The graffiti knitting epidemic

A bunch of ‘graffiti knitters’ are on the loose in the UK – hellbent on liberating us from the forces of drabness. Maddy Costa hits the streets with a woman called Deadly Knitshade

Knit the City take the Thames

Purls allowed … Knit the City take the Thames. Photograph: Frantzesco Kangaris for the Guardian

It’s a blustery Sunday afternoon on London Bridge and I’m exercising my right – or at least, the right of freemen in 11th-century London – to herd sheep across the Thames. They’re not real sheep, thankfully. They’re tiny knitted creatures, with spindly legs and multicoloured bodies, and snapping at their heels is a gnarly-looking wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Confused? Welcome to the world of graffiti knitting, or yarn bombing as it’s generally known. If you haven’t encountered it before, you might just over the next few days, as knitters across Britain celebrate wool week by “tagging” lamp-posts with knitted doilies, wrapping public statues in scarves and sending knitted animals scurrying about city streets. I can’t say exactly where, though, as it’s all hush hush.

My introduction to yarn bombing came courtesy of Knit the City, a tight-knit (sorry) London-based crew with fanciful names: my accomplices today are Deadly Knitshade, the Fastener and Shorn-a the Dead. For their Knitmare Before Christmas project, they attacked the statue of a ballerina outside the Royal Opera House with figures inspired by The Nutcracker, while Web of Woe found them installing a 13ft spider’s web, replete with trapped insects and fairies, in the “graffiti tunnel” beneath Waterloo station.

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The streets have stolen a march on modern art

While work in galleries was stuck in the same old groove, a fresh visual lexicon was being formed by news images of student protesters. In 2011 our artists need to think bigger.

 Pleasure and pane … a demonstrator attacks the windows of Millbank Tower in London during student protests. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA In 2010 the consequences of the credit crash and a change of government brought politics to the heart of British life. British contemporary art’s current fame is a product of long years of prosperity when political questions about justice and equality seemed to have vanished from modern culture. But this year real life was radicalised and that will become even more true in 2011. So where does this leave modern art? Continue reading