Boom Goes The Dynamite – Murals Made With Precision Explosives


[Alexandre Farto] is known for some off the wall art displays, but his newest work takes the phrase literally. Using precisely placed explosive charges, he has been sculpting portraits and other murals on walls in various places around London.

The detail at which he is able to produce these images is incredible, considering he is blowing chunks of plaster and brick from walls to form them. We can only guess as to how much preparation time is required to finish even one of these images, let alone to amass the stunning portfolio he has put together.

He has also recently teamed up with musical artist [Orelha Negra] to produce a cool video of his work as it was being sculpted, which is certainly worth the three minutes it takes to watch. The video, embedded below, is chock full of slow-motion shots of the demolition/sculpting in progress.

If you have a few minutes, be sure to check out his site to take a look at some of his work, we think you will be impressed.


47 thoughts on “Boom Goes The Dynamite – Murals Made With Precision Explosives

  1. I remember seeing that piece and wondering in how far the wall was already like that and in how far he had made it so!
    One thing I hadn’t anticipated were explosive charges, I figured he just took a hammer to the wall!
    Thanks HAD!

  2. This sort of reminds me of the Mythbusters doing their Nvidia promotion – “painting” the Mona Lisa with paintballs.

    Nothing there then BAM huge image.

    Also because explosives are involved. Although they appear to be low velocity explosives.

  3. Well, I’m impressed, but where’s the hack is? he used an arduino board, PIC, propeller, xmos to detonate the explosives? or he build some 555 circuit for that purpose? or something?

  4. OK. I’, officially impressed!

    When the atomic bomb was being developed in the late 40s, it was the first time that explosives (to precisely implode the fissile material to the correct critical geometry) were considered as a “precision instrument”.

    But for a far more peaceful purpose was this demonstrated, and I want to know how it’s done, especially as it looks like GREAT fun to do!

  5. Yea, I’ll call BS on some of this. There’s no way you’ll get that kind of detail out of an explosion. Now they could have been cut in with the charges put under new plaster, then the explosion would just blow the new stuff out. That might work.

  6. You do realize that demolition of buildings requires VERY precise demolition charges? Blowing plaster off a wall isn’t too hard to do as plaster is very weak in thin sections. This is basically applying a mask or stencil, only using low speed explosives.

  7. Thanks a lot, Mike, for making the narrator in my head be Cleveland Brown.

    And to the naysayers, remember that 90% of Mount Rushmore was carved with dynamite. Ninety years ago even. Blowing some plaster off brick (with black powder and silly putty) today should be trivial for someone with that kind of artistic talent (e.g. not me)

  8. @CutThroughStuffGuy

    even the most pierce explosions are random in nature and cutting str8 lines expecally in something as random as plaster and cement with explosives that are fairly random is very hard if not impossable

    cutting str8 lines with font like face is downright imposable with explosives and a workspace that small

  9. God, I hope the local kids don’t get ideas. It’s bad enough having paint sprayed on bus shelters and shop shuttering. Having “BAZZA 2011” permanently etched into the local shop would be a bit irritating.


  10. So yes I think this is hacking (using materials preexisting in a different and/or rarely thought of manner because it interests you) but there’s very little that I can learn from here… though I wonder if that could be a good thing since this is very tempting to do.

    It makes me want to go back to school for Explosives Engineering…

  11. After some digging… there are some vids showing Vhils using a hammer drill. Besides you can see the det cords or wires in sec 2 and 3 of the video. cool, but not as cool as it appears.

  12. Not calling bullshit on this one – Seems entirely plausible, though incredibly unlikely considering state of things in london. IF this is real, there’s no way it’s graffiti – He’d need permission from the building owner and the government to pull it off without the “ring of steel” nabbing him.

    …No way it was done with low order explosives. To get that kind of precision, he’d need a very high-brisance explosive. My guess would be sheets of thin semtex (detasheet maybe?) linked by shocktube – High precision with little collateral damage. There’s no way that kind of detail was produced with drilled holes or a slower explosive – Maybe some sort of paintable mix, but a cuttable sheet explosive fits the bill best – Readily available to those who are certified and highly standardized.

  13. I though it was pretty obvious from the video (watch the close-ups near the start): carve out the required areas, place explosives, plaster over the carved areas with a weaker mix, then paint over the top. Pop your squibs, and the weaker plaster is thrown off while the stronger plaster remains. Lots of work doing the actual carving and finding the right explosive strength and plaster mix, but no Demolition Magicks here.

  14. @lurker: Seems plausible to me. This would have to be a commissioned work, otherwise there’d be a manhunt bigger than Banksy.

    I’d also have to agree that high-velocity explosives would do the trick. I’m not really sure about the best explanation for this, but it makes sense. Blast the plaster hard and fast enough, and it just shears off. The rest of the material ‘doesn’t have time’ to break away.

    I’d love to see how it’s done..

