Legality of street art & risk mitigation

Discussion in 'photography, graphics & art' started by Bergpolderite, Feb 6, 2017.

  1. Bergpolderite

    Bergpolderite New Member

    Hello urban75 - always been a lurker until now!

    In short, myself and a few others want to do an art project (which naturally, we all think is a great idea etc. etc.) that involves fixing (with a peelable/removable epoxy/rubber/sealant type glue - the sort that's strong but can easily be peeled away by fingers or with a knife) some large (4 ft by 4ft ish) plastic squares to walls in and around central London.

    The squares are lightweight (and so couldn't hurt anyone) and will be fairly easy to remove if someone wished to. Also, they won't be offensive in any way or crude etc. In fact, they will be pretty benign and normal looking but tie in with a certain theme that pulls it all together.

    We'd like to do just around 5 in total to begin with. They will be put on blank walls.

    Does anyone here have experience with doing this type of stuff (or graffiti, other installations, or 'brandalism') and can they maybe advise on:

    1) What legal threat do we face in doing this? If no trespass occurs and the squares are fairly easy to remove, can it even be considered criminal damage?

    2) How can we mitigate that threat?

    3) What's the worst case scenario in getting caught? Be asked to remove it in person, face a fine (how much?) or some kind of criminal prosecution?

    Would be great to know... for the record, we have no desire to piss anyone off in a major way with this project, will do everything we can to avoid damaging anything, and would like to think the value in the project far outweighs risking such boundaries.

    Thanks in advance for any opinions or advice! Would be great if you can qualify any advice as being either speculation or experience-based knowledge!

  2. Stanley Edwards

    Stanley Edwards 1967 Maserati Mistral.

    On public buildings you are committing criminal damage. The UK is the only country in Europe that still makes graffiti a criminal offense which could see you end up in jail (theoretically).

    On private property it is up to the owner to prosecute you.

    Q572: What is the law with regards to graffiti?

    How temporary is it intended to be? Are you promoting anything with a commercial value?

    If you think the work could easily be traced to you, then I would seek permission from owners of private property and not touch any public buildings. If it couldn't be easily traced back to you, then I would just do it and damn the consequences. Very, very few people are likely to complain from what you have stated.
  3. lefteri

    lefteri Well-Known Member

    Do it in broad daylight and wear hi-vis vests, no one ever questions you if you look official
    plurker likes this.
  4. editor

    editor Taffus Maximus

    There's some good legal advice here:
    Graffiti: Is there any law I need to be aware of as a Graffit Artist? -

    here's how graffiti is defined
    Sticking up any message, whether it's permanent or semi permanent could - I'm guessing - be judged the same as flyposting:

    The essential Flyposting Guide - urban75's guide to flyposting with tips on flyposting spots, brushes, glue, techniques and tactics

    Cleaner Communities - Fly Posting
  5. Bergpolderite

    Bergpolderite New Member

    Thanks for the advice and links! Really appreciate it!

    In response to Stanley Edwards Qs: How temporary is it intended to be? Are you promoting anything with a commercial value?

    It's intended to stay on the wall in bad weather and remain until someone removes it, but it would be easy to remove by pulling away the sealant. As for commercial value, absolutely not... this is entirely art for art's sake and has zero promotional / profitable intent.

    I suppose what I am still curious about is whether it constitutes graffiti... since it is a plastic square of 4ft by 4ft, that is removable, it isn't any of 'drawings, scribbles, messages or tags'... and I wonder if it isn't much more akin to flyposting in technicality... so I will read the flyposting guide now - thanks to editor for that :)

    Any more insights or advice really welcome!

  6. teuchter

    teuchter je suis teuchter

    I don't think you can say that it won't damage the wall. It's likely it'll leave a mark cosmetically at least, and could do seemingly minor damage - like pulling out loose mortar - that would accelerate weathering. Also you say that a 4ft by 4ft bit of plastic can't hurt anything but what if it's caught by the wind and hits someone or a passing vehicle etc?
  7. chilango

    chilango *shrugs*

    I was once threatened with arrest for criminal damage when gently moving a police tape thus "stretching" It :D!
  8. Bergpolderite

    Bergpolderite New Member

    They are good points teuchter - and I can only say that we'd aim to minimise any damage and that I'm pretty confident that it wouldn't hurt anything/one - but of course, certainty in either is hard to achieve.
  9. teuchter

    teuchter je suis teuchter

    I would do some very thorough testing of whatever adhesive you use. I'm sceptical that there's anything that would both hold it on properly, and peel away without leaving a mark, on surfaces that might be different in each case. Also some adhesives peel off cleanly when they are relatively fresh but not after they've been up for a while (cf what happens with masking tape).

