On Weds 7th January, two masked men claiming to belong to Al Qiada armed with Kalashnikov rifles burst into the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris and embarked on a killing orgy that saw 12 killed in the that building including editor Stephane Charbonnier and cartoonists Jean Cabut, Georges Wolinski, Philippe Honore and Bernard Verlhac (BBC). The attack was carried out in “revenge” for satirical cartoons which the murderers considered offensive to their religion.
Street artists have been quick to express various forms of outrage at the specifics of the incident as well as the more general assault on freedom of speech. Using the collective association of the hashtag #Jesuischarlie, artists are assuming the identity Charlie to emphasize that an assault on one person’s freedom of speech is an assault on freedom of speech of all. This is going back to the heart of street art, taking control of the message and the medium, using this freedom to re-assert the fundamental right of freedom of speech.
In Lille, French stencilist Jef Aerosol was quick to produce tributes to the editor and three of the cartoonist cartoonists (It appears Philippe Honore is omitted), the images were stencilled on to paper then pasted to a wall. Jef Aerosol sees this atrocity as making victims of all of us, we are all Charlie.
Art: Jef Aerosol; photo courtesy Jef Aerosol
Art in the studio: Jef Aerosol; photo courtesy Jef Aerosol
In London, Pure Evil, a frequent user of protest slogans, modified an existing collection of Pure Evil Bunny tags with the message “Crayons are mightier than bullets #JeSuisCharlie”
Pure Evil #jesuischarllie
“Charlie” has painted a huge chrome and black boomer on a wall in Shoreditch with a Lichtenstein-esque hand claiming “Freedom of Speech” back. Although “unsigned2, the piece is not anonymous, it is by Charlie. Charlie was likely assisted by a member of The Rolling People crew whose name may also begin with “C”! The way this piece was stopping passers-by in their tracks was incredible, reminiscent of the sort of the response to a new piece by Banksy.
Commercial spraypaint artists Graffiti Life put up their rapid response to the atrocity by painting this anti gun plea to disarm.
Many other artists have produced tributes and protests in their studios and on the streets, just google “street art #jesuischarlie”.
Apart from the attack on freedom of speech there is a very shocking human tragedy and our thoughts and evidently those of artists across the world are with all those who lost their lives at the hands of those fanatical murders in the past few days.