Self-referential street art

Nobody seems to mention the old sgraffiti technique of writing in wet cement as a form of street art. This is because mostly it is just names, expressions of love or football mania or the accidental evidence of bicycles, cats, dogs and bird prints. Why isn’t it considered part of street art, like tagging? Maybe someday someone will do something artistic with the media but most of it is just rubbish. It lacks what all art and decoration must have, an appeal or meaning to someone else besides the maker.

At the other end of the spectrum from names written in cement is self-referential street art. Self-referential street art is street art (graffiti, stickers, paste-ups) that is self-conscious about its status, or not, as art. I don’t mean self-conscious in the sense of awkward and shy, but self-conscious as aware of itself and its surroundings. It is self-referential in that it comments on its own conditions, media, and quality. Street art that demonstrates awareness of itself and goes beyond images, brands, tags and logos. Self-referential street art takes street art to a new level, not of quality images, but in the depth of thought. It is where street art meets conceptual art and it involves a lot of words; this is not that strange as street artists always called themselves writers. Yes, this is a heavy philosophical way of looking at what is often the lighter side of street art. It is funny because it is deep rather than superficial.

Self-referential street art is the more political and critical side of street art. Self-consciousness of its nature as art there is street art that attempts to broaden the genre of street art to include; performance art, street art sculpture, light graffiti etc. Once in Stevenson Lane there were some stuck on long trails of paper leaves, a very delicate work to survive as street art (another street artist trying to broaden the medium?)

Some graffiti is so conscious of its position as an underground art world. Graffiti that is aware that it will be photographed and stored in a jpg format file.

This street art appears is so ready for critical essays about culture as it comments on its own position in the art world.

About Mark Holsworth

Arts administrator, artist, musician, philosopher and writer. Writes Black Mark - Melbourne Art and Culture Critic. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

2 responses to “Self-referential street art

  • Canaan Hackler

    I’ve done some looking at the actuallity regarding art in the form of expression through a paint can!!! lol. However, some of the actual artistic drawings that are online and in other places as well, hold a great deal of talent. Most of the time I am blown away by how real something looks. Or maybe even how unreal it looks but rather how it speaks.

  • Random Observations of Street Art « Black Mark

    [...] street art that comments on street art itself (see my original blog post about self-referential street art). And as street art is itself a political action the self-referential street art comments on the [...]

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