Documenting Graffiti & Street Art II | Graffiti = Space
Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our buildings, and afterward our buildings shape us.” Thom Fountain, from Project for Public Spaces, says that likewise, “our public spaces shape our community identity and who we are” as.1
If something is clear is that there is a strong correlation between us and the spaces we inhabit, and that also has its repercussions at an urban scale. Graffiti becomes far too many times an urban-space generator, or as Armstrong2 would describe as “Spaces Between Footsteps”. It is only when we see graffiti through the lenses of the city life that we start to understand its power to create a background of the urban experience.
An experience that is not devoid of humanity, as Armstrong points out (although this type of street art lies exposed without any human presence), because it is in fact, created by people, who come in all shapes and sizes. In his paper “Minor Marks and Modifications: Foot Traffic”, Craig Campbell proposes a “scene” of “graffiti artists, kids, non-conformists, discontents, activists”3 and many others, as those who make their mark in the city.
Something truly fascinating about street art, and specifically graffiti, is the constant dialogue that it provokes. Armstrong very well states that “it is not bound to its initial creator”, and this is particularly visible in our cities; where graffiti becomes an interplay of expression layers in communication, an artist’s exchange. What we see in our day to day, might be the result of an evolving marking process: people who write on top of the previous one, or those who “reply” to whatever is already on the surfaces, resulting in a visual experience of complexity and overstimulation.
Yet it is precisely due to this phenomenon -“symptomatic of the landscapes of our modern cities”-, that Armstrong defines street art as a culture that goes unnoticed. Similarly, Campbell refers to it as “an endless array of surfaces that come into and fall out of view as we move through the world”. It could be argued that this is the reason why street art exists and survives; the fact that it blends with our surroundings, not being an obvious visual obstacle, but a rather subtle background for the city life.
- Fountain, T (2013) Making the Place. Volume One Magazine. Retrieved from http://volumeone.org/pages/placemaking
- Armstrong, J. (2006), Ethnography in the Spaces Between Footsteps. Anthropology News, 47: 10–11. doi:10.1525/an.2006.47.5.10
- Campbell, Craig (2014) Minor Marks and Modifications: Foot Traffic. TranscUlturAl. Vol 6, No 1: Translating Street Art – Translation Studies.