PHOTOS: What Happens When a Rebel Turns Graffiti Art Upside Down

Artist Evan Roth’s award-winning work puts the action in interaction

(Owen Franken)

Packing for a flight out of Los Angeles last spring, Evan Roth placed a steel plate in his carry-on bag. The phrase “Nothing To See Here” had been cutout of the metal with a laser. As his bag passed through the airport X-ray machine, the Transportation Security Administration screener burst out laughing. “He started calling over other TSA agents to look at it,” Roth recalls. “Some of them thought it was funny and some of them thought it was horrible. You could get the whole spectrum of reactions in that one pass through security.”

Roth’s stunt was part of an ongoing artwork he calls TSA Communication. He puts steel plates bearing messages—“Mind Your Own Business,” “Thanks For Being You”—through airport security, then documents the reactions in photographs and videos. They’re posted on his website, That project and others have earned Roth the 2012 Design Award for interactive work from the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.

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laser graffiti art
(© Evan Roth 2006)

“The beauty of Evan’s work is that it explores ‘interaction’ to the fullest,” says John Jay, executive creative director of the advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy and chairman of the design awards jury. Unlike a lot of interactive, computer-based design, Jay says, “his work is also based upon open-source technology and philosophy, so everyone can participate.”

By using open source technology, lasers and a super strong project, artists were able to engage in high-tech graffiti art, projecting temporary designs onto the sides of buildings hundreds of meters away, as shown in this photograph.

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