Wednesday, March 2, 2011

public art

I probably spend far too much time reading news and opinions on the current affairs web sites and find it all too easy to become overwhelmed by information, depressed, or both. When that happens, those times when I don't have a project I'm involved with or a book I can't put down, I have a few places on-line I can retreat to for comfort and solace. One of them is The Wooster Collective, a forum for street culture and graffiti artists from around the world.

Most of us are familiar with Banksy, a character impossible not to love in my opinion, but there are many others who do wonderful work that's focused on topics as diverse as politics, ethics, and culture. In public spaces, street art represents the voice of the community, marginal groups, and young people who strive to be heard, often defying the notion of private property. Graffitis have become a rich medium for the unrestricted expression of ideas and statements about how to make the world a better place without resorting to anything more utopian than being willing to share space and dreams.

“Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal, a city where everybody could draw whatever they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colours and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a party where everyone was invited, not just the estate agents and barons of big business. Imagine a city like that and stop leaning against the wall – it’s wet.”

–Banksy, Wall and Piece

Faith47 from The Ginkgo Agency on Vimeo.

There are so many great examples it was hard to choose just one photograph or video but since I limit myself to one of each I thought I'd show you a picture of just how effective something small can be. The artist in the video speaks for herself.


Pagan Sphinx said...

The transient nature of street art is fascinating and I agree with the artist that it's hard for people to wrap their heads around it, especially since it is clandestine as well as fleeting. A lot of people see graffiti as needing to be short-lived and they are often engaged in a sort of battle to rid the world of it. Maybe that's all part of its uniqueness.

I was glad to hear the artist's own voice on what she believes it is and what it means to her.

Great post, Susan!

Kay said...

I am fascinated by street the Wooster site!

Francis Hunt said...

Conventions and creativity - uneasy bed-fellows, but both need the other in some way.

Graffiti pushes at all kinds of conventions; like the idea of "private" property, or the basic commandment, "Thou shalt not ..."

But even on the purely practical level, one of the best ways to protect blank spaces from "meaningless" defacement is to encourage creative sprayers to do their thing!

Francis Hunt said...

One more memory:

In the early 80s, when the IRA hunger strikes were going on in Northern Ireland, posters with the name of the most famous striker were plastered all over Ireland:


and then some wag sprayed directly underneath:

... with every packet of Kellog's cornflakes! ... :-)

susan said...

pagan sphinx - The tricky part is being able to define the difference between art that's worthy of attention and vandalism. The line is a very fine one and certainly has much to do with skill. I was shocked when I read someone defaced a Banksy painting but there's a lesson there too.

kay - That site is an excellent gateway with tons of very neat work shown.

francis - In most cities it's rare to see anything other than simple tags that are soon gone. The only ones of any interest seen here so far have been sidewalk banana peels. It's a skill that street artists in more culturally vibrant cities develop to comment on their environment as well as a challenge to one another's daring.

Of course, there's also the thing that a number of the more talented artists work both sides of the street and sell photographs of their temporary graffiti installations in fancy galleries. I imagine Faith 47 is one of them.

I loved the story about Bobby Sands :-)

Linda said...

a beautiful, amazing artist and work...thank you for digging this up for us to see. xxx

La Belette Rouge said...

A world covered with art? It sounds pretty good. That said, not all art is beautiful and I suppose that we should have the freedom to have private property that is art covered or art free, depending on our preferences. Stickety-wicket.

jams o donnell said...

I love the idea of creative graffiti . Some is excellent. A couple of weeks ago I enjoyed seeing a building hoarding with caricatures of psychotic builders.

Far better than the rubbish that blights so many walls!

Liberality said...

That first picture brought tears to my eyes. How depressing but how true.

Street art is not commercial and therefore is a crime. Profanity and vulgarity can be washed over but art that defies power--YES!

susan said...

linda - There were many examples to choose from but her short presentation covered a lot of good reasons. I'm glad you enjoyed it too.

belette - It's definitely a loaded subject especially once we get into determining relative values of what constitutes good art. Vandalism isn't but who gets to decide? There's a preponderance of advertising art that nobody gets to vote for or against.

jams - That one sounds excellent. Halifax doesn't have much in the way of an underground art scene.

liberality - There were lots of examples of fabulous artwork but that one struck me as the most meaningful and on a scale that anyone could emulate.

So far we've still got action-reaction but a more equitable system would make for different results.

Randal Graves said...

Boring bus stops? They've obviously never stopped off in Cleveland. Thirty-seven shades of grey!

susan said...

randal - Color blind commuters must love Cleveland.

MRMacrum said...

When Graffiti was just coming into its own, I hated it. And then I looked beyond my own preconceptions with an eye to the art of it. The talent of some of these "street artists" is phenomenal. Thanks for showing me another one.

gfid said...

the arts are too often treated as if they were the exclusive property of the wealthy. i love street art, and street music.... community performances and local art..... of the people, for the people, and by the people.... or however that quote goes. i'll be back for a bedtime story. :0)

Seraphine said...

there's good graffiti and there's bad graffiti. the problem is, most of it is the bad kind.
i love anyone that can take something common and make it beautiful. the world needs more beauty.

susan said...

mrmacrum - When they're good, they're very good. Being free to create for free is very cool.

gfid - Unfortunately, rich people are the only ones who can afford to pay artists. Those young and strong enough to hold down a job and work at their art are to be commended. Hurray for common cause :-)

sera - Of course you're right about both things. That's why I could really get into guerilla gardening :-)

I hope you had a good birthday and a fine walk among the redwoods.

Lisa said...

I am the last person to learn of Banksy. Thank you for the introduction.

susan said...

lisa - He really does do some amazing work. I'm looking forward to a movie about him called 'Exit Through the Gift Shop'.

Steve Emery said...

Banksy's words in this post remind me of Hundertwasser's various statements about urban space, human life and expressive rights, and our relationship with nature, particularly as it relates to buildings and roofs. For one thing, he believed everyone should have the right to paint the outside of their windows, as far as they could reach from the opening... This was a way of expressing the occupant's person for passers-by to see and know. How revealing this might be - how much it would aid in meeting people and knowing something deeper than small-talk right from the beginning.

susan said...

steve - I really wish Halifax builders had thought to incorporate some Hundertwasser elements. He had a lot of insight as to what makes people content in their living environment. I would love it if a tree that was planted on the 4th floor was growing past our 7th floor balcony.

Seraphine said...

i've been thinking.
it is a great idea that we put hungry children into fast-food garbage containers. they could eat the leftover grease before it has a chance to contaminate the environment.
as an advanced society, we could save millions on unnecessary adoptions; we could save billions more in waste 'management' costs.
perhaps homeless children will even cease to be considered stigma by society.
street children could ultimately replace rats and pigeons in our larger cities.
wouldn't it be cool to sit on a park bench and feed little bits to children instead of squirrels?
thinking about possibilities is positive fun!

susan said...

sera - You always make me smile. Of all the images I looked in the days before I wrote this post that particular picture seemed to be the most relevant. You got it in one. I will take little bags of child treats with me whenever I go to the park from now on. ♡