Graffiti vs Street Art Essay

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Art and Culture are very important for the development of any nation. Culture and Creativity/ Art manifest themselves in almost all economic, social and other activities. A country is as diverse as India is symbolized by the plurality of its culture. India has one of the world’s largest collections of songs, music, dance, theatre, folk traditions, performing arts, rites and rituals, paintings, and writings that are known, as the ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) of humanity. In order to preserve these elements, the Ministry of Culture implements a number of schemes and programs aimed at providing financial support to individuals, groups, and cultural organizations engaged in performing, visual and literary arts, etc. Robert Lowie (1917) said that culture was not something genetic and racial. He has the view that culture is always an outcome of human activities and culture is the very source. This way any type of Art-activity in an area of a city plays an important role in the development of the Culture of the city. In India, using walls as a form of advertisement or expression is not a new idea, and so, Delhi (eg. Lodhi colony) accepted Graffiti and street art with open arms. The main focus to study Graffiti/Street Art is to understand the ideologies and cultural diplomacy of Graffiti in Delhi, and how street art came to Delhi from a major perspective. This paper will describe the role of Art and culture in smart city planning.

Introduction

For all cultures from cave dwellers of the ‘prehistoric age’ to the present ‘Information age’ walls act as a canvas of expression. “ As a part of evolution, expressions were controlled as a manifestation of art that later limited to selective elites and powerful. We may say that this type of limited art (in a confined zone. ie a museum) for the limited audiences gives limited opportunities to appreciate or to express the culture of our society or it may not reflect the culture of the commons. So in resistance to the traditional way of displaying art to the elites, ‘Graffiti’ turned into an expression for freedom of thought. Cities act as both “physical and imagined spaces” [1] “where differences are constructed in, and themselves construct, city life and space” [2]. The landscape of the city contributes greatly to the importance of street art. Not only does it provide a canvas

for visual expression, but also draws strength from its ability to directly communicate uncensored messages to passers-by. To cite for instance current the majority of the places in Delhi are connected by Road networks, railways, and metro stations with similar typological design language and details. So there is a need to establish a localized context to differentiate a place other than the signs and the signboards. So Graffiti can play a major role in defining places for their uniqueness and contexts.

Graffiti writing is not so artistic it’s about the message or tag, it’s about letters, styles, and spray-paint application, and it’s about reaching different locations. Graffiti is mainly focused on lettering, those who create it are called “graffiti writers,” while those who use graphic form & expressions are called “graffiti artists.” for simplicity, both graffiti and street art have been termed “urban-art” (figure 3).

Art and Culture: The Heart of Smart Cities

Smart cities need Art and culture to thrive. Graffiti, which comes from the Italian word, graffito, (to scratch), helps us to identify a place with its character and defines the culture of a place too as it communicates through art forms.

“In its narrowest definition, Smart Cities are a place where traditional networks and services are made more efficient with the use of digital and telecommunication technologies, for the benefit of its inhabitants and businesses.” [3]

“The Centre of Regional Science at the Vienna University of Technology outlines 6 pillars that define a smart city. [4]

They are:

  1. “Smart Economy”: The entrepreneurial and innovative spirit of a productive city, with a flexible labour market, international scope, capacity for transformation, and a solid economic reputation—a city, in short, in which companies want to do business.
  2. “Smart Living”: Investment in cultural and educational facilities, optimal health and hygiene conditions, measures to ensure public safety, quality of housing, tourist attractions, and social cohesion.
  3. “Smart Environment”: Protection of the environment, attractive natural settings, low levels of pollution, and consistently sustainable management of resources and waste.
  4. “Smart People”: Improving the skills of citizens, placing a high value on learning, sensitivity to social and ethnic differences, and encouragement of flexibility, creativity, cultural diversity, and participation in public life.
  5. “Smart Mobility”: A city that is physically accessible—locally, nationally, and internationally, that places ICT infrastructures at the disposal of all of its citizens, and that utilizes sustainable, innovative, and secure data-transport systems.
  6. “Smart Governance”: Citizen participation in the decision-making process, in ensuring the quality of public and social services, and in promoting governmental transparency.”

