Street art has existed in cities for centuries: creative marks in public spaces often by anonymous faces; art free of official sanction. Street art, street performance and street theatre appear as organic modes of expression, grown in the streets, climbing on to the walls from the pavements, and touching the everyday urban subconscious. Enduring works of street art have become city symbols, even tourist attractions.
The word ‘graffiti’ has its roots in the Italian word ‘graffiare’ – to scratch or carve – and generally refers to any form of public marking. This form of urban expression dates back to Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire and Mesopotamia. Graffiti has long been associated with alternative forms of expression, strongly linked with the growth of subcultures and political resistance. However, these alternative modes of expression have become so popular that they have even been appropriated by commercial advertising. The work of street artists such as Banksy has been shown in established art galleries, ‘legitimising’ it as a genre of art.
Now cities around the world host annual street art festivals, when well-known artists are invited from around the world [or just show up]. The streets become an open gallery with no closing hours, and each empty space becomes a canvas. The open spirit of street art emphasises the importance of each individual’s interaction with society and their surroundings.
El Guitarrista’ by El Mac, 2011 - Avant-Garde Urbano, an international festival of artistic interventions in the urban space, is held in Tudela de Navarra, Spain. LA-based artist El Mac described this piece on his blog: ‘The mural was painted in an old Gypsy neighbourhood… the history and culture in this area runs deep. Christians, Jews and Muslims have all shaped the identity of old Tudela, and it was inspiring to soak some of this in’.
Dan Witz - Nuart is an annual street art festival based in Stavanger on the West Coast of Norway. This artwork is by American artist Dan Witz.
Phlegm - At Nuart. This artwork is by British artist Phlegm.
Branimirova Street graffiti wall - MUU street art museum is a project dedicated to forming a more coherent street art scene in Croatia. It is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2010 Branimirova Street was transformed in a MUU project to bring art into neglected areas of the city.
El Mac at Avant-Garde Urbano 2011, 5 October 2011, Creative Commons license. Image by Ana Alvarez-Errecalde and Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada, flickr.
Dan Witz installations, 29 September 2011, Creative Commons license. Image by kalevkevad, flickr.
Work by Phlegm, 29 September 2011, Creative Commons license. Image by kalevkevad, flickr.
Branimirova Street graffiti wall, 28 September 2011. Image by Josephine Dorado, flickr.
This post is an excerpt from ‘The City Speaks’ exhibition.