Dialogue through street art

As a global citizen and creative practitioner I feel very much involved in and worried about developments in (western) society in general. I feel that we are very much consumed by social media and the information we find here is dictating much of what we think. At the same time these channels can be highly unreliable (facts can be twisted,  pictures can be photoshopped, film can be edited). Further more social media and the algorithms are polarising society. People are hopefully developing a healthy distrust of the media and digital world, or at least they should.

In this world that is influenced so much by the (social) media, we are consuming enormous amounts of information. This over-information is making us less inclined to read long texts and we are becoming more and more visual. People prefer simple and easy to digest information, which creates a problem as many subjects just are not simply black or white, there is a lot of grey.

Images in the street might communicate these grey areas by asking questions, not offering simple solutions.  Street art is particularly effective in communicating feelings and emotions. I feel that street art can truly add something in this current time, when most people are so visually (and digitally) orientated. It is tangible, tactile which might help us live in the real in stead of digital world. By surprising us it can help taking our glance of the phones, it might give food for thought and open up a dialogue.

It is this dialogue, face to face, off the screens, that is important. Street art can create possibilities for interaction. “Before I Die” by Candy Chang is a beautiful example of this. It is an interactive installation in New Orleans where passers-by can write down their inner desires in chalk and read about the desires of others.

Most importantly street art has a democratic value. It is placed in public space, it is free, available for all, there are no algorithms.

Street art is not commercial in essence. This artistic movement has a strong social message and often challenges the consumerist culture. Over the last few years though it has become a global art movement, fuelled by the internet. Street artists have built global fame through social media which is a good thing, this way their work has a larger audience.

The value of street art has been raised through social media. My worry is that street art falls in the trap of institutionalisation, or worse the trap of commercialism.Corporate and consumer brands have also discovered street art and are using it to sell their brands, which I find worrying. Our visual landscape already is taken over by outdoor advertising. This is a clear sign of what is going wrong in western society. The barren walls in the streets were the last place for a non consumerist, critical  and creative driven means of communication.

A movement of street artists in the UK called “brandalisme”  has picked up on this. They are targeting advertising billboards with interventions. I find this to be a very thought provoking campaign and would love to see more of this kind of resistance. It is thought provoking and opens up the dialogue.

I feel that to be able to communicate freely and truly start a dialogue, this poetic art form has to be 100% uncommercial. This is the only way to be reliable, true and authentic.

My main goal for this essay would be to investigate how street art is able to communicate on a deep and emotional level with its audience. I would like to investigate history of  street art and recent street art as a means creating a dialogue or conversation starter. Does it have an impact on the passers by ? Can it even mobilise people ? How and why ?

Secondary questions could be:

Why is it important that street art stays independent.
What happens when street art is institutionalised, is it still critical and effective or just a beautification as part of an urban regeneration. What are the effects of commercialism on street art. What happens when this street art is distributed online and used in social media,…does it have the same effect. Does this create any mistrust.