So, after our field trip it seems appropriate to take some time and look at what it means to not only inhabit a city, but to experience the city as medium–something to be manipulated, contextualized, and approached on an intimate level.
Public spaces offer anonymity and marginality for artists, something that at first seems contrary to the nature of public space. How does that happen? What mechanisms, social or otherwise, make that the case? Moreover, street art/graffiti offers people the chance to activate their own environment, to remake it and claim it in the face of powerlessness, displacement, and inequality. Graffiti allows people to repossess their environment, own it, and create an individual identity in a collective environment. In that sense, graffiti engages, necessarily, with the sociopolitical fabric of urban life and in doing so, does not merely comment, but physically changes the dynamics of urban structures.
That being said, in the past few years, particularly this past year, more and more museums and galleries have brought street art into their private (and some might say hermetic) spaces to be displayed there. What do you think about that? What do these changes do to the public, political dynamic of the work? Think about how context changes politics and aesthetic choices. What is lost? What is gained?
Below are some videos and interviews with some street artists, some of whom are both participating in museum shows as well as continuing their street work. All of these artists deal with the urban landscape and interact with the built environment. This is a given. However, think about what it is that they are SAYING in relation to that context. Also, given what they have to say, what about the city inspires them to produce what they do?
The first video is an interview with Armsrock, a german artist.
The second video is of GAIA doing a wheatpaste
The third video is of BLU’s animated street art video MUTO
The fourth and fifth videos are a 2 part interview with artist Barry McGee (he animated the interview himself)
Both Armsrock and McGee have both shown in galleries and museums in conjunction with their street art. McGee tags under the moniker TWIST.
BLU did a major street art mural for MOCA LA’s Art in the Street show, but it was torn down amid controversy–a perfect example of the paradox I discussed above.You can find that story here: