Social photojournal

Art in the Street – The problem of definition

One thing I’m starting to notice as embark on my research into emerging urban (or ‘street’) art, is that  it resists definition. The sheer diversity of form, locations and artists is part of what makes the current movement so exciting – and also what makes it new. Graffiti has been around since the Roman’s began  scratching their names into brothel walls over a thousand years ago, but there wasn’t at that time (that we know of) anything that could remotely mimic what we see happening on the streets today. Maybe that is because ‘public’ art, as in publicly sanctioned art, decorative murals and so on, were given a privileged place in that world. Today we walk outside into our neighbourhoods to be assaulted with advertising we don’t choose to read, street signs telling us to ‘obey’ or be punished, signs of control and coercion combined with the more subtle yet just as effective signification of media. That is to say, in urban areas we are surrounded by the official graffiti of the ruling and commercial classes, and I’m sure many would agree.. it’s looking like quite a mess.

So then, is this art we see emergent on the streets a response to that, or is it something else? The answer is very complex, made ever more difficult by the fact that many of the artists themselves who are involved in this work resist being defined and massified as part of their artistic stance. Banksy’s recent film ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’ is a good example of this – is he taking the piss? Of course he is, and that’s the point. He doesn’t want to be ‘known’ and he doesn’t want his art to be ‘defined’.

A substantial section of this blog will be dedicated to showcasing the sheer diversity and endless creativity of art on the streets emerging around the world. In time, I will be interviewing artists and others involved, and digging deeper into this shadowy creative world. If you are an artist involved in art on the streets, or you know of something that could be interesting to include here, I’d love to hear from you. After all… when it comes to art on the streets, the audience IS also the message.


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