Attraction and Opportunity: City walls as Canvas

A canvas is a static surface as per the built space and landscape of a city which provides an expressive outlet for communicating the messages of street artists and their work. A wall is the best place to publish or exhibit one’s work and it is possible through street art.

The city walls act as a canvas on which “graffiti marks and illuminates contemporary urban culture,” and provides decoration to the “daily life of the city with varieties of color, meaning, and style” [6]

Accessibility

The accessibility of the art form contributes to its power, and, as stated by English street artist Banksy, it is “graffiti that ultimately wins out because it becomes part of your city, it's a tool. A wall is a very big weapon,” he says, “it's one of the nastiest things you can hit someone with.”

Mwangi said: “Art is very complex…but art is very simple at the same time as a tool for communication. The power of art makes you stop and think, makes you stop and feel emotional about it… Art goes beyond gender, age, social background, class, race, and sexual orientation, because art drives life, without art, there is no life.”

Graffiti and Street Art

Graffiti and street art coexist between cultural and socio materials in everyday life.

Graffiti and street art embody more cultural heritage values from 1970-2014. (figure 4). Why is it so because it contains a particular message that can not be applied to another location?

“Street art has been a means of education, awareness raising, increasing knowledge and molding public attitudes; which encourage constructive behaviors that can lead to a peaceful co-existence, mutual respect, common goals, and aspirations. These have been used for the purpose of social cohesion and peacebuilding.”

Case studies:

Public spaces in Delhi such as flyovers, metro stations, apartment walls in colonies have been turned into giant canvases for exhibiting murals and graffiti inspired by folk and tribal art. Not just Lodhi Colony, but places like Shahpur Jat, Shankar Market, the Inland Container Depot in Okhla, city flyovers, and metro stations too have been turned into giant canvases for paintings by artists.

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Lodhi Art District: Lodhi Colony is the city's first open-air public art district, which was established by an NGO named St+Art, and the main aim of this project was to make art accessible to everyone. Apart from this, the walls are installed with murals depicting extraordinary expressions.

“Colours of the soul by Senkoe. Inspired by the beauty of nature, Senkoe painted these birds in the Lodhi colony to represent the colorful diversity of the people who live there and also to encourage them to communicate with each other and share stories, just like the birds would.”

The mural “From your Strength, I Weave Beauty” by Shilo Shiv Suleman identifies two women from the community. An older woman steps out of the mist on the left side; her struggle has carved lines into her face as she navigates the night inside her. On the other side, her daughter pulls this fog out of the dark sky and weaves it into alchemical threads of gold, creating a new future for them both.

The mural 'Naavu Idhevi - We Exist’ by Aravani Art Project features a trans person as its centerpiece to provide a reminder of the community’s existence in India’s dense society. The painting uses geometric shapes that form a gender-fluid face refusing to look away, and the Hibiscus flower which is known for having both male and female parts. The Hibiscus, like the trans person, grows on the fringe and lights up Indian streets in an unapologetic burst of color and diversity.

The signs were quickly painted over, but this was Delhi’s first brush with its most famous graffiti artist, a shadowy figure called Daku, often called India’s Banksy. In the next few years, you could spot a cheeky ‘Daku’, often written in Devnagiri script, staring down at you from a wall. Stories, part reality, part apocryphal sprung up about the graphic designer by the day and graffiti ninja by night, who worked in the dark, dodging cops.

The Audubon Mural Project. The Audubon Society has been partnering with the Gitler Gallery in Hamilton Heights to commission street art murals around Upper Manhattan dedicated to birds threatened by climate change.

Take A Walk Down Haji Lane In Singapore For Cookies, Coffee, And Clothes: Ten-Second Takeaway: The walls aren’t just painted in vibrant colors but adorned with pro-level street art.

