<body> Public Ad Campaign: Interview For Student Dissertation
This blog is a resource for ad takeover artists and information about contemporary advertising issues in public space. If you have content you would like to share, please send us an email.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Interview For Student Dissertation

After finding me through Poster Boy, this interview was given to an artist and student at the University of Brighton who wishes to remain anonymous. They told me that they are finishing their last year of study in graphic design, and are writing a dissertation on the theme 'is street art reclaiming public space?' Having interviewed Ron English, Dr. D, and Poster Boy about this already, I look forward to reading the final paper. If they are okay with us disseminating the final piece, we will post it here.

Do you think street art in itself is a political act or does the content or message of the piece need to have a clear political message?

Until Street Art and Graffiti production on unsolicited walls is legalized, these acts will continue to be political even if the content is not. Whether or not the practitioner admits it, putting work up on the street illegally is a demand for a public space that is conducive to public curation and participation. Street artists and graffiti artists, or property outlaws, as they are referred to by some lawyers, express a "willingness to break the law that signals the intensity of his or her dissenting position" on how public space is used. I think this is a very important social health issue in our modern cities that must be resolved for the public environment to reach its full potential. Being able to interact with public space on your own terms is an important part of realizing your potential as a public citizen. When you produce something visual in public space that you care about it is like leaving a piece of your self behind. Once work in the public is created, a permanent connection to that space develops which endures beyond your leaving. In this way, street artists and graffiti artists' works are a way of connecting people with the spaces they live in.

Are you inspired by any particular political or artistic movement? What would you say is the main message behind the stuff you do?

I am inspired by social justice movements, public space reclamation projects, and the tireless work of non permission based public art practitioners who create unauthorized moments of serendipity in our cities every day. There are many aspects to the PublicAdCampaign project but the most important is the promotion of public participation in the creation of our shared spaces. Anyone who goes out and creates in public without permission is expressing their desire for a public space which appreciates their individuality and their voice. One of the forces preventing this type of behavior is outdoor advertising and the supremacy of the commercial message over the individual message. In this way I am inspired by the uninspiring state of public space and its tendency to give credence to the commercial over the public. We must understand that public space is one of the last spaces in which we can demand a non privatized arena for dialogue. Most other forums, including print, television and recently the internet have become controlled by corporate interest and therefor do not allow meaningful democratic thought. If our public spaces are to function well for our society then we must prevent them from falling prey to the same corporate control and allow them to be the last vestiges of our democracy.

What part do you think the internet has played in the growing popularity of street art?

The internet has obviously facilitated the spread of this international movement. Most of us are informed daily of new and innovative street actions through the web. This online community is an important part of the street art movement particularly for those practicing this art form in smaller cities which might not have a flourishing scene already in place. The one thing that the internet cannot relay is the experience of street art which is an incredibly important part of the art form. The one on one interaction between viewer and creator holds much of the power behind the work. It is the experience of finding, being given a gift by someone which asks little of the viewer, that invests the work with such power and makes a trivial moment into a deep felt connection to the city space and the community at large. Street art is a way of creating dialogue in a physical environment, and without the viewer finding the piece, or interacting with the work, the art falls short of its potential. If street art was only experienced through the internet its affect would be greatly diminished.

How do you feel about the fact that some companies use street art as their advertising, both by using the aesthetics of it in regular advertising and sometimes using the methods of street artists (‘guerilla advertising’, street installations, stickers, clever stuff and so on)? Is there any danger in this?

