As part of the seminar, Andrea DeBernardi – a street artist from the art collective Guerrilla Spam (Italy) – held a workshop on graffiti-making. Andrea’s art collective usually prepares art workshops to bring migrants and locals together in Italy and also works in social centres or prisons. Although the workshops typically last for a week, this workshop was adapted in length and content and tailored to the needs of the CDN.
Preparatory session: history of graffiti and drawing exercises
On the first day of the workshop, a group of 10 participants hailing from different European countries participated in a two-hour-long session. This session helped to establish the fundamentals of graffiti-making ahead of creating the graffiti and included a presentation about the history of graffiti – i.e. how the style, features, street artists and intended audience/recipients changed overtime from its birth in the early 1970s in New York to reach its worldwide ubiquity in the present. The presentation also showed some of the street work art created by Guerrilla Spam, touching on and sparking reflection on topics such as immigration, community, belonging, cultural diversity and more.
The second part of the session focused on more practical elements of graffiti-making in order to familiarise participants with graffiti drawing techniques. Working in pairs, the first exercise instructed participants to draw a portrait of their partner. The second exercise then instructed the other partner to draw a portrait again of that person but to not look at the paper while drawing and instead look at the person’s face.
The session was concluded by creating the concept for the graffiti. The concept represented a house hosting many diverse faces, drawn by each and every member of this group and situating them on a chessboard-like grid. This way, each person would contribute an element of the graffiti, which would demonstrate the cultural diversity of the group.
Creating the graffiti
The next day, it was time to create our own graffiti. We walked to a high school in Tuzla, one with a big outdoor yard and many painted walls. The location of the graffiti had been discussed previously with the director of the school. The outline of our concept house had already been drawn with a pencil to allow for quicker and more efficient completion, and the participants began colouring the black and white board, which was painted over twice to make up for transparency of the paint. They also coloured the background of the house with a purple-grey colour. We decided to have very minimalistic color combination. Next thing was to fill in the black-and-white squares with faces. For each black square, a white figure was drawn. For each white square, a black figure was drawn. Participants took turns to draw, as the width of the house only allowed four or five participants to work on the wall simultaneously. The people who were not busy drawing would instead think about how to communicate the meaning of the graffiti and took pictures and videos that could be shared afterwards. Moreover, some participants were invited to speak to Bosnia’s national television broadcaster to speak about the graffiti-making project and about the role of activism in today’s societies. Creating the graffiti took about five full hours of work. Each participant was also portrayed in a half-length picture in front of the final work, pictures that were used for the spreading of the message on social media. After the graffiti was finished, a short video was created to present the final result.