CCTP-725: Fall 2011

Week 8 Discussions

As an artist, I am a huge fan and supporter of temporal and situational art, and in many ways street art is the full realization of installation art. It’s direct and layered existence challenges the world around it, and simultaneously, everything that is not around it. A graffiti piece on a “bad” corner in Southeast DC not only calls attention to that corner and community, but to its opposite, to the Dean & Deluca style Georgetown only a few miles away.

There is a very interesting street artist in Paris named Princess Hijab, who uses advertisements in the subway stations as her medium of choice. In reading this week, I decided a really interesting way of engaging with this unit would be to try and analyze the semiotics of Princess Hijab’s work, beyond perhaps what meets the eye.
Screen_shot_2011-10-24_at_11.01.59_AM.png(This is Princess Hijab)

Initially though, here is a little background on the artist: Princess Hijab is an elusive French street artist, who works at night, and strikes only a few times per year. Her identity is unknown (as is her sex). When asked about herself she states that "the real identity behind Princess Hijab is of no importance...The imagined self has taken the foreground, and anyway it's an artistic choice." Using black paint or ink, Princess Hijab strikes at night, applying niqabs and veils to various advertisements in the subway. In secular France, this is a strong statement, especially after all religious gear was banned from public spaces last year. To read more about her, see this __article__.
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In “reading” this image, we can surmise that the original image was a sexualized portrayal of a woman. As an advertisement, this image was most likely highly-edited, and transformed into the sleek, seductive, and non-realistic style of contemporary ads. What then, does it mean to have a handdrawn niqab applied onto this otherwise fairly exposed woman? What does this say about Islam? About advertising? About women? About sexuality? An interesting note in looking at the original image is the utilization of the “gaze”, and the hypersexualization of the woman portrayed. With the niqab, the woman might now read as an Arab, and there is a historic practice of Arab women being sexualized, as both virgins and belonging to harems.

It is also interesting to look at these pieces and compare them to the work of say, Basquiat. In Jerry Saltz's analysis of Basquiat, he says that Basquiat wanted his work to function as a "sacramental or talismanic object, something that had the shamanic power to change lives, protect cities, or perform magic." These words seem applicable to Princess Hijab as well, as her pieces call into question the very basis of both religious and secular beliefs.

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In looking then at the placement of these works within the metro station, they read on yet another level. What does it mean that they are displayed here? (Note: they are photographed and have a long afterlife online, recalling Prof. Irvine’s mention in his chapter on street art as “intentionally ephemeral but now documented almost obsessively.”) It is also important to realize that these were not created as art pieces and then placed in the subway stations- the images already existed as part of the station and were then altered by Princess Hijab. What does it say about our engagement with advertising? It is interesting to note that Princess Hijab’s work is ephemeral, usually only up for about 45 minutes before official remove them. Also in terms of audience, subway stations offer up all different kinds of people who are transient and passing through. The intended engagement of the viewer is meant to mimic that of advertising, quick, impactful, and one of millions of images.

Here a few other images of Princess Hijab and her work. I only scratched the surface with my initial questions and analysis.
Screen_shot_2011-10-24_at_11.03.28_AM.png Screen_shot_2011-10-24_at_11.03.11_AM.png

Screen_shot_2011-10-24_at_11.02.46_AM.png Screen_shot_2011-10-24_at_11.02.35_AM.png

Serene Al-Kawas

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As much as graffiti, street, and outsider art is undeniably and by definition progressive and cutting edge, to me it also harkens to an organic, simple, and accessible aesthetic. Critics might even say it “wears its simplicity, even simple-mindedness, on its sleeve” (Gopnik). Though it often pushes boundaries against typical archetypes and images, street art can almost be reminiscent of a time when art was centered in myth and ritual, like hieroglyphics. For example, seeing the Obey Giant evokes a feeling that he is a powerful, cult-like figure. Basquiat, Jerry Saltz explains, wanted his paintings to work as a “sacramental or talismanic object, something that had the shamanic power to changes lives, protect cities, or perform magic”. As von Ziegesar noted, Keith Haring was “piling hieroglyph upon hieroglyph” in his works. Another aspect to this feeling may lie in the fact that street art is less about the art figures and more about the “audacity of the act itself” (Irvine 4). As Gopnik states, “even graffiti itself stated out being less about what it looked like than about where it was.” Like hieroglyphics, street art carries an important message for the viewer. It's a modern day tool to “carry into battle” and survive life in the urban jungle.
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The nebulous genre of street art is relatively young, having grown out of the graffiti art in the 1970s and 1980s (Irvine 4). It is inherently “always already remixed” and continuously keeps an ever-growing arsenal of references under its belt. Yet, despite its muddled origins and influences, street art is still prone to undergoing an evolution like any other art form.

