Street art, politics and society

Series of five theory classes

This series of classes studies the complex relation between street art and society, and the interesting conflicts that arise as their positions shift. Street art, with one foot in activism and the other in commercial self-promotion. Society, repressing graffiti and street art with one hand, while exploiting them with the other. The last class studies the different strategies adopted by artists in their transition from the street into the art space.

16. Grey walls, depoliticised space

Often, the ban on graffiti is made effective by covering it with a new layer of paint, culturally different to the first, but equivalent in practical terms. This arbitrarity is even more visible when the wall is not repainted in its entirety, but is instead gradually patched-up with successive shades of grey, in compositions so prominent they have generated a whole culture around their aesthetic appreciation. Artists and activists take advantage of this equivocal terrain using tactics such as strategically applying grey paint, or selectively cleaning dirt from walls.

17. Artivism

Artivism, creative activism and culture jamming are some of the terms used in trying to identify a group of very diverse forms of activism, appearing since the seventies, all of them sharing a creative approach and the use of satire. The goal of these tactics is often the reclamation of public space and the denouncement of its progressive privatisation. This class studies some currents and collectives representative of the field, with a special focus on anti-advertising.

18. Street art, advertising and politics

Street art is situated in an equivocal and uncomfortable position between the opposed poles of anti-advertising activism and guerrilla marketing. This class studies these three elements, and their relation to each other. It also studies some cases of street art with political content, way more minoritary and superficial than is often assumed. It ends by looking into the case of pioneering artist Shepard Fairey, whose work blatantly exploits the very causes it allegedly supports.

19. Social assimilation of graffiti and street art

Progressively assimilated into society, graffiti and street art cease to be dissonant elements and become gears in the system. This assimilation takes place along different fronts. Advertising makes use of the aesthetics and tactics of these currents, street works become tourist attractions or are sold to collectors, and the artists themselves become workers for galleries, corporations or governments. This class delves into these topics, focusing particularly on the social implications of the street art-originated mural festival circuit.

20. From the street to the market

Producing art in the street involves very different processes, skills and sensibilities than doing it in an exhibition space. Many graffiti and street artists have taken the leap into the art market, following different tactics. This class studies these models of transition and their levels of success, both artistic and commercial. It also looks into the diverse markets different to the art market for which graffiti and street artists often work.