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Let's Pray This Doesn't Catch On: Blood-Based Graffiti

You might never look at red graffiti the same way again.


Does the sight of blood or the thought of needles make you squirm? Then boy oh boy, do I have a horrible present for you!

A group of German street artists called We Are Visual has found a way of really putting themselves in the public eye – literally, tiny little bits of themselves. It starts in a shadowy room where the artists get their biceps tied to find a vein. Then, they stick in a syringe with a tube attached and extract several vials of warm vital fluid. These they pour into a plastic graffiti marker and take to the underground in Hamburg, where they scrawl letters on the wall in shiny, red bio-paint like aspiring Charlie Mansons. They call the project, fittingly enough, "DNA."

Blood has had a place in public art for years. Ana Mendieta covered herself in corpuscles for a performance piece about rape, while more recently Mary Coble's had crimson words scrawled into her flesh with an inkless tattoo gun. But I'm not really sure what We Are Visual are adding to the canon of dripping blood-art. The municipal cleaners who patrol Hamburg's public walls must really hate these guys. On the plus side, cops probably love them, because they're no doubt so fatigued from blood-loss that they can't run away from the site of their gruesome defacings:

(H/t to Urbanshit.)

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.