One of the latest iterations is found in yarn bombing, that is, when artists cover public spaces/objects with knitted/crocheted patterns of yarn. Though at first glance the “grandma-esque” yarn seems far removed from the quintessential hard-edged graffiti, yarn bombing is a logical evolution. The New York Times describes, “Yarn bombing takes that most matronly craft (knitting) and that most maternal of gestures (wrapping something cold in a warm blanket) and transfers it to the concrete and steel wilds of the urban streetscape.” Using yarn came about from a D.I.Y. craft movement that has already been taking place in urban areas in the past few years, exemplified in a mass way with the emergence of craft sites like Etsy and ReadyMade. Yarn bombing is much like quintessential graffiti: it has a “visual vocabulary and set of stylistic registers” (Irvine 1), it is ephemeral, it is a global phenomenon, a culture has developed around it that binds the artists, it can be shocking and thought-provoking, etc. Yet it is an evolution because it adds new elements to street art: namely the fact that it counters the connotation of harsh graffiti and “in-your-face” (Irvine 1) images. Also, in true post-post-modern form, it challenges the male-dominated world of graffiti and street art with a more feminine-associated and dominated medium.
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One example of a new yarn bombing prodigy is Agata Oleksiak, known as Olek. A Polish-born, Brooklyn-based immigrant who learned English through watching movies, she demonstrates the hybridized, globalized culture that pops up in the major metropolises of the world. Olek covers sculptures, objects, and even people in yarn. According to NY Magazine, this gained her enough notoriety that she will show at the Smithsonian in 2012 and recently showed her own stitched studio apartment as an installation at a gallery in Nolita. The gallery’s assistant director ­said, “There is no separation between her art and her life.” I think this speaks to the story of many, if not most, street artists. Their art isn’t performed in a bubble or in a vacuum. They often take the law in their hands when they display it. Often times it has esoteric, personal references like Olek’s intimate text messages in yarn. One can imagine that the street artists’ lives merge with their art because the story they tell is of their location. Street art intersects with the lives even of passersby--they don’t have to seek it out--it is pervasive and difficult to escape.
--Barry Blitch

This week’s reading I was particularly interested in how both graffiti artists and streets often use their work to make political and topical statements about contemporary society. Keith Haring’s, Crack is Wack, is a perfect example of using the public space as a platform for a controversial topic. Although Haring’s style is playful, the severity of the message is still implied in the wasted, skeletal looking figures grabbing the money.
Ron English, like many Pop artists, employs the techniques of advertising in his artwork. His work can be at first misleading because like Andy Warhol’s Brillo pads, it uses the same language and appearance that a passerby might not even realize that it is actually not an advertisement. If one takes the time to look, it is apparent right away that these are not advertisements. His work can range from lighthearted and playful in his reinterpretation of Aunt Jemima’s syrup into Aunt Jamaica’s Hash Oil but can also be serious, more critical statements. His cereal boxes and McDonald’s ads are a direct stab at food politics and the government’s slow and often ineffective reaction to the growing rate of child hood obesity in the country. Aunt_Jamaica_High_final-202x300.jpg fit-400x320.JPG

Katy Schwager

Hybrid Culture and Economies in Street Art

post based on:
"Tagging Rights Have the nonprofits, art galleries, and party planners who fete D.C.'s graffiti scene also tamed it?"

The September 2011 issue of DC's City Paper cited above took on the theme of grafitti and street art in the context of institutionalization, authenticity, and insider/outsider categories. This local phenomenon is an instructive case study for debates about authenticity and the nature of street art in general. The article focuses on a network of government projects (MuralsDC), non-profit arts organizations (Words, Beats, Life; Art Under Pressure), galleries (The Fridge, Irvine Contemporary, and Art Whino), activists, and businesses that have engaged street artists to create legal spaces for their work:

"In 2011, graffiti culture and its derivatives are thriving in D.C.—but as sanctioned forms. The government, nonprofits, activists, gallery owners, marketers, and the artists themselves have in large part tamed the practice, raising questions about what the anti-authoritarian form even means anymore. As the graffiti bubble grows bigger and bigger, its contradictions are being painted in vivid colors."

