Art & Design

Broken Fingaz is the Anonymous Graffiti Group Tagging All Around the World

Art & Design

Broken Fingaz is the Anonymous Graffiti Group Tagging All Around the World

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There’s graffiti like the scribbled names covering pretty much every square inch of the Lower East Side, and the kind I got arrested for when I was 19 and drunk—and then there’s Broken Fingaz, the Israeli street art crew tagging hyper-detailed and political murals across the globe. Through vivid—and sometimes twisted—imagery, BFC makes propaganda-style portraits that tackle capitalism, consumerism and the cultural zeitgeist. But that doesn’t mean they tell anyone what to think or how to feel. Instead, their pieces are subversive in that they don’t argue one aggressive point of view. And while street art as a whole might have sold out and lost its inherent radical spirit, Broken Fingaz hasn’t. Of course, they have shown their work in galleries, and you can buy their prints online, but they’re still out there, “painting a wall for days, getting to hear what passersby think, getting to know all the homeless people in the area, and smelling them too.”

BULLETT caught up with the group while they were in Portland to talk mass-marketing, meditation and their new “Magic Ink.”



How did Broken Fingaz get together?

We started as a graffiti crew in the early 2000s, then we started organizing parties in 2003, and designed all of the posters for them—that was how we made our way into the design and illustration worlds.

What’s your collaborative process like?

We’ve been working together for many years, so we’ve kind of developed our own visual language together. We know each other very well and each one plays his part—it’s pretty similar to how it works in music, with a band.

How are you able to incorporate all of your individual styles while still creating one cohesive piece?

We also do individual works, so we have a lot of space to express ourselves and for each of us to feed our ego. When we paint a wall together, it’s about how can we make the dopest work—in the end, no one will know or care which part was done by who.

What inspires your work?

Modern painters, hand-painted signs, folk art, old packaging, Russian tattoos, Dave Chappelle, psychedelic experiences, big cities, nature, meditation, music, Haifa and old people.

What themes do you explore?

We always try to keep moving, to develop a language, but not to get stuck. We like the power of a good Pop aesthetic. It can be a Christian ad for Jesus or an ad for a pair of sneakers—behind the message there’s always a strong composition and colors that work. But at the same time, we don’t want to sell any more crap to the world—we just enjoy exploring it and and use it for the themes the interest us, like death, life, sex and the human brain.



What themes do you explore?

We always try to keep moving, to develop a language, but not to get stuck. We like the power of a good Pop aesthetic. It can be a Christian ad for Jesus or an ad for a pair of sneakers—behind the message there’s always a strong composition and colors that work. But at the same time, we don’t want to sell any more crap to the world—we just enjoy exploring it and and use it for the themes the interest us, like death, life, sex and the human brain.

Does graffiti give you a platform of expression other mediums can’t?

Graffiti, just by being illegal, gives you this sense of urgency that sometimes is hard to achieve in the studio. The nature of it makes you work faster, and often, if you had more time, you’d keep working on the piece, and it loses a certain charm. And with murals, there is still this social element of it being ‘art for the people’—in that sense, it can feel more real and natural than doing art for the elite.

Street art has obviously become a lot more mainstream in recent years, with it being sold in galleries and groups being commissioned for murals across the world. Do you think that makes it less subversive? Or do you think street art can still be radical?

It can be. But like any subgenre that becomes mainstream, it definitely lost some of the edge, and some of the original energy and truth. 12 years ago dubstep was an exciting new sound—now it makes you think of a Volkswagen ad. There are people who are pushing culture forward and then brands arrive and try to associate themselves with them to sell more. Same goes for street art. But there are certain things we do that no brand will ever be able to do—they can’t take risks, and we always will.

You just finished your ‘Magic Ink’ mural in Seattle. What inspired that piece?

In a self-critical world, everyone’s selling something. We might not have a product to ship from the shelves, but all art, in some ways, becomes branding for an ideology. We’re living in a time in which the innocent ideals of mass manufacturing have been lost. We try to deal with these conflicts and the current consumer-driven mind.

You’re all from Haifa, but constantly traveling to paint. What role does your location play on the murals you create? Do you try to incorporate the cultural climate of wherever you are into your work?

It definitely changes what we do. When you paint outside, it’s all about the context. So we have to address it in our work.



Take me through your process. How do you go from having an idea to translating it on a wall?

The process can vary a lot from project to project—sometimes it can start with an aesthetic idea, a color combination or a composition, and other times, we have a specific concept and think about the best way to communicate it to the viewers. When we work together it’s like a dialogue between us—one throws out an image and the others respond.

You do incorporate some political imagery in your work. Is that important to you?

We don’t know if art can really change reality, but it can open it up for people to look at it in a new way. We don’t try to tell people what to think, but we have to be honest with our own feelings.

Do you think art is a productive space for politics?

It can be. In Israel, it feels like politics dominate everything, so we feel like if we also take part in this dirty debate, we lose. But at the same time, it’s something we are passionate about, so lately we do insert more stuff that’s directly political into our work. The world is just in a really fucked up place at this moment, and it’s hard to ignore. We see where the world is going—all the fear mongers make people think that being more radical and closed will make their country safer, but history shows it only has the opposite effect.

So what do you see as your role as an artist, especially in hyper-political times?

That’s a hard question, and we try not to think about it too much. Most of the time, we just try to do what makes sense to us.