In Dialogue
A street sign on a pole in a city

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New York City

Shortly after the outbreak of the war between Israel and Hamas, flyers suddenly sprouted on New York streets. These flyers were attached to streetlamp posts, tree trunks, and subway stairwells, showcasing photos of infants, children, teens, and grandparents. beneath bold red banners that read “KIDNAPPED.” These photos capture moments from everyday life of people prior to the Hamas attack on October 7th—babies being fed, grandmas smiling, and teens taking selfies. This public art campaign was the brainchild of Israeli street artists Dede Bandaid and Nitzan Mintz. The couple, partners in life and art, have a history of engaging with public spaces globally in places like Tel Aviv, Berlin, Warsaw, and New York. They have recently arrived in New York to pursue their art. However, the events of October 7th shifted their focus. While trying to grasp the enormity and brutality of the terror attack on Israel, they felt compelled to respond by using the street art techniques they were proficient in. Art Spiel had the opportunity to speak with graffiti artist Dede Bandaid over the phone about the inception of this guerrilla street art campaign, which went viral and all over the globe.

Tell me about the genesis of this project.

On Saturday, October 7th, when we first heard the news from friends and family in Israel, we thought, “Ah, we have experienced this in Israel before; it’s too familiar.” But as we came to understand the magnitude of the terror attack; the reality started to sink in. We felt devastated—this catastrophe was happening back home, and here we were, far away. Thinking of the delay in the news from our families and friends. We had to do something. We felt compelled to act. We wanted to do what we know best—engage with the public on the street. We brainstormed a lot. Our aim was to raise awareness to those kidnapped, emphasizing that this could happen to anyone–this baby could be your child, this woman, your mother, and this old man, your grandfather.

How did it evolve?

On the first day, we tried distributing the flyers in Manhattan, encouraging passersby to post them in their neighborhoods or workplaces. But people were very suspicious, and it wasn’t effective. A day later, we uploaded the flyer files to our social media, allowing our followers worldwide to download and share them. The following morning, we were astonished by the response. Overnight, it had spread everywhere, going viral. We saw it all over the city the next morning. The Israeli community, along with other supporters, shared the flyers globally. Within a day or two, we received photos of our flyers from South America, Asia, and all over Europe.

Our operation then expanded. Tal Huber, a graphic designer in Israel, reached out via Facebook and joined our efforts. Now, we are in contact with people who offer us platforms like billboards, trucks, and giant screens. Celebrities on Instagram have shown support and worked alongside our followers. There are many people who post the flyers, and there are those who tear them. We are used to it from the dynamics of street art.

Photo courtesy of Art Spiel

How is this project different in terms of your art?

First, visually, it looks nothing like the art that Nitzan and I were doing earlier. We started here with the question of how we can help and not how we make art.

We applied everything we have learned from the experience of making street art, while we realized that this new visual language looks nothing like what we have done before. Our work shifted from site-specific to event specific art.

A wall painted on a building

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Tel Aviv, Israel

They gave birth to me and called me ‘the sun’
Scorching me with stripes of love
Blinding me.
Mother, with her eight arms
Cleaved light out of my
Dad placed me on his chest and sang
And I glittered bright and clear.

–Nitzan Mintz

What are your plans?

We initially planned to stay in New York till December, but now we are considering extending our visit. There is still work to do here. The campaign website, which had Dropbox files, crashed because of the heavy traffic. We’ve since launched a new site, offering flyer files in twelve languages, which are available for download here.

All photos courtesy of the artists unless otherwise indicated.