Mural Sponsored by Albus Cavus near Rhode Island Ave. Red Line Metro stop
Mural Sponsored by Albus Cavus near Rhode Island Ave. Red Line Metro stop

According to some purist critics, the art form loses credibility when it is moved inside the boundaries of legal or institutional art. Activists and non-profiters, however, claim that they are educating and protecting youth from making irresponsible choices, instead cultivating a path toward legal, salable art and employment. The legal/illicit debate in street art form two poles operating in parallel that represent two types of value systems. Legal work functions within the traditional economy of the art world, i.e. art as commerce. Young artists who work through educational non-profits and licit venues gain opportunities for selling their art or employment in design or marketing. Just as Warhol ingeniously manipulated popular images to make himself into a rich and famous cultural icon, these artists use street art to gain access to the art world and material success. Illicit street art maintains a different system of values, one that counters traditional notions of public space, property, advertising, and art. The illicit grafitti of the 70s and 80s developed into the tagging in which individuality, fame/notoriety and turf were the commodities of exchange. Increasingly, artists walk the line between these poles and maintain dual identities as taggers, writers, street artists, and fine artists.

MuralsDC Mural 8 at 4900 McCormack Drive, NE (designed by Coby Kennedy?)
MuralsDC Mural 8 at 4900 McCormack Drive, NE (designed by Coby Kennedy?)

Cory Stowers of Art Under Pressure advocates for open walls, where artists can create freely without predetermined content approved by city and neighborhood officials. Since an arrest in 2005, he has worked for Words, Beats, Life and stopped writing illegally. He now teaches classes for WBL and enforces a pledge amongst his students that they only write legally. He cites "the accomplishments of D.C. writers who have achieved success in other fields. Cita Sadeli co-founded the animation and design company Protein Media; Coby Kennedy—or Demon—has created clothing designs for Japanese street-wear companies and concept automobiles for Honda."

Cory Stowers
Cory Stowers

One of those that walks the line, but is critical of the newly established institutionalized street art scene, is Asad "Ultra" Walker. He "feels that nonprofits and public art projects exclude writers with street cred." "Walker is a founding member of KGB, or “Krazy Graf Brothers,” a crew of writers known for being intimidating. But he’s also shown work in galleries, an indication that being able to work the establishment doesn’t obviate tagging on the illegal side." Another member of KGB, Che, indicated in an interview for the article, "He was fine making legal art, but that wasn’t going to stop him from tagging buildings." The author contends that " reality, you need to live in both worlds. “If you want to be part of the legal aspect, you have to be part of the illegal,” says Che."

Che's tag appears in the lower right
Che's tag appears in the lower right

Cultural and economic flows are evident in these examples. The artists cited by Stowers who now create sanctioned and commercial work have moved from legal to illegal, while Walker and Che maintain the importance of walking the line between legal and illegal street art. I wonder if a third scenario is possible, where artists move out of the institutions and onto the streets, risking arrest for a broader political message. Shephard Fairey seems to be moving in this direction. Though his murals are created on legal surfaces (?) (like the alley outside of Irvine Contemporary?), his Obama "Hope" image lawsuit also suggests that he is pushing the boundaries of legality. Others, such as Banksy, remain "illegitimate" as part of their artistic, cultural and political statement. Basquiat, on the other hand, upset the conventions of street art in another way, by bringing his work inside galleries to gain fame and fortune. For each of these artists, there is an ebb and flow between legally sanctioned and illicit work, which they balance throughout their careers to gain the type of capital most important to them at a particular time (money or "street cred," in some instances both).

The flow between illegal and legal art suggests some interesting research questions: In the legal/illegal spectrum, where do artists start, and where do they end up? Why do they do grafitti or other types of street art, and what value does it have? How can artists make a living and still maintain street cred? What are the patterns of legal/illegal work among street artists, and how are these flows reproduced? What are the implications for the characteristics or qualities of images that operate from these flows? Is sanctioned street art likely to have different themes, messages, or styles than illicit work? If so, what are the driving differences behind these differences? Whose interests are served by creating legal or illegal art? All these questions can be applied to other forms of remixed culture, from identity to image reproduction to sampled music.