    If it was the wall of a building I owned, and some art appeared, my initial feelings might depend on my opinion on the quality of said art, and responses might range from appreciation through eye-rolling to pulling it down straight away but either way I'd be a bit miffed if there was then a 3x3 square of glue marks there forever.
  10. Bergpolderite

    Bergpolderite New Member

    Good points again... we will test beforehand if we go down that route.

    I think a probably combination of choosing locations/walls carefully (not public, not too private, not the wrong surfaces), using the right materials to not destroy anything, and taking general care on all points above should see us through.
  11. Stanley Edwards

    Stanley Edwards 1967 Maserati Mistral.

    Pretty sure you would find plenty of options around London for a wall that is not looking very pretty as it is. The only reason random public are going to complain is if it is defacing a nice wall. A subjective point perhaps (Teuchter is a huge fan of brickwork most of us fail to appreciate for example).

    The only reason the owner of a private wall is going to complain is if they are landed a bill for cleaning by the local council.

    Look for private property that has been empty for a long time. Nobody will give a shit.

    The 'unofficial' murals I have done have all been appreciated by locals, local businesses, authorities and even police. The owner is apparently living on another planet just waiting for the right time to cash in. All I do adds value as far as I am concerned. Nobody has ever complained. Far from it - most say "thank you". In most cases I leave obvious contact info' even if it is just 'TheLostPhotographer', or 'ArtInHiding'. People who want work will know how to contact me. TheLostPhotographer is easy. ArtInHiding is a little more 'hidden'.

    The last illicit mural I painted took about Six weeks working by night. Eventually I realised nobody had a problem, so I completed by day. Only once did police question me. I simply told them I had permission from the building owner. They told me they wanted to see the permission in writing next time, but never returned. The mural is still being enjoyed in a central public plaza Four years later.

    You really don't need to worry too much, but you're right to cover your back as much as possible.
  12. Bergpolderite

    Bergpolderite New Member

    Thanks for this again. Nice to have a bit of a pragmatic view too.

    I know that art is highly subjective, but I'd like to think that what we do will be adding value in most ways. Easy to say but since we aren't interested in profiting or even getting directly credited I feel that I can say this... but, I like the advice of picking somewhere that is shit to begin with - I think that's probably one of the most important things here... to do it somewhere that no one seems to care about to begin with, and where any small damage (from glue, paste or whatever) is more part of the general patina of neglect than something standing out on a pretty brick canvas or whatever. I guess then you are less likely to piss anyone off and probably also have a stronger argument if it comes to a defense.

    Again, we have zero interest in upsetting anyone by doing this, and would be sad if we did (hence this conversation)... it's more a project coming out of a larger cause/idea that should add some value. But sure, there are risks... just need to mitigate them.
  13. sim667

    sim667 Licking windows on the 303 bus.

    You'll be forced to paint the words 'Romani it domum' all over the nearest large building.
    dylanredefined likes this.
  14. NoXion

    NoXion Eat leaden death, demon...

    In think you'll find that's "Romani ite domum", you barbarian! :mad:
    dylanredefined likes this.
  15. teuchter

    teuchter je suis teuchter

    "Adding value" ?
  16. sim667

    sim667 Licking windows on the 303 bus.

    Fucksake, they didn't have autocorrect back then :(
  17. Bergpolderite

    Bergpolderite New Member

    I was referring to The Lost Photographer / Stanley Edwards use of 'add value' above... as in pick somewhere that is in such a bad state, or neglected, that it might be seen as an improvement by many.
  18. StoneRoad

    StoneRoad heckling from the back!

    Why not contact the owners/occupiers of your targets for permission ?

    and do a proof of "no damage" before hand that you can show them.

    A further complication is the thorny issue of "planning permission" - without intending this result, your actions may rebound on the owner / occupiers and they get presented with an order to remove the offending items. This would be of particular importance if the selected buildings / sites are in any way "listed" ...
  19. Bergpolderite

    Bergpolderite New Member

    Another good idea. Good job we're only doing five though!

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