  15. My first instinct was that it was some sort of detcord, but the precise lines formed definitely indicates some other trick being used – even a low-grain detcord would be taking serious amounts of brick off of the wall. Perhaps he’s using shaped charges, like those chevron-shaped dynamite bars mills use to cut steel plate. Hard to say, my experience is limited to mining explosives!

  16. I think the video offers some clues at the end. At 2:45 a clip of an explosion in reverse is played – at 2:59 the explosion is fully reversed and then played forward again at faster speed. I can’t really make visual sense of what we see at 2:59 – looks to me to be pre-excavated or something painted on (look at the dark dappled appearance), but it could be an explosive sheet (as suggested by lurker) layered on top of plaster.

    The explosive does not appear to be High-Velocity, footage of HV explosions almost always show very clear shock waves (or at least rapid vapour condensation at the wave front) in the surrounding air. Such effects are not evident in the film. Furthermore detonation is slow enough to be captured on three or four frames at least again indicating an low explosive.

    I suspect that the artist has in some cases excavated some areas on the wall and that the blast is simply unmasking features hidden by the plaster (I.e. not shaped explosives).

    In other cases maybe some form of blast-mask, like a steel stencil somewhere in the structure could explain the effects – hence the use of a stencil font (the “island” created by an O would otherwise be prone to being dislodged). This could be coupled with the sheet explosive charge (cut to fill in the steel stencil gaps) to explain the clean lines on the result, the precision of the result and the yellow flashes of detonation.

    In summary, I think that;
    -Low explosives were used
    -A high resilience (steel?) stencil was used in some cases
    -The low explosives were shaped to fit into the stencil where used
    -The artist did some plastering to cover the preparations

    and further speculate;
    -The artist did this on private property with permission of both owner and authorities, Or
    -In a remote place, I.e. not London. (because of the enormous amount of time that preparation would require)

    and conclude;
    -None of this detracts from how creative and awesome the effect.

  17. Without googling explosives,
    I’ll take a not so wild assed guess.
    First, though he ‘may’ hand draw the originals, and there ‘may’ be a way to do that, I tend to doubt it.

    The ‘drawing’, you will note, is relatively simple.
    It’s a montone/duotone format, much like drawing in ink or pencil. Though, it would seem that his portfolio is limited to either sans serif typefaces, or relief portraiture.

    I imagine that site selection would be paramount.
    You’d need the right light to get the correct highlights. Thats why that russian apartment building doesn’t look too good. It probably should have been photgraphed at dawn or dusk.

    You start with a photograph.
    Gray scale it,
    Peel off a few layers (8? 16?) according to the alpha index.
    This give you a inverse basrelief.
    vectorize the layers. ( a commercial RIP would help)

    Scale and print it on a large format printer.
    perhaps a vinyl cutter.

    Use these templates to cut a material.
    apply this material using a grid, or a projection, on the wall in layer order.
    I’d guess, that the material itself is either somewhat adhesive, or pressure moldable, you can probably press it on.
    Detonate the material.
    The number of layers will determine the force, and depth of the concussion.

    As far as the material, A few guesses.
    It has to be high velocity. this to get a clean cut,
    and to make sure that the layers fire instantaneously, and with additive force.
    It has to be relatively thin and consistent, so each layer would be relatively predicatable
    My candidate would be semtex rolled through a mill onto a paper or vinyl backing.
    Though I’d not rule out painting on layers of ammonium nitrate in a volatile binder. I’m thinking maybe home made Napalm. Kerosene and Dish detergent. though I think that may be too low a velocity blast.

    You will note from the video, that the detonations are in sections. this is probably for a number of reasons, But one of the more likely is that the material probably degrades on exposure. I suspect that fine grained ammonium nitrate mixes don’t like humidity.

    I imagine you could scale the image indefinitely.
    It’d be no harder than pasting up a billboard.

    watching the video, I think that you could proably shield the work with a canvas tarp. I doubt you’d need much more protective gear than earplugs, safety glasses, and a good fluffy down jacket.

    As craft, it’s kinda neat.
    As decoration, it can make a pretty good statement…
    I guess….
    But, I’d not call this art by any stretch.

  18. if you watch the video closely, then you’ll note that the bricks are old, decaying and soft, and the plaster surface is quite thin and new looking. the obvious conclusion that you should draw from this evidence is that the explosives were pre-planted and then covered with plaster. my best guess is some type of rdx or potassium chlorate (easily home-made) based explosive. hence, the near-simultaneous yet sequenced explosions as produced by plastic explosives wired in parallel. hope this clears up a few questions.

    the wires going in to the wall at 0:14
    the blast cap being blown away at 1:48

  19. if done with wetting freezing teh walls + high energy lazer vaporizing the water in the wall and breaking down the plaster it would be more of a hack, and with some steam around teh area also a great light show

  20. @IH8Taggers Often street art is done with permission from the building owners, also, not every bit of street art is tagging.

    It’s almost definite that this had permission, can you imagine plastering someones wall with explosives embedded in it without getting noticed?

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