-Ben King

Helene Vincent

In his article about street art The Allure of ‘Loser’ Culture, Blake Gopnik writes, “In visual art, there’s a big difference between wanting to rebel and actually making art that’s new and dangerous. More often than not, rebellion just leads to clichés of rebelliousness.” There are many different roots in the development of Street Art over the course of the past few years, but there is a common thread running through each source—it is something intrinsically rebellious because it is absolutely illegal. The act of producing street art is innately rebellious, whether you are Banksy and producing something that will end up for sale at Christie’s or an anonymous high school student producing something because you’re capable of doing so. Gopnik’s point, for me, touches upon a critical point in relation to Street Art: In a realm where anyone is free to do as they please, what distinguishes the artists producing work that is fresh, energetic, and powerful from those producing, well, cliché trash?

Even within the realm of Street Art there is still a kind of notion of authenticity, a distinction between what is really Street Art and what is, to put it in the crudest terms, just the defacement of a public space. Although part of the power of Street Art is putting art back in the hands of the people, this power is still shaped by particular conventions about what Street Art is. I feel that Street Artists themselves are especially protective of what kind of work can truly be called Street Art. In the Roundtable: Street Art interview many different people affiliated with the Street Art movement spoke about various aspects of Street Art there seemed to be a general agreement that the growing popularity of Street Art coupled with the internet’s ability to connect people faster and easier has diluted the quality of art on the streets. To quote Blake Gopnik once again, he states that there is an “all-out refection of artistic heft and seriousness” in much of the Street Art we see today. Perhaps the rejection of heft and seriousness is a message in itself, that Street artists have no concern for such things and are creating their works in public spaces simply for themselves. In order to fall under the category of Street Art, must a work have a message? It is hard to say yes or no. In one of the short interviews in the Style Wars film, a teenage boy stated, “What other people think don’t matter to me, this is for us.” So here we are confronted with another problem, who is Street Art really for? Is it really art for everybody? Or is it art for the artists?

In the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, the notorious Street Artist Banksy opens up the film by stating that though the project started off about him, it wound up about Thierry Guetta (the man who shot the thousands of hours of video for the documentary). The second half of the film traces Thierry’s evolution from Street Art enthusiast to Street Artist in his own right. There has been a lot of speculation surrounding the film, most notably that the entire production is a hoax concocted by Banksy himself with Shepard Fairey as his accomplice. The end of the film documents Thierry (or Mr Brainwash) preparing for the opening of his first show in Los Angeles, which becomes an enormous success thanks almost entirely to hype. By the time the show closed, Mr Brainwash made about $1,000,000 dollars off his art. Thierry’s overnight transformation into a Street Artist brings a lot of questions to light. Is formal art training a pre-requisite for creating Street Art? Is the embracing of Street Art just a result of hype? Is “good” Street Art simply art that is appreciated by a multitude of people? Both Shepard Fairey and Banksy offer very critical views of the Mr Brainwash phenomenon. Fairey states that “a lot of suckers [are] buying into his show,” suggesting that people are so excited and eager to embrace Street Art that they do not even realize when they encounter something extremely mediocre. Banksy’s statement probably resonates stronger than any other in the film, he says, “I used to encourage everyone I met to make art. I used to think everyone should do it,” and after a long pause he ends with, “I don’t really do that so much anymore.”

There is no doubt that some of the most wonderful and inventive art of the last few decades can be found on the streets (or was at one point on the streets!) but I also think the nature of Street Art, its use of public space as a means of opening art up to the world as opposed to an isolated environment, leaves a lot more room for mediocrity (and sometimes downright trash) to creep in.

A Mr. Brainwash work from his 2008 show in Los Angeles.

One of nine images Banksy created on the West Bank Barrier that separates Israel from the Palestinian territories.

In demonstrating the intersections of the “regimes of visibility - legal and governmental on one side, and artworld or social aesthetic on the other (Irvine 18), street art succeeds in “turning attention to what is normally, intentionally, unnoticed, visually suppressed” (Irvine 21). While my generation is widely considered (I believe) to be critical observers and even participants within a consumer-driven media environment, the idea of an “intentionally” “suppressed” visual culture still seems unnerving when thinking through the implications of the true power of individuals as recipients/observers. In Michel de Certeau’s argument against the “passive consumer” (Irvine 16), I question if this idea of visual suppression is conscious within consumers beyond criticism to overarching stereotypes of advertorial messaging and persuasion techniques. Within this “contest for visibility”, where “all advertising messages are constructed to interpellate us, calling us out to take up the position of the advertising addressee—the consumer, the passive receiver” (Irvine 18), I wonder how active the average individual is in viewing, perceiving, and reacting critically to visual messages. At the same time, the idea of a passive consumer strengthens the argument/need for art, such as street art, “based on reapprorpiations and redeployments of the dominant image economy” (Irvine 16), as well as art’s constant reinvention as these visual trends become incorporated within such an economy.

