Australia’s “Electric Nose” Sniffs Out Graffiti Vandals On Public Trains

The high-tech “Mousetrap” can sense when graffiti vandalism is taking place, allowing train conductors to watch and make arrests in real-time.

One of Sydney's vandalized trains, via Wikipedia Commons.

Forget drug-sniffing dogs, the new tool to fight broken-windows-style crime is a cyber miracle. Recently Sydney, Australia unveiled a high-tech system called Mousetrap that literally smells out graffiti crime in real-time on public transit. With a series of sensors embedded in trains and carriages, it has quietly been used to combat defacement on public systems for over a year. It works by sensing when a graffiti assault is underway via an “electronic nose” sensor that picks up on paint fumes. An alert is transmitted to railway security, allowing them to view live-stream video of the vandalism. The rail network control room is then able to track where the crime is taking place, and undercover police officers are sent to make the arrest. The sensors are so sophisticated they can even decipher whether marker, pen, or spray paint is the medium of choice.

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A Graffiti Art Revolution Brings Life to the World’s Deadliest City

In San Pedro Sula, Honduras, graffiti artists and activists are reclaiming their beleaguered home through the power of design.

Artist Rei Blinky is part of a new movement taking back the streets of San Pedro Sula. Image courtesy of the artist.

It’s a popular lament that graffiti artists face dangers from possible arrest to street harassment and muggings, but what about death? Recently, freelance writer Nathaniel Janowitz of Hyperallergic traveled to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, ranked the world’s deadliest city for the fourth year in a row, to shadow a collective of graffiti artists and activists as they tried to reclaim their hometown through design. The medium-sized metropolis of less than 500,000 has a staggering homicide rate of 171 per 100,000 residents—that’s three to four murders per day—which has created a climate of fear few are brave enough to challenge. “Most houses are surrounded by walls with barbwire fences,” says Janowitz. “Locals rarely linger outdoors, and the people you do see standing outside are usually security guards holding shotguns and automatic weapons protecting businesses 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.” In an ironic twist, graffiti artists frequently call the police in advance of their tagging to help secure protection against local gangs, many of whom associate graffiti with turf wars. “It’s difficult for street artists; the risks from the Maras are high,” said Baruch, a San Pedrano street artist, in reference to one of the area’s most feared gangs.

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The Week in Design

From #BaltimoreUprising citizen photography to drone graffiti and a fine art exhibit dedicated to food, everything that was good in design this week.

Don’t Play With Your Art

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen in Milan

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10 Things We Can Learn From Street Artists

Top 10 lessons from street art.

In celebrating Wooster Collective's 10th anniversary, we are sharing our top 10 lessons from street art. We hope to see everyone at the 10 Years of Wooster Collective exhibition presented by Jonathan LeVine Gallery, opening on August 7th at 525 West 22nd Street.

1. It’s important to take risks.
Street artists risk their safety, freedom, and finances every time they go out and create something illegally. It’s important to take risks in our lives every once in a while—whether it’s something as grand as quitting your job to pursue a passion or tricky as trying something new on the menu. Taking risks pushes us out of our comfort zones to experience and feel something new in our lives.

2. Give without expecting a return.
Many street artists create work with the belief that freedom of speech and free art should be enjoyed by everyone. They create out of pure enjoyment and give their art to the world selflessly. When you put things out into the universe without the expectation of a return, it will come back to you in one form or another.

3. Challenge the norm.
Street artists are disruptive. Simply put. Whether this is weighed as positive or negative depends on who you’re talking to. What is considered “norm” is all relative. So it’s important to break away from the norm in your life and determine your own anchor of truth.

4. Be fearless.
It takes a lot of courage to go out into the night and risk your life in the name of art and freedom. Against authority, against the odds, and against the norm, street artists show us what it means to be fearless. Life is too short to contemplate the “what ifs.” Make a decision, commit to this decision, and be fearless with it.

5. Question everything.
Some street artists have a political message encouraging viewers to question society. Non-political street art challenges society through the sheer act of defying authority. Everyday we are told that street art is bad because it is illegal, and street artists are bad because they are vandals. But these statements only hold value within the legal framework. Is street art really bad if it is not harming anyone and aims to beautify the environment? If we told you that all street art is good, would you believe us? Question everything. Think for yourself.

6. Persistence pays off.
For many street artists, being prolific is key. Since street art is ephemeral, getting out there and putting work up consistently is important for making a lasting impact. Over the years, we’ve noticed that some of the most successful artists are the ones who never stopped working on their craft. So whatever your goals are in your life, keep going and strive to improve yourself through the process. Persistence pays off!

7. Collaboration enhances productivity.
One of the greatest joys of Wooster Collective is that it has allowed us to collaborate with so many wonderful artists. There is so much to be gained from collaboration—it can open your mind to new ideas, different opinions, and a fresh perspective. The process of collaboration creates room for dialogue that can affirm your existing vision, challenge it, and ultimately strengthen it. For any occasion in your life, find the opportunity to collaborate with others, even if it is just bouncing ideas back and forth with a friend.

8. Creativity is a universal language.
Street art is a global movement that knows no boundaries. Thanks to the internet, street artists from around the world can experience and understand each other regardless of language or cultural differences. Whether you consider yourself an artist or not, everyone has the potential to be creative—expressing yourself in a different way, troubleshooting from another angle, or imagining yourself from another standpoint. Practicing creativity in your everyday life can help you communicate and connect with others better.

9. Context is everything.
The most powerful works of street art are site-specific and take into consideration their surroundings. What is said, done, or created within a specific time and space may have a different meaning in a different context. To be successful in life, you need to take into account your environment, your audience, and the timing. Be aware and self-aware because context is everything.

10. Life is about the journey, not the destination.
The process of creating street art and defying authority to make a statement is liberating and empowering. When street artists set out to complete a piece illegally, there is no guarantee they will succeed. Even if they do, the finished product is impermanent. Thus, life is about the journey—the experience, the challenges, and obstacles that build character. Where we end up is just a byproduct of our choices along the way.

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