Advertising's co-opting of street arts tactics is extremely problematic. Advertising is notorious for stealing artistic innovations in aesthetics and design. It can only be expected that this would happen with graffiti and street art. Despite this, what gives these two forms their power is not their aesthetics, but their tactics. The emotional connection that is a response to stumbling upon a beautiful piece of artwork, placed unassumingly in our public space is at the heart of this practice. This connection is made more powerful by the fact that the viewer is asked to give nothing in return to the artist. In fact the work opens up a space for contemplation and communication that is more akin to a concert experience than a gallery experience in my mind. One may ponder the motivations, messages, placement, and context of the artworks, and in doing so engages in a two way conversation with the artist and the space in which it was created. Advertising has as its singular motivation the trapping of your attention to deliver a very specific message or a simple brand recognition. By using the incredibly selfless tactics of street art, advertising tricks the public into engaging it as one would street art, as a gift, with an innocence that is a result of two minds finding each other in the anonymous public arena. Once the fact that the viewer is looking at an advertisement with selfish motivations is revealed, the viewer feels betrayed and this then separates the public from public space. I find myself walking the city streets looking for moments created by street artists and graffiti, knowing they will enrich my experience of the city. If you ask the average citizen how they interact with outdoor advertising on a daily basis, they will tell you that they try to ignore it. The two create completely opposing forms of participation and interaction with the city. When a viewer is tricked by advertising that poses as street art it removes one more reason to engage your environment which separates the average citizen even further from the space that they live in.

What kind of reactions do you get regarding your work? Why do you think people react that way?

As I said before, most people attempt to ignore commercial messages in the public environment. This causes them to categorically ignore the spaces in which advertisements are placed. Because my work reclaims these commercial spaces, I am often battling peoples inherent interest in avoiding them. This causes the work to take on attributes that advertising would not employ like physicality/texture, lack of text, over simplified graphics, and no clear message or meaning. When people do notice my work they are extremely happy to have the moment of pause created by my art and are relieved that they are not being solicited as they move through their public environment. The public's attempt to ignore advertising is a result of its tendency to take from the viewer while my work asks nothing of the viewer but to reflect on its existence, placement, and origin of creation. That said my work is often misunderstood. When my work manifests itself in large scale organizational projects, it is much easier to understand because the execution is much more visible. The execution, or act of creation, holds much of the meaning behind my work and when this is visible it is more clearly understood. The larger organizational projects are the result of the incredible dedication and participation of many like minded individuals intent on bringing this issue to the forefront of people consciousness and this in turn creates a wider audience and therefor clearer objective.

What does the term ‘public space’ mean to you? Who has the right to public space? Is street art a way of reclaiming public space?

Public spaces are those places where we all share an equal voice and right to the city. To me this means not only the streets, but the walls that surround us which impose a multitude of visual conversations. Everyone has the right to public space, so long as they are acting upon it as individuals. In this way, commercial use of public space is an improper use of our public environment because corporations are using money to increase their influence beyond an individual level. Each person should be allowed to impose their own interests on public space, creating a level of noise equivalent to their own means. By paying to disseminate their messages more broadly, commercial entities break this rule and overwhelm the individual, ultimately monopolizing the dialogue that is so important to a healthy engaged public. Beyond this, the commercialization of public spaces ultimately prevents individual usage of public space because we cannot afford to do so. Street art only reclaims public space in that it is illegal for artists to impose their individual voice on the public environment, unless they can afford to do so. The proper use of public space would include the visual articulations of invested parties and therefore accept street art's use of our shared environment as a normal form of public dialogue. For this reason, street art is non-violent political protest attempting to alter what is an acceptable use of our neighborhoods and communities.

Labels: , , ,


Blogger thehunter said...

Curious as to an addendum to the final question: Where is your line drawn between private property and public space? If I own a building and want to paint it my own color, do you feel you have the right to paint over it as a reclamation of public space? You've always left me a little fuzzy on where the line is drawn. Thanks.

Blogger LOAF said...

very nice definition


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

      Sharon Zukin
      The Cultures of Cities

      Miriam Greenberg
      Branding New York

      Naomi Klein
      No Logo

      Kalle Lasn
      Culture Jam

      Stuart Ewen
      Captains of Consciousness

      Stuart Ewen
      All Consuming Images

      Stuart & Elizabeth Ewen
      Channels of Desire

      Jeff Ferrell
      Crimes of Style

      Jeff Ferrell
      Tearing Down the Streets

      John Berger
      Ways of Seeing

      Joe Austin
      Taking the Train

      Rosalyn Deutsche
      Evictions art + spatial politics

      Jane Jacobs
      Death+Life of American Cities