Street art appears to assume the very nature of the social web. Similar to the read/write productions of the Internet and the nature of digital technology, street art “pushes back with alternative subject positions for inhabitants and citizens, confusing the message system by offering the alternative subjectivity of gift-receiver, and blurring the lines between producers and receivers” (Irvine 18). Working against consumer scripts, street art, similar to Web 2.0 productions, break through traditional hierarchies inherent in production and communication dissemination – whether it is tearing through the walls of the studio or the form of the book.

Still, street artists seem to express an apprehension of the incongruity between their work, which is “confrontationally material and location-specific”, and yet at the same time, “participating in the global, networked, Web-distributable cultural encyclopedia” (Irvine 4). As “walls and screens are increasingly intermingled”, I too wonder how such contextual art will render through, “the illusion of a disembodied, abstract, transmedia, and dematerialized visual environment, where images, video, graphics, and text converge and coexist in the field of the flat-panel frame” (Irvine 3-4). A video interview of the street artist Swoon, almost ironically, attempts to digitally recapture lost context by overlaying “street sounds” into the media representations of her art ( In the same way the scale of a large mural drives conscious awareness differently in-person than on screen, I wonder how the interaction of audience and context of setting/history/community/lived experience/ ”the element of “surprise”, etc, inherent in art such as instillation and street art, are lost to a global flat-screened community. Apart from simply local context, there are obvious contrasts to art viewed on a flat screen and when attempting to make a statement in voice to similar work digitally reproduced in half the time. In this context, for example, how does audience perception and reception change to an artist who works with scale (such as Akemi Maegawa and/or reliance on material and experience (such as James Marshall ( watch the closeness of the observers to the paintings).


Although Internet dispersed photographs contribute to a de-contextualization of street art and, some argue, dilute “the quality” in the ease of production and mass dissemination (see Wooster Collective response), the medium simultaneously participates in the possibility of the formation and appearance of an otherwise silent visual culture. Despite the inevitability of “street art” becoming institutionalized and assumed within the mass cultural encyclopedia, the art will also inevitability lead to a network of implications in both theory and practice – not simply in art and visual cultural – but in new modes of reciprocal meaning-making of artist/producer and audience/community. We see this with Marc Schiller himself, both a marketing executive and organizer of the Wooster Collective, Schiller “hopes his passion for street art has made him better at his job by making him more sensitive to the negative effects of advertising” (

- Jess Steele

Yizhou Zhang

My first impression of graffiti and street art came from hip-hop culture. Always appearing as a visual background accompanied with hip-hop music and rap stars, spray-painted graffiti does make people feel cool. But what’s its artistic value other than being “cool” or is there no need to look into the so-called “value” at all? The vast majority of graffiti is created by an impulse from the bottom of heart, especially when it’s not been packaged as an expression of identity or form of art. Whatever the purpose or intention is, graffiti generates the fun of subversion: it represents real grassroots and folk culture, and it’s a rebellious oath against the existing order of reality and environment. Street art, for its being “street”, breaks the boundary between high and low art, no longer pursuing an “elegant” reputation in the name of art, looking for its meaning out of the absence of meaning.

As a kind of cross-over and post-modern art, graffiti and street art seem to be much more controversial in its production process and social effects than other forms of pop art. Graffiti has been wandering at the edge of law from the moment of birth, even if no one can deny its existence. But it is such a challenge to legality which constitutes a crucial part of the unique charm of graffiti - the anti-social pleasure of breaking order and rules, as well as the anti-traditional rebellion to the external mechanism. Perhaps it’s also one of the reasons why graffiti and street art are always booming in the areas which have been highly commercialized and urbanized. It reflects the demand of psychological catharsis among the repressed groups “with a deep identification and empathy with the city”. Although it’s an indisputable fact that we’re living in a society filled with visual symbols that are produced and controlled by major industries and mass media, graffiti artists are trying to provide an alternative of the world we see by changing the “regime of visibility”.

However, today we’ve been witnessing more and more commercialized graffiti artworks in the fashion industry. For example, the images by one of the graffiti masters - Keith Haring can be found in the swimwear collection by Joyrich, T-shirt collection by Uniqlo, and the high-heel collection by Nicholas Kirkwood. Many contemporary graffiti artists also actively introduce commercial elements into their works by collaborating with or even creating their own trendy brands. Then is it a deviation from the original spirit of this art form?


