Friday, November 18, 2005

From Vandalism to Street Arts

It is interesting to watch the development or flux of artistic genres. I was part of a movement in Sydney Australia in the early 1990's and we called it Community Arts. It involved mural projects in public spaces, installation of art pieces in foyers and lobbies of public buildings (often without permission but if you looked professional enough delivering a sculpture often nobody asked any questions), performance art from the backs of trucks and on street corners, pubs and colleges campuses, sticker art, posters, mail art, and sort of happenings (such as "dress up in an animal costume and ride the trains for an afternoon"). Since then a lot has happened in urban space and how it is viewed by its inhabitants. We have violence, control, play and study. Over the last month or so I have been watching the development of Street Arts as an officially sanctioned (by Time no less) art movement which noticeably positions itself as resisting the gallery system while at the same time being prepared to enter the gallery space on occasion. It is an exciting thing with the potential to visually renew urban spaces beyond the contentious "Graffiti" paradigm that is growing dull and seems to lack much of the complexity necessary for such works as those by Banksey (his website is HERE) and the Wooster Collective. Not only is it painting but much more; installation, sculpture, assemblage, and posters. It all seems very politically orientated. It is also cross platform such as the stages in the OBEY process, as documented in their amazing Flickr site. It may feel like things are teetering on the edge at times in the early 21st century but there are also moments when one can glimpse the creative forces at work and the changing structures around us. Exciting stuff!
P.S Those who are resisting this new art force include Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman who has said that of those who paint in public space; "I'm saying maybe you put them on TV and cut off a thumb," the mayor said. "That may be the right thing to do." (CNN). There seems to be a bit of a way to go before the public space is liberated for all.....

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