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After graffiti?

The history of street art is quite short – with the most artificial udrevleniyami get less than 40 years (if you count from the first experiments of Xavier Pru, better known as Blek le Rat, in 1981). Richard Hambleton (especially his series of works “Crime Scenes” and “Shadowman”) can also be included in the grandfather of street art. Great prehistoric ancestors like Kilroy was here and Taki 183 don’t count. And as a noticeable phenomenon, it did not develop at all until the turn of the century – in the late 90’s-early 2000s.at the same time, the definitions of street art that appear in the last 15 years usually suffer from negligence.

“Here was Kilroy” – a graffiti drawing that was very popular in the English-speaking countries of the West in the period from the early 1940s to the end of the 1950s and became part of the popular culture of the time

The classic version: street art is post-graffiti. The idea is generally clear: most artists of the first wave were previously graffiti writers (this statement is already a noticeable stretch, because it is not for everyone), therefore, it is concluded that they eventually moved away from letters and tags to complex and simple images or to other techniques (street sculpture, prints, mosaics, scratch, etc.).

However, graffiti is too closely associated with the ghetto subculture and does not encourage any search for other techniques. And in modern street art for a long time dominated by glue and poster, not spray. Drawing graffiti is usually narrowly limited in the motivation itself, even if the drawing contains not only letters, but also images. These motives are very clear: to declare yourself, mark the territory, boast or insult someone (almost the same can be seen in the original rap-self-presentation, dis, battle).

As noted by the St. Petersburg street artist agon_noga, the main principle in graffiti is “I am”, and in street art – “I think so”. But for me it is better: “I say”, where the statement is literally an act (go and make street art). Moreover, this “I say” fully covers not only the conscious utterance, but also the unconscious-what” said ” allegedly, by itself.

In this version, I like only the unspoken premise, but not the logic. I mean, one of the implied motives for developing graffiti into something more is a natural human desire to stand out, surprise and seduce another with something original or unusual. And probably those who wanted to appeal to many (and not just the ” party “in the topic) really made up the first rows of street art neophytes. Graffiti set an example and thus had an impact.

But it is also true that the emergence of street art has largely influenced the current graffiti and almost completely absorbed them. Almost, because in a number of abstract graffiti (Loomit, Graphic Surgery, Felipe Pantone, etc.) or those who continue to be a graffiti fontmaker (Daim), you can see the same post-graffiti-graffiti, detached from its subcultural roots. However, abstractions can also serve as a form for utterance, and then it is street art (or murals/monumental graphics as in the case of Askew).

One of the artist’s works under the nickname 1010

At the same time, I think that there was already a certain potential in graffiti, which could be realized much more widely than originally. The fact is that graffiti, which at first represented the creation of its own unique font for letters – is such an intervention in the alienated sphere of language. In addition, the use of spray paint leaves a lot of room for expression-from complex, detailed drawings to pure expression of the body and emotions. All this was realized in street art.

A small summary
What is considered art, and even more so modern, are the great problems of philosophical aesthetics, and for the most part they are unsolvable – because art is diverse and changeable. To define something new through the familiar, but obscure-so-so idea, at least for this new. The truly new requires a new language, a new semantic optics. Otherwise, instead of understanding the specifics, you will be doomed to repeating platitudes and feeling the elephant in parts.

The work of Richard Hambleton from the Shadowman series (early 1980s)

Speaking of street art, you should be more critical of this “prefix “”- art”. Street art is not a good term, because it is not one of the domains or trends of contemporary art. It is “art” in the broader sense that was well known to the ancient Greeks (tehnae) and quite distinct in Russian-art as skill, as skill in technique and expression, and in a sense, and skill (to penetrate, to do, not to get caught).

This “- art “generally causes considerable inconvenience to many, especially in Russia, where “artist” is a heavily loaded signifier (in contrast, for example, to the more abstract artist). Nikita Nomerz once said that it is always easier for him to say “I do street art” (instead of “drawing”) – and it sounds like a clumsy alphabet, but it keeps in touch with the truth. In addition, the “street artist” sounds like a person who writes quick portraits for money in the Park or entertains onlookers with spectacular drawing of some natural or cosmic landscapes, or creates housing office art.

Unlike sovrisk, street art still resists commercialization and the businesslike involvement of galleries/curators (who almost immediately begin to decide the old-fashioned way: who has the proverbial artistic value, and who – passed by). It refuses to train the viewer and often uses them directly instead of destroying language/stereotypes. And most importantly, street art still remains pathos, serious and naive, even in its irony (no postmodern evasions from the message, no hopes that the “text/image will take out”).

In this sense, street art is inseparable from issues of ethics and politics. And the position of the utterance of street art is a modern version of the proletarian consciousness. This is a form of utterance that is close to art, but focused on overcoming alienation in the urban environment. Street art is not tied to the aesthetic norm, to the style and technique, but it is almost always noticeable appeal to the street audience and the environment.

The very concept of “street art” can be used in an extended and narrower sense. In an extended sense, street art is a new wave of urban creativity that includes almost any (non-commercial) aesthetic and semantic intervention in the city environment (from decor and murals to political stencils).

In a narrow sense, street art is not so much a reality, but rather a reference point that allows you to separate the attempt at expression from the realization of other goals. In this sense, I propose to consider it in this course. Labels like “street wave” or urban-art do not add anything new about this. Although the word “street art” is somewhat compromised.

The work of Ron English, made in Bethlehem

And by the way, it is in the second sense that not every “street” statement is street art. This border is well felt, but not easily formulated. For example, drawings on a wall in Bethlehem made in 2007 by a group of artists (Banksy, Ron English, Peter Blake, Antony Micallef, Paul Insect, Faile, and others) are a socio – political statement made in a situation where some are voiceless and others have the power to shut the mouths of inconvenient speakers.

Several street artists who had already painted in the Palestinian territories were forcibly expelled by the Israeli authorities. This is street art, which is designed to draw attention to what is said, not the speaker (although the stupid mass media preferred to notice only the presence of Banksy in the infopod).

But very similar actions made by JR in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro or by a large group of artists in Tunisia (the Jerbahud project) are not impressive and do not carry a tangible statement, although they are provided with smart texts about the right things (street art and a project with a curator are things that are not compatible).

JR’s works in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas

These actions in third world countries are rather a performance with a sociological subtext, which, first of all, is intended only for the first-world audience, and secondly, draws attention to the artist, not to the problem. And of course, everything is legal and agreed upon by diplomatic consulates (I would not be surprised if I learn that JR was accompanied by a squad of submachine gunners – a common thing for authorized trips of foreigners to the favelas). This is especially the fault of the French. Such “street art of the smoker” was created in advance to become a photo exhibition with curated texts in a gallery located in the fashion district of one of the European capitals.

However, the value of street art is not that it is on the street. It is good because it radically redefines the context of any image/statement – questions of borders and cultural rankings, seriality, authorship, legality of self-expression, ethics of images, the context of perception, and the goals of aesthetic expression. This is what we will talk about in the following course texts.

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