MC Yan, the Asian pioneer of street art who used to be the soul of LMF - a local hip-hop group in Hong Kong, believes that street art will thrive instead of die out through its integration into commercialization. Yan studied art in France and returned to Hong Kong in the early 1990s, developing his personal style based on the ancient Chinese culture, rather than copying and reproducing the western graffiti. He was also famous for being one of the first graffiti artists to apply the laser technology in painting. As an artist across different media, he has launched a “pirate” radio station and released music with his label Fu Kin Music, and he also owns a fashion line NSBQ (Ning Si Bu Qu 宁死不屈, literally “rather die than surrender”). “Should artists do commercial activities? I say yes,” Yan insists that street art can be commercialized, but can not succumb to commercialization.


Yu-wei Wang

This week’s reading offered fundamental insights into the enduring issues around street art: value, aesthetics and appropriation. Being considered as a form of Post-Pop art, street art not only shares the common feature of “Camp” with Pop art, but the spirits per se bring street art more than Camp. In Notes On “Camp”, Sontag makes a long list of standards of what the “Camp” refers to. As she noted, “the essence of Camp is its love of unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration”, “the aesthetic mode of Camp is artifice and stylization not in terms of beauty “, “the Camp sensibility is disengaged and depoliticized”, “Camp is a failure of seriousness…, these criteria essentially build the basic notion of street art. However, these features are exemplified by the practice of street art, and even more street art continuing push the boundaries of the reception from government and art field.

Unlike formal form of art works, street art are composed upon public sphere, a space where people lived and interacted with. In Martin Irvine’s The Work on the Street: Street Art and Visual Culture, Irvine indicates that “the social meaning of street art is a function of locations with all their already structured symbolic values.” Hence, the semiotic of spaces, such as New York, London and Paris that has already been encoded a specific meaning or impression, where the street artists work in, is not only adapted by the artists, but bring it in to their works that forms a tide affiliation between the places and the art works. It is because of this dialogic context, which serves as a special feature of street art that allows the artists to interact with and perceive the power from various sources, daily experiences from local citizens and the transit networks of the city. Moreover, many of the Graffiti seem utopian, sympathetic, stunning, and aggressive, this genre as Irvine mentioned in The Work on the Street: Street Art and Visual Culture, “usually begin with a deep identification and empathy with the city, and they are compelled to state something in and with the city, whether as forms of protest, critique, irony, beauty,…, subversion or all of the above.” As I see it, this, as a result, composed the “authenticity” of the street art works, unconstrained of its creativity, accessible to the public, and antagonistic to the social structure, which formed by the authorities.

Another debatable question lies into the “aesthetics” of street art. As Irvine mentions “Street art de-aestheticizes “high art” as one of many types of source material, and goes further by aetheticizing zones formerly outside culturally recognized art space.” As the rising tensions between the government authority and the street artists, whether Graffiti is works of art or damages to the public properties still has no explicit answer. In many countries, graffiti is considered an illegal act which needs to be removed. For example, Banksy, a famous while notorious graffitist in London, since graffiti are viewed as Vandalism in UK, his works are inevitably jeopardized. Nevertheless, he despises government’s attitude toward the street art, while want to express his discontent via the genre of street art, so he continues composing his works. Although his works are charged illegal in UK, his works sold in a high price in Sotheby’s auction. Furthermore, some famous graffitist, Keith Haring for example, can have their works be displayed in museums or galleries, places where are considered displaying “high art”. An interesting question pop in front of my mind: What graffiti can be seen as an art works produced by artists, while what graffiti are, on a contrary, seen as damage made by anonymous nuisance? What should be viewed as street art, yet what should not?

Left: Naked Man image by Banksy, on the wall of a sexual health clinic in Park Street, Bristol.
Right: A homeless image by Banksy

A series graffiti made by Yong-fu Huang, an eighty-six years old veteran in Taiwan. He expresses his nostalgia to the old days via bright and colorful graffiti. However, now the government plan to remove it for the damage of public properties which evoke a protection movement held by students and street art artists for asking the government to preserve these works.

A piece of graffiti for celebrating Valentine's day in Taipei street. by anonymous

Pic sources:

Di Lu

The “See No Evil” event held in the summer of 2011 was claimed to be the Europe’s largest permanent street art project. It invited 72 international street artists to decorate in their ways the Nelson Street in Bristol, England, also the hometown of Damien Hirst and Banksy who are well-known for their talented satirical street art. The event itself is not new today, but I feel it’s still interesting to look at the case because it reveals several complex relationships street art concerns.

