Published Sep 01, 2005Climbing the steps of Venice's famed Rialto Bridge, I notice a pair of stencilled eyes staring at me. Like ants, I suddenly spot stencil graffiti everywhere - a spray-painted Serge Gainsbourg down a Parisian alley, a starving African child on an Amsterdam wall, a masked anarchist imploring Roman passers-by to "join the resistance." Popularised by Bristol-based art-activist Banksy - who recently stencilled a ladder on the Palestinian side of the controversial Israeli West Bank barrier - the movement mixes political points with aesthetically pleasing images to beautify urban blandness. It's sparked several photo books and crossed into pop culture via the militant guerrilla-graffiti covering Tamil rapper M.I.A.'s debut album. It has also crossed the pond. Angered by the hypocrisy of "Post No Bills" warnings on city walls - intended to keep sloganeering in the hands of big business - anonymous Torontonians have responded with stencil attacks, surrounding the offending words with images of Clinton, Cosby, Murray and Gates. Unlike old-school graf, the growing stencil scene is not so much about making your name, but reclaiming your streets.