Facebook page.
In an interview with Tuscany Arts, Abraham discussed the motivation behind his work:
The omnipresence of street signs, other than being a sign of the [Italian] culture of “anti-responsibility”, can verge on the absurd. The message is very poor (sometimes I feel like I’m being treated like an idiot by them) and yet they have a highly invasive aesthetic. As a professional in the world of visual space, I feel called to intervene, both to notify the public of the absurdity of the situation, and to propose a constructive and respectful alternative….The final objective? That traffic keeps flowing without us feeling spoken down to!
Images from Clet Abraham