To begin with, the most impressive character of street art, as I understand, is the way it’s embedded in the public space. Instead of confining itself in specific places, such as galleries or museums, street art boldly present itself in the front of the public asking for attention. Police may not be happy, but in some cities street art does participate “visually and socially in the creation of the city” as Swoon said in the interview, and become a significant part of city spirit and culture. That being said, street art enters the public street in a “notorious” way if compared with traditional fine art. On the one hand, it takes risk in competition for public space as street artists share unique experience of racing contest with police; on the other hand, to break the law is often the dark motivation for street artists to pursue this form of creation as street art was born in rebellion. The “See No Evil” event is an exception. Supported by Bristol Council, it provides the public space tailored for street art which also solves the legal problem. Then, however, it brings another relationship I look at: street art with market and mainstream.


Most of the street art share an originally inherent flavor of rebellion against political and social inequality and darkness, which make it generally anti-market. Use of street art to express voices regarding political and social issues can trace back to creations on Berlin wall east side gallery. But in recent years there sees a trend of modest taste of street art that it gradually merges itself into market and popular consciousness. Artists have to make a living anyway and it will be ideal if they can do that by still doing things they like. And cooperation with market sounds like a good self-sustainable solution for the future development of street art. Dan Witz argued street art would still be an honest reflection of society even if it is paid for, because “The history of art, the canon of great artists, isn’t about the very best artists, it’s about the ones who were best at surviving”. I can understand but can’t be convinced completely by his perspective. I still wonder if the quality of street art which in nature is created against hegemony would suffer if it lost the vigor of rebellion in compromise to market and popular culture.


In addition, that how internet and communication technology will influence the future of street art is worth thinking. It shares the advantages and benefits advanced technologies bring to many other fields and industries, such as access to a wider range of audience and digital archives, but it faces the problem that breaks the settings and atmospheres that make street art unique and vivid. Separated from the environment which it is created in, street art has a chance to lose its spirit. In such way, street art can be presented to more people via Internet, but is harder for them to understand and perceive.

Xindi Guo

This week reading makes me to think about the question that how to treat the process of bringing street art into galleries. Should we leave street art on the street? Or should we bring it into galleries? Do street arts lose its meanings after leaving the urban backgrounds? Street arts are those art works or art behaviors taken place in a public space. Street artists use elements in cities as their stages, walls, building, roads etc. They also use cities as backgrounds. However, the process of bringing street art into galleries becomes the symbol of identifying graffiti as a kind of art. On one hand, without urban backgrounds, street arts lose its root. People know them because they stay on the streets. For example, those graffiti pained on the train may be just simple paints by chalks. They attract people’s attention because they are pained on a train. People may not care about it, if paint on a paper and be putted in a gallery. On the other hand, street artist also want to keep their works and galleries and gallery is a good place to keep their works. It seems that there is always a contradiction of putting street art into a gallery or leave it on . Also, to bring street arts into a gallery can help artists to present their ideas to a broader world.


This is a work pieve made by McGee. We can see the differences when it was shown inside and outside.)

To answer the question how is street art a form of Post-Pop, I think street art borrow the concept ‘symbol’ from pop art. However, street art is different from pop art. Early street art may have more similarities with pop art because they borrow elements from popular culture to express dissatisfactions of politics, regulations and societies. However, the new generation of pop artists is totally egoist. In my opinion, they would like to think in their own world with variety themes rather than interested in big events and the huge social background. They are critical but not that serious. Through their art works, they would like let people pay attention on their own ideas and spirits rather than the meaning of the whole society. At the same time, the new generation street art will be more suitable to the galleries.

Barry McGee and his wife Margaret Kilgallen are the representatives of new generation street artists. Their works are more abstract compared to pop art and early graffiti. They are critical but not negative. Their art works are remixes their imaginations, cultures elements, and social perspectives. They focus on express the city and the culture in their eyes rather than stand opposite and unique.

Barry McGee’s artworks are very abstract and symbolized. You cannot identify what it is, but you can feel the emotions and powers from his artworks.

With the development of technology, street art change continually change their way of presentation. They may not identify themselves as street artists, but they use public place as part of their arts. They move their art from their studio to the outside world. Are they identified as street art? Krzysztof Wodiczko is an artist work with projection techniques. He uses all kinds of world famous architectures as his screens to give presentations about love, life, war conflict, memory, communication etc.

