Photo by Conal Thomas

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Hamburgers are rarely made of chalk.

But on hoardings, street corners and down alleyways the past month, the fast-food staple has been scrawled up in white lines. It’s hard to know exactly what the eight-layered patties mean.

Even Kurb Junki, the arts-school graduate who draws them, says he isn’t quite sure. It’s mainly a spin-off from his skateboarding, he says, another way to engage with the city.

With a Hi8 in One Hand …

“In Dublin, a lot of the ground isn’t good, but I enjoy filming stuff like that,” he says, of his skateboarding videos. “It’s mainly just me going out, sometimes purposefully meeting a group saying, ‘Right, we’re going to go film in this area.’”

He takes the footage back to his bedroom, “the Kurb Junki Laboratory”, and splices it with ’90s cartoon clips or homemade effects, music sampled from the internet or original compositions. It’s a pace change from the usual slick, GoPro skate videos, as he sees it.

“The kind of skating I like to film is messy or not even particularly good skating,” he says. “Someone who’s not necessarily an amazing skater, I’ll be happy to film a trick with them and put it in the video just to give them their little slice.”

To film, Junki uses either a DV8 or Hi8 camera, vintage affairs seen less and less these days. Replacement parts can be hard to track down, he says. Nevertheless, style is everything.

Before taking to the streets with his camera, Junki attended the National College of Art and Design, taught English abroad, and dabbled in metalwork.

While visiting New York City two years ago, he happened upon a group of skateboarders, one of whom he found intriguing.

“Yerman was filming some stuff and he was like, ‘I do this thing called Bronze,’ and I didn’t think too much about it,” says Junki. “Then a couple of months later someone shared a video on my page of my face edited into this video [in New York].”

“Yerman” was Peter Sidlauskas, an American skateboarder and maker of lo-fi videos. Like Sidlauskas, Junki’s videos tend towards the light-hearted, the imperfect. Sidlauskas’ influence still sticks today.

Kurb Junki, 27-years-old with long, brown hair, has produced more and more videos to build his brand. But lo-fi production isn’t enough to make him Ireland’s answer to Sidlauskas.

… and Chalk in the Other

It’s less clear where the graffitied hamburgers have come from.

“I’m not really sure,” he says. “It’s a very loose thing. I think it’s more a case of the more you start doing something, it starts to become more important just purely for the reason of it being out there more and more.”

Junki says, like skateboarding, it’s all about the engagement with Dublin’s public space. The graffiti is done in chalk, mainly on temporary hoardings.

If it rains, it’s gone, no harm done. Like blank public blackboards they’re there for the taking, he says.

“Once you’re polite to someone, shake their hand, show them that it’s just a bit of chalk, it’s not really that much of a problem,” he says. “Generally, I’m doing it in daytime. Even mothers – ‘Oh, my son skateboards’ – chat with me.”

Graffiti, he says, is different to street art. “There’s this funny tension between the two and they cross over,” he says. “I know a lot of people in Dublin who’d be doing [graffiti] and a lot of those people would despise street art.” It’s the illegality of the act that’s empowering, says Junki.

As an artist and filmmaker, there’s no doubt Junki is building a brand for himself with his hamburgers, says skateboarder and collaborator Nicky Harpur.

People like the videos. “It’s different, it’s not your classical skate video,” Harpur says. “They make reference to the ’90s and popular culture. People tend to make the same type of video so it’s refreshing to see something interesting.”

Harpur says that there’s always been a collaborative strand when it comes to skateboarding’s creative types. “A lot of them inspire each other, it’s all one thing almost,” he says. “In New York, in the ’90s, that inspired a lot of stuff like clothing and art.”

For Kurb Junki, premiering his 12-minute skateboarding video at Body & Soul festival this summer was a high point so far.

He’s currently editing a 30-minute segment he’s hoping to premiere in Dublin early next year. From there, he says he’s moving into creating bigger, bolder murals for Dublin’s streets.

“Generally, I get to keep doing it. I only rubbed it [the graffiti] off once or twice,” he says. “I really love working in the public space and I think the videos are going to start to include the process of doing the drawing so it’ll all kind of tie in together.”

Cónal Thomas

Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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