From Rats to Political Activism: Blek le Rat Supports Florence Aubenas through Street Art

Blek le Rat‘s journey as an artist began in the early 1980s in Paris during the flourishing hip-hop culture. He took inspiration from the American graffiti movement and started painting rats on the walls of the city, using stencils to create his unique style. The rat became his symbol of choice, representing the urban environment, freedom, and the struggles of the working class.

Blek le Rat’s artistic journey is one of constant evolution; he experimented with different techniques, including wheat pasting, to respond to police interventions. This allowed him to create large-scale works accessible to the public quickly and also helped him avoid the legal repercussions of traditional graffiti.

Blek le Rat began to incorporate political and social commentary into his work, using it to raise awareness about issues that were important to him. In the mid-2000s, one of Blek le Rat’s most powerful works was his use of Florence Aubenas’ image in his posters. Aubenas was a journalist who had been kidnapped in Iraq, and her story had captivated the world. Blek le Rat saw an opportunity to use his art to raise awareness about her situation and to garner support from the media and political actors.

Florence Aubenas Stencil Campaign. Image copyright Blek le Rat

Florence Aubenas, a journalist for the French newspaper Liberation, was abducted along with her interpreter during a reporting trip to Iraq in 2005. The same year, Blek le Rat began a campaign to bring Aubenas back to Paris through his art virtually. He pasted her image around the offices of Liberation, creating a unique interaction between the public and his work. Despite being held captive for 157 days, Aubenas was eventually released. Upon returning to Paris, she was delighted to see her image on the streets, representing a symbol of life and hope after her ordeal.

Florence Aubenas Stencil Campaign. Image copyright Blek le Rat

Blek le Rat’s act of using his art to bring attention to Florence Aubenas’ kidnapping was a testament to the power of street art as a tool for social and political commentary. His actions not only drew attention to Aubenas’ plight but also put pressure on the French government to take action.

Florence Aubenas. Video copyright Blek le Rat

Blek le Rat’s stencil influence on the street art movement cannot be overstated. His impact can be seen in the works of artists like Banksy and Shepard Fairey, and his legacy continues to inspire new generations of street artists around the world.

Please view our collection of Blek le Rat artworks in store here.

Image copyright Blek le Rat



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