AR Graffiti Introduction

Augmented reality (AR) is a digital layer that is added over the physical reality. WERC wants to give ‘Augmented Reality Graffiti’ a place in the public space. This gives the possibility to add the flexibility and the possibilities of digital design to the physical reality, without making interventions to other people’s properties. WERC investigates whether the added values and principles with which they work in digital media can also be applied to traditional graffiti. This way, they are trying to bring the medium of graffiti to a higher level.

WERC does a lot of research into augmented reality and the boundary between the physical and the digital world. For AR Graffiti, they made a lot of use of knowledge gained by VJing at dance events and festivals. They have mapped physical sculptures, which are digitally mapped and brought to life with projection, by live control of various layers of video, animations and effects. There are video recordings on the vimeo channel of WERC. For example: Modular Videomapping Sculptures or Paradigm NYE.

WERC has always had an affinity with graffiti. Their name comes from the word ‘crew’, spelled backwards, which is a direct reference from graffiti. Jelle Valk is the initiator of the ‘AR Graffiti’. Even before WERC existed, he was very engaged with graffiti. He saw the documentary Style Wars for the first time in 2001 and was inspired by graffiti from New York and later by European names who further developed American graffiti in their own way.

Application of a medium to a surface

Graffiti is an art form that is often illegally applied to other people’s or public properties. According to Jelle Valk graffiti is about the expression of the individual, your personal development and artistic pleasure. It originated in NYC, where an oppressed society created its own value system and made the public space its own from the intrinsic urge to express itself. Graffiti is something that you do for yourself and not for someone else; the point is that you were somewhere and made something. It is the expression of the individual that makes any graffiti piece a unique work of art.

The (hiphop) culture inspired the development of the phenomenon of graffiti over the years. If you look now, in any city in the world, every graffiti piece or crew name is interchangeable with the other. You see less and less of the expression of the individual. You see how elements have been taught, are being copied and are reused. Signatures (tags) have evolved to letters with a ‘fill-in’. A 3D or a shadow has been added for the spaciousness. Highlights and shadows are added to create depth. On the background there is a cloud or bubbles. A second outline ensured that your piece stands out from the background. It is increasingly obvious that the same elements are applied in endless variations on the outlines of a piece.

Fuck a lot, I want everything

For Jelle Valk, the outline (the shape of the letters) is the most essential part of a graffiti piece. For him, graffiti begins with sketching the letters and this is the basis of your design. For that reason, the outline was considered an invariable for the ‘AR Graffiti’.

Five pieces with the same outline are placed exactly over each other. They are constructed from different layers, with different elements and colors to show the different elements and layers of graffiti. With all five pieces, careful consideration was given to each choice, as well as to the final image.

The sixth piece is only a black outline on a white wall. The layers that are under the paint can be digitally brought back up by projecting them over the outline. Digitally, it is not necessary to choose one final image. It is possible to show the various design choices side by side, on top of each other, and at the same time.

AR Graffiti

The element of time is the biggest difference between ‘AR Graffiti’ and traditional graffiti. A graffiti piece is static and is a snapshot; AR is dynamic and changing. Both media add something to the environment. You need a surface to carry your medium, which means that you automatically relate to your environment. It is a temporary or non-recurring relationship between the carrier and the medium. Another similarity is that you often intervene (unsolicitedly) in the public space.

Working with AR and graffiti changes the creative process of your graffiti piece, causing you to deal differently with your design choices. Design choices on the basis of taste disappear and the structure of your layers becomes less important. You can start with your fill without needing a sketch first. You can make new variations by combining layers. You can bring disappeared layers back to the front and present layers on their own. You don’t have to choose between design A & B. You don’t have to choose permanent colors. You don’t have to choose for a 3D from left to right, from top to bottom.


WERC consists of different teams working on various disciplines. Characteristic for the collective are their experiments with new media and techniques; they are always looking for new configurations and challenges. Their shared fascination is the connection that bridges the digital and the physical world. This connection is visible in almost all of their work. The artist collective WERC consists of Joachim Rümke, Olav Huizer, Joachim de Vries, and Jelle Valk. It is located in Groningen. Other projects made by WERC can be found at


The sound for the Augmented Reality graffiti was created one on one together with the different layers and animations by Freddy43. He made the audio for the artwork, which is available as a single on diverse online music stores.

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