Victoria Hamilton



Warholian_Cummings.jpg art_u_are_too.jpg


From my first weekend in Washington 2 years ago, I was fascinated by a face I saw everywhere I went. The face was bearded and the goggles he wore reminded me of Evilene's Flying Monkeys from the Wiz.
The face was on stickers everythwere I went. Stickers on lamp posts, mailboxes, fire hydrants, bus stops, in the metro, on the opposite side of street signs. Literally, everywhere I went. For the last two years I have been
on a mission to find DC's own SAMO. When the posters and stickers later came to be emblazoned with the tag, "I Am Art" I had something substatial I could google. And that is when I found him: "BK "I Am Art" Adams.
An Anacostia-based street artists, whose style is somewhere between Basquiat, Sam Gilliam and Jackson Pollack. when I discovered his identity i was pleasantly surprised to find that his work was on display at the Smitsonian
Anacostia Community museum. I took a fellow artist with me and we had a fabulous afternoon with the artist who happened to be in the gallery and had the opportunity to probe his mind and ask him any and all questions.
He was gracious and patient. His work is phenomenal. Colorful, through-provoking, resourceful and playfully imaginative. My favorite piece was one entitled, "Throwing Biscuits."

Mr. Adams sees fun as his primary concert. He is fascinated by flight and is intent on hangliding with fellow artists and kindred spirits in the near future. His favorite number, 3, is found in almost all of his works. He says to him and in his art, it represents
balance (much like a tripod or an easel) and also refers to the 3 generations of artists in his own family and his initial "B" in reverse. When I asked him about his "I am Art" moniker, he replied by simply saying, "We are ALL art. Art is an
expression of beauty, majesty and truth. Art is everywhere in our being, from the way we turn our heads to the way we speak. There is beauty everywhere we look and the more we free ourselves from negative thiking and push for positivity, the happier
will be."

Mr. Adams also works in partnership with another formerly anonymous and omnipresent artist, wheatpaster and photographer, Stephen M. Cummings, also known as "Art u Are." Stephen is commonly pictured in his round rimmed glasses, high collared jacket
and bowler hat. A modern remix on a class Dandy.

Throwing Biscuits
Exercise Your Mynd

Technology, Network, Street Art: Street Art as Simultaneously Global and Local

As seen with pop art, the technology contemporary to an art movement necessarily informs traits of the genre or even embodies it. In regards to street art, the advent of an increasingly and unprecedentedly networked and interconnected world influences the content of the work, the themes of the work, and the dissemination of the work. I think tempering this connection between emergent technology and street art with the genre’s both “local and global” functions quite helpful (Irvine, 17).


To generalize about the whole of street art’s content would be presumptive and unwise, however some traits and images of specific artist’s work can point to repeated subject matter. For example, I would point to Shepard Fairey’s work. Fairey’s use of popular icons and figures is global in recognition. Like Warhol, he makes unique a mechanical reproduction. In the creation of the distinct refashioning, the global image is simultaneously localized in its fixed, temporal place. This seemingly contradictory characteristic of global-local is mirrored in the networked technological context surrounding this art movement; by virtue of design the internet is local and personal in the production of materials and authorship but also global by design in its interconnectedness.


In speaking of themes, I aim to discuss overarching concepts or theory of street art—particularly the idea of reclaiming “non-places” (Irvine, 4). The trademark of the global city is its interconnectedness and in this enmeshed interlinked development, anonymous “non-places” of post-postmodern life emerge. These seemingly neutral, sterile, nondescript, or generic spaces become reclaimed as distinct, descript sites that are no longer dispassionate or antiseptic when they are locations of street art. Again, in the context of the technological landscape this fusion of impersonal infrastructure reclaimed and marked is a reflected on the contemporary network.


Street art’s fleeting material quality is re-bolstered by the intensive documentation through photographs online. In a curious way, this art, which is many ways delimited to locality and specific fixed in space, is made limitless in access trough the networked dissemination. The sharing of street is quintessential internet sharing; art truly ephemeral and immobile is at once mobile and cataloged in internet technology: local and global.

Street art cements the link between contemporary technologies to art movements; as industrial technology colored pop art, current network technology informs street art. In examining the content, themes, and sharing of this art is broad and close, global and local, just as the technological sphere is exists with.

--Erica Harp

siyang wu