Clet Abraham - Altered Street Signs
A number of years ago, I came across a 'No Entry' sign. That in itself isn't particularly strange; they're pretty universal around the world I think, a red circle with a thick white bar struck through the centre. This one was no different, and at a moments glance, you probably wouldn't notice anything particularly unusual about it. We're so used to being bombarded with signs telling us where to go, where not to go, when to stop, when to turn left or right, when it's one way, where we can cycle, where we can't etc etc, that after a while they kind of almost disappear from view altogether or at least you stop paying them much attention. This particular 'No Entry' sign however, upon closer inspection had been slightly altered. The familiar white bar was being carried, with some difficulty, by a silhouetted figure, struggling under the weight. It looked rather like this ...
After the first one, I saw a couple of others around London, but that was it really, and as I said, it was a couple of years ago. Over the last few weeks I've seen a positive flurry of new altered (or hacked) signs, so have taken the liberty of photographing them as I find them. They're not just in the street art saturated area of east London either, you can find them in Westminster, Southwark, Covent Garden and no doubt a plethora of other places I'm yet to discover. It seems as well, that the people who come on my walks really like them too, mainly because they're incredibly well executed, but also humorous and with each one, comes an element of surprise. At the end of the day, the sign itself or at least its 'message' or 'instruction' is still completely visible, but has been, if anything ... embellished. I have no doubt that the authorities don't see it in quite the same way.
I've recently discovered that the man responsible for adding this touch of humour to our streets is in fact a French born artist, living in Italy called Clet Abraham. If you're interested in finding out a little bit more about him, and why he does what he does, then watch this great little film by Ingrid Fochs about him. In it he says "I'm always trying to find the best way to catch my audience, and this is the humorous, to make them feel good. And when they're feeling good, if I get it, bring a little spark. Sometimes that spark travels among the public".
So, I'm very happy to help that spark travel among the public, as I think his altered street signs are great. Next time you're out and about, you might even spot one. If you visit Florence, you'll find the city positively festooned with Clet Abraham's embellished street signs, as it's where he lives, has a studio and began his unique brand of art. In the mean time, here are a few others I've seen in London. The last two, I'm pretty sure are by him, but not certain. Either way ... have a look and enjoy.
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