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“Hunter”, Lambeth: art shoot

Hunter "Hunter" burglar alarm, Lambeth • What do hunters do? They shoot things. I rest my shooting-related case. Incidentally, I found this burglar alarm on the side of one of Damian Hirst's many studios, the one where teams of assistants used to make spot paintings for him. He's now had the entire road closed down (thanks, Dame, now I have to make a massive detour!) while the building is turned, at vast expense, into a swanky art gallery and restaurant. So the burglar alarm is no more. • Spotted: Newport Street, Lambeth, London, SE11, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Vauxhall
“Hunter”, Lambeth: art shoot

“Ssssh” sticker, Bristol: more mystery graffiti

Nameless burglar alarm with "Ssssh" sticker, Bristol, 2006 • Today, I intended writing an essay exploring the mutant dog stickers phenomenon introduced yesterday. However it's taking me longer than anticipated to research, so I'll post it in a couple more days. In the meantime, I'll feature the other burglar alarms I've found with graffiti-style stickers on them – not many, sad to say. This one is great though. It's from the same time and place as yesterday's dog sticker, so is possibly by the same person. It again looks a bit like a Banksy, and it's certainly witty enough to be by him – the face could be telling the burglar alarm to be quiet, but it could also be advising the burglar, or even warning drunken passersby to pipe down. It's also a bit reminiscent of Shepard Fairey's famous Obey Giant, but Bristol has a really thriving street art culture all its own, so it could be by any number of people. I'd love to get some further info on the artist behind this "Sssh" sticker, if anyone knows anything. None of the big Bristol graffiti blogs I could find had been updated very recently, but a good place to start is www.bristol-street-art.co.uk, which is beautifully designed and has a comprehensive list of links. • Spotted: Clifton area, Bristol, Avon, BS8, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
“Ssssh” sticker, Bristol: more mystery graffiti

“Shock”, Bristol: is this dog sticker a Banksy?

"Shorrock" burglar alarm with dog sticker, Bristol, 2006"Shorrock" burglar alarm with dog sticker, Bristol, 2006 • This charming dog-stickered burglar alarm is my all time favourite – and, just possibly, a Banksy. At first I thought those were butterflies above the dreamy labrador's head, but they're coins dropping into a slot: it's a drawing of an old-fashioned guide dog collection box, cleverly positioned on a Shorrock burglar alarm to make it read "Shock". So, why do I think it's a Banksy? Firstly, the style and pose of the dog's head – that confident line and slightly wistful, upwards-tilted look is something I associate with a lot of his figures. Secondly, I found it in Bristol, which is where Banksy is from. Thirdly, Banksy often depicts dogs. And fourthly – well, there is no fourth, but I've just always just half-thought it was a Banksy, and enjoyed the mystery. I've now discovered that there was spate of these photocopied dog stickers in 2006, all with their bodies redrawn in strange ways (this is the least mutated I've found) – and one of them did have a Banksy logo on it. However these other versions looked amateur, and any fool can xerox a Banksy logo, so the jury remains out. It's an interesting story, on which I'll post a separate visual essay shortly. In the meantime, I still don't know if this is a Banksy, but it's certainly a one-off, and I'm glad I spotted it. (Update: I later discovered it wasn't a Banksy – the full story is here.) • Spotted: Clifton area, Bristol, Avon, BS8, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West "Shorrock" burglar alarm with dog sticker, Bristol, 2006
“Shock”, Bristol: is this dog sticker a Banksy?

“Watchdog”, Newham: the Cyclops of Olympic Park

"Watchdog" burglar alarm, Newham, 2010 • As if the gazillions of CCTV cameras watching us weren't enough, now we've got burglar alarms with eyes too. And despite being on public land, I was heavily hassled by a bunch of G4 "security operatives" simply for snapping the one here. That's because it's in an area where most alarms – along with the rotting industrial buildings they were attached to – have been swept away to make way for London's glossy new Olympic Park. I was once terrorized by a monstrous, crazed watchdog while exploring the Olympics area pre-demolition, and to me, this device resembles a blue-nosed dog with one mean, narrowed eye: the face of a wary Staffie with its ears flattened back, ready for combat. If the designer intended this, by the placing of the logo in relation to the snubby bulb below, then it's deceptively clever; it makes me think of the plastic debris masks by African artist Romuald Hazoumé. It's an all-seeing cyclops of the Olympics, a one-eyed Cerberus of the Bow Back Rivers. Or maybe that's just my bad memories kicking in. • Spotted: Marshgate Lane, Newham, London E15, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of West Ham
“Watchdog”, Newham: the Cyclops of Olympic Park

Nathan Barlex, Liverpool: a “fearful” art alarm

Allotrope of pyrolysis, 2010, by Nathan Barlex"Allotrope of Pyrolysis", 2010, by Nathan Barlex • My first alarm is in a category all of its own: an art alarm. It's a sculpture by recent RCA graduate Nathan Barlex, which I came across at this year's Bloomberg New Contemporaries (an influential yearly show of up-and-coming artists). Most of his current work is painting, but he also uses appropriated materials, though whether his name – which bears an uncanny resemblance to Charlie Brooker's hopeless Hoxton hipster Nathan Barley – is also appropriated, I have no idea. Speaking to Lydia Corry in Artvehicle 47, Barlex echoed my own thoughts on burglar alarms (though slightly more apocalyptically): "The alarm box is a ubiquitous object – it is everywhere. Alarm boxes have formed into a mini-culture of their own with a set of signifiers. There’s what’s printed on them; sometimes it can be an image of a dangerous animal, or a word like ‘thorn’. The shapes vary but they often use fearful geometric symmetry to imply an unnatural or even super-power. The icing on the cake is that many alarm boxes are just decoys, an empty promise filled with paranoia. They are the dubious uncle to the already malignant CCTV camera." You can see his work at New Contemporaries at the ICA, London till Jan 23 2011, or visit the artist's own Nathan Barlex website, where there's another burglar alarm dipped in sand. • Spotted: Bloomberg New Contemporaries, A Foundation, Greenland Street, Liverpool L1, England, 2010 • Details: alarm box, spray paint, crushed charcoal, approx 30 x 30 x 10cm Allotrope of pyrolysis, 2010, by Nathan Barlex
Nathan Barlex, Liverpool: a “fearful” art alarm