[The New York Times Magazine, 10 December 2006]
By RICHARD MORGAN
The British artist Paul Curtis is not sure what to call his version of vandalism. ''People call it 'reverse graffiti,' '' he says, ''but I prefer something less sinister: 'clean tagging' or 'grime writing.' '' Curtis, a k a Moose, selectively scrubs dirty, derelict city property (tunnel walls, sidewalks) so that words and images are formed by the cleaned bits. ''It's refacing,'' he says, ''not defacing. Just restoring a surface to its original state. It's very temporary. It glows and it twinkles, and then it fades away.''
To pay for industrial scrubbers, he has sold some of his reverse graffiti as advertising. But mostly he sticks to his own art. Critics, like the City Council in Leeds, have accused him of breaking the law, but for what? Cleaning without a permit? ''Once you do this,'' he says, ''you make people confront whether or not they like people cleaning walls or if they really have a problem with personal expression.''
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