The street without walls
Last weekend Berlin held Stroke Art Fair at Postbahnhof where one could meet contemporary urban artists, participate in workshops and watch live painting.
I was there as a part of ARTCONNECT BERLIN team so I was both: a participant and an observer.
It took me a while to walk through both floors, but the question in the end was: and so what? I walked in there without any expectations, I was open to anything. Urban art is a reflection of street art and graffiti; this city moral is a way one citizen approaches another. We talk here about city issues, politics and simply daily routine. Street art is the language to masses not just artists. But what is this contemporary street art? Is it about vandalism and rebellion, is it self expression and the way to be seen by thousands or is it a well established movement which kids should study in school as a part of post-modern era?
We declare the world as our canvas
This is where I began thinking. If the world is a canvas why all of a sudden the art was inclosed into this building? It was modern, fashionable, fetishistic and very repetitive. Street art is repetitive in its roots – Blaklerat started spraying the same black rats down the streets of Paris in 80s. Or Invander and his colourful Space Invanders in 90s. The whole idea of stencils is to leave the same mark in different places. It is cheap, fast and practical. It is like a signature which you leave on different papers every week. But was it 100% urban and what was the content of this Stroke Art Fair? The halls were full, the queue was long – people wanted to see urban art under one roof as if they have not seen it outside. But then again it was a meeting point with artists, media attention, self representation and money money money…
Urban Art is being sold. Can I buy this piece of wall and put it on my wall at home? Of course you can, urban art has rapidly become domestic. The aesthetical value of street art is being raped and devaluated.
In the end of the day there is no artist who does not want to have his art to be sold.
Street are like an urban diary and an open gallery tells the viewer about it’s time, it leaves the message and passes it on to the next generation. But as the pages of the diary can be plucked the walls can be painted white, and the city again hides its secrets behind the walls. The city becomes shy.
So, this might be the reason why Stroke Art Fair and artists who have participated have taken their creation to old good canvases and presented it within 4 walls. Anything underground with the conceptual message to the masses sooner or later finds its way to the galleries. Just like DADAists with their collages, Happenings with their nonlinear narrative or Futurists with their machine noise – strange creation turns into collective adoration. Street art being public can not even be called underground. However the industrial states which are decorated by the street art will have its target audience with certain background and the way of thinking.
Urban art at its most effective offers the liberatory tools for declaring oneself a part of one’s environment, and for countering the strictures and regimentation of public space with murals and stenciled graffiti. By means of sometimes subtle, often humorous, occasionally confrontational or even deliberately offensive interventions in the urban landscape, artists have challenged our habitual ways of seeing and plunged us into a dynamic civic dialogue of actions, objects, sculptures and texts.
A few wooden boards were placed outside, and were called live paintings, which was an ability to anyone to see how the art is being made. With cans, brushes, markers and other materials, but this is outside, this is on the street, in the industrial area. Does the location metter? I don’t know anymore…
But what I saw at Stroke Art Fair made me think and analyse the current understanding of urban art and where it is going. I was searching for a message and the connection between the art I have seen at Postbahnhof and the street art I see every day walking down the streets. What is the difference between a white canvas and a white wall? The size and the location? What is this aesthetical value of urban art when one puts it into 4 walls? The message changes. The urban art has to be on the streets and taking a part of the city one way or another, when it comes to (and what happened already) urban art goes inside, especially where someone is watching telly with a beer on the sofa this turns it into a fashion, and suppose this is the moment when the urban art dies reincarnates and becomes a home pet.
“Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing.
And even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can
make someone smile while they’re having a piss.”
Links you might enjoy: http://www.urban-art.info/englisch/documentation/