There isn’t much Korean street art, not that I saw on my recent travels. Most Korean graffiti is traditional, back before old school; people writing on the wall with pens. There is nothing about the small amount of aerosol graffiti or street art that is due to Korean respect for property; Koreans are writing on the walls.
Writing on the stone of Inwangsan Mountain, Seoul
There is even traditional Korean writing on the rocks of Inwangsan mountain in Seoul.
Isadong wall, Seoul
In Seoul I actually saw more street art than old school aerosol graffiti and I saw more aerosol art in the lanes of Gyeongju that I did in Seoul. I’m told there is some in Seoul but Seoul is a very big place and although I followed up some leads and looked down many streets and lanes, I never saw it. This post comes with my usual caveat about commenting on the graffiti and street art of other cities applies here; I probably didn’t know the best locations to visit, that street art is ephemeral and I was just seeing what happened upon during my travels. Normally I see some graffiti along the railway tracks when I travel by train but there was none in Korea. I saw some in the many laneways of Seoul and Gyeongju.
Paste-up in Bukchon, Seoul
I saw a great paste-up (wheatpasting) in the Bukchon district of Seoul. There were also some stencils and other work in this attractive and cultural significant area.
Bukchon wall, Seoul
Of course there was some tagging and stickers in Seoul – mostly by Zacpot, he is everywhere with stickers and pens.
Zacpot sticker, Seoul
There is lots of potential for some truly great street art in Korea, there are a lot of great walls it just needs artists who want to do it (along with better cans and caps).
Merecat stencil, Seoul
In several of Melbourne’s lanes and alleys there a lot of people were talking about the graffiti. There was usual school group with art teacher in Hosier Lane, a young woman taking photos, and a middle aged man who had seen the ABC documentary on graffiti in Melbourne and had learnt to appreciate what he had previously regarded as rubbish. It is an unlikely scenario; strangers talking to each other about art in a city alley full of rubbish bins but in Melbourne it is common. Even if you can’t read the writing on the wall street art inspires communication, it is a social lubricant, providing a contact point for strangers in the big city.
Isn’t that the whole point of art? – To provide a reason or focus for communication. There is a lot of unofficial communications on the street. The streets will always provide a forum for politics that can’t be censored. Many political groups will use a sticker campaign to get their message on the streets. It is an obvious choice if you fear censorship or reprisals or just hassles.
"Corrupt Cops Killed Carl" sticker in Brunswick
Currently on the streets of Brunswick there is a sticker campaign against the Victorian police. A sticker: “Corrupt Cops Killed Carl” commenting on the death in jail of Melbourne gangster, Carl Williams. There are more stickers on the theme of corruption in the Victorian police scattered around the streets of Brunswick. Another much stranger and bigger political paste-ups on the streets of Brunswick (and Fitzroy and Coburg – how big is this poster campaign?) is advocating considering the alternatives.
"Seek an alternative" poster in Brunswick
Finally in this discussion of the graffiti discourse I must mention the Dunny Art blog. Following in the footsteps of photography Rennie Ellis’s books on Australian graffiti: Australian Graffiti (1971), Australian Graffiti Revisited (1979) and focusing on traditional, pre-aerosol graffiti Dunny Art, photographs graffiti on toilet wall around the world. The comment and reply nature of these ad hoc discussion walls is another forum that can’t be censored.