SUGGESTING DIRECTIONS FOR THE INCOMPATIBLE

Pedro Soares Neves is a researcher, designer and urbanist who has undertaken multidisciplinary academic training in Lisbon, Barcelona and Rome. He is the co-creator of the first academic journal dedictaed to graffiti and street art, “Street & Urban Creativity, International Research Topic”.

He is also a founder of the Portuguese chapter of IAP2 (International Association for Public Participation) and APAURB (Portuguese Urban Art association). Pedro is one of the pioneers of Portugese graffiti and a mentor to several international institutions about their approach to “urban art”.

 

 

In an article posted on the Hyperallegic blog about the book Street Art New York, Nicholas Riggle identified general disinterest in the theorisation of street art, bordering on active dislike: “street art enthusiasts tend to resist thinking about artistic value, artistic influence, artistic context, or pretty much anything related to art history and criticism”, he said.

 

The art historian Peter Bengtsen has also analysed the way in which the theorisation of street art is discussed on certain street art forums. He identified a lack of interest from users in engaging in discussing street art on a theoretical, historical or analytical level.

 

The aforementioned Nicholas Riggle’s article was also picked up by the popular street art websites Brooklyn Street Art and Wallkandy. It was on the latter that Martyn Reed, Founder of Nuart Festival, commented:

“It was an interesting article but maybe targeted too narrowly by focusing on that particular book rather on street art books in general, most of which have been produced by amateur enthusiasts and don’t pretend to be anything other. To a certain extent street art is anti-intellectual... something that critics and people studying for their PHD in Philosophy and the aesthetics of beauty (as the writer of the article is) maybe find hard to stomach.”

 

The theorisation of street art and graffiti is undoubtedly at odds with its core ethos; an ethos defined by the DIY attitude of "just getting on with it". Like so many subcultural movements before it, street art and graffiti has crystallised under the pressure of commercial and academic interest. Institutional, commercial, and academic approaches rely heavily on structural patterns that capture, organise, label, immobilize and, in the case of street art, ultimately kill the impulsiveness of the work. Over time, the meaning of the original concept has changed and the spontaneity faded as it becomes gradually more compatible with values of commerce and theory.

 

By organising a gathering in Lisbon for the sharing of ideas about graffiti and street art, I realised that I could attract people to interact freely with the city as a way of maintaining a certain degree of spontaneity. It may not be a conclusive solution to the incompatibility of theory and practice, but the UrbanCreativity initiative attempts to safeguard the fundamental nature of street art and graffiti by taking a broader, multi-disciplinary, and more interactive approach to the theorisation of graffiti and street art.

 

In this way it is possible to maintain some of the playfulness and vitality that is of unquestionable value to the movement and arguably one of it’s defining features. After all, street art is not a designed "movement" but rather a "movement full of design": drawing, building and doing with an emphasis on trespassing and rule questioning – something to be safeguarded in an era of unprecedented interest in the motivations of its protagonists.

 

urbancreativity.org

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