Findings

With reference to Introduction and case studies, it is found that the Art and culture of a city are related to Smart Living, Smart Environment & Smart People. It is clear from the following points how Graffiti helps for the same:

Accessibility: Art has become marginalized only to a very small section of society, almost a novelty of the rich and the elite. But if you flip that and look at public spaces as places to experience art, then you have thousands of people crossing these areas every day, and just in terms of the reach that the artwork can have, it's tremendous, exponentially larger than what it can have in a closed environment.

Opportunity: People get a chance to draw the attention of the public through graffiti which gives them the opportunity to express their feelings and initiate social action and reforms.

Activism: Over the years, graffiti has evolved in style, form, and purpose. No longer about just tagging a name, street art is instead about activism. The street artists create their own democratic setting and assume the right to consume public space through their own means and on their own terms. By redefining public space as if it were their own, street artists contribute to the collective good and call for participation from their audience. A form of political resistance is created and activism is enacted. Through the use of art in unsolicited places, street art is able to elicit reflection and social action in which artists and the everyday person can collectively produce a visual commons that invites the participation of all.

Reflection: Street art acts as a reflection of our very existence, and continues to speak to us in ways we all seemingly can understand. Forcing us to pay attention, the graphic displays of artistic expression and subversion shout out to us to stop, look, and think about our environments and to actively assign meaning to what it is we see.

Urban Reference: Graffiti provides information via visual communication. All railway stations used to look the same without a sign-board so now the uniqueness of each station is defined by Graffiti/picture element on its canvas.

Northern Railways has commissioned public art on its properties. This way graffiti acts as an Urban reference.

Conclusion

Democratization of art is an important aspect of a smart city.

As per the above-mentioned findings, we conclude that the followings are the positives and negatives of Graffiti for Art and the culture of a smart city:

Pros of Graffiti Cons of Graffiti

  • It helps in Activism Lack of control sometimes at the political level
  • It Reflects existence Lack of information can depict the wrong message
  • It acts as a medium of expression It is Illegal or uncommissioned Art
  • It attracts the people and catches attention There is Political Resistance
  • It changes the perception of people It can change the actual feel of space

References

  1. Kristina Marie Gleaton (August 2012), A project- Power to the People: Street Art as an Agency for Change.
  2. Valesi, Marco (2014), Clean Wall, Voiceless People: Exploring Socio-Identitarian Processes through Street-Urban Art as Literature.
  3. “Urban Europe - Statistics on Cities, Towns, and Suburbs – Smart Cities.” Urban Europe - Statistics on Cities, Towns, and Suburbs - Smart Cities - Statistics Explained. Accessed March 26, 2017. http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Urban_Europe_ statistics_on_cities,_towns_and_suburbs_—_smart_cities.
  4. Iyer, Jenée Iyer (2017). The Heart of Smart Cities: A case for the relevance of art in data-driven cities [.pdf] Available at https://static1.squarespace.com [Accessed 06 Sep. 2019].
  5. Understanding Smart Cities: An Integrative Framework.” HICSS (2012).
  6. G Seetharaman (Jan 07, 2018), economictimes.indiatimes.com.
  7. Marie Gleaton, Kristina (August 2012). Power to the People: Street Art as an Agency for Change [.pdf] Available at https://www.hindustantimes.com/real-estate/why-smart-cities-need-art-and-culture-to-thrive/story-axqPb391LEDv31OHDZDFNN.html
  8. Pranav (March 21, 2018). Available at https://www.nativeplanet.com/travel-guide/spotting-graffiti-art-in-the-streets-of-delhi-004263.html.
  9. Cedar Lewisohn, Street Art: The Graffiti Revolution (New York, NY: Abrams Publishing, 2008), 19, 23.
  10. Tristan Manco (2010). Street Sketchbook (San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books), 8.
  11. Bates, Lindsay (2014). Bombing, Tagging, Writing: An Analysis of the Significance of Graffiti and Street Art. (Masters Thesis). The University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
  12. G Seetharaman (March 07, 2018). Available at https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/how-city-walls-are-becoming-the-artists-canvas/articleshow.
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