Tag Archives: collaboration

Anti-Modern

Street art is anti-modernist – consider it from this angle.

I & the Other(s), paper cut, Flinders Lane, 2012

Street art is a significant post-modern art movement. It rejects the art gallery defined art object, exemplified by Duchamp’s readymades, for art that is identifiable amongst the bins in a back alley. It is site-specific. It is follows other post-modern, contemporary art trends but often take this further than the gallery art.

Modernism rejected humanizing decorative elements in architecture and street art decorates those bare concrete walls. In architectural terms (not that street art should be reduced to an architectural art form regardless of the number of walls involved) street art cannot be reduced to eclecticism, kitsch or “featurism”. These terms are meaningless outside of a modernist context, where theoretically a style can be debased. There was no kitsch in the Renaissance and, likewise, the term “kitsch” is meaningless in street art. Tattoo style and comic book art are part of the street art mix not in appropriation or when converted to art but as an equal part. Other contemporary post-modern artist have also rejected the modernist high culture and popular art distinctions and tried to create synthesis.

Melina M., Hosier Lane, 2012

Street art rejects the modernist (fascist) hierarchy of styles; the hierarchy is based on the same faulty reasoning that lead to the fascist hierarchy of races. There is no pure art, no more than racial purity. For street art is practiced without economic or political stimulus that places the patrons at the top of any hierarchy; it is often practiced in defiance of the plutocrats.

In rejecting the traditional system of patronage, street art subverted the modernist aesthetically sterile gallery and the creation high-end commodity art objects in favour of free art often in multiple editions. Instant fame on the street subverted the traditional media filters.

Street art rejects the modern art education system, many street artists are self-taught coming from various backgrounds. If they do have an arts eduction a street artist is more likely to have studied design rather than fine art. On the street artists have created a master and apprentice system and crews operate a quasi-guild system.

Detail of Napier Faces, various artists, 2009

Many street artists collaborate on large projects and this is a change to the modern artist’s identity as a unique creative genius. Collaborative work has a significant presence in post-modern art with artists like Gilbert and George, Brown and Green, Warhol and Basquiat. Collaborative art uses the merging of ideas and identity rather the modernist unique creator, the heroic artist. Street art has a different kind of hero artist, the trickster and prankster, who defies the authorities with a spray of his can.

Street art is a rebellion and not another modern revolution. Rebels seek to alter something in the present; a revolution wants to change everything in the future.

Unknown paste-up, Geelong, 2012


Collaboration Exercise

“Advance/Retreat” is an exhibition at Westspace curated by Brad Haylock and Mark Richardson. “Three experiments in transdisciplinary collaboration” occupy Westspace’s three gallery spaces.

In the middle of the first space, shut off by a chain-link steel gate, a large plant sits in a garbage bag a single root trailing to an empty glass.

The next space subtly vibrates both visually and aurally with fishing-line running in almost invisible vertical stripes across the white walls. (Coincidently my father used a similar arrangement of fishing-line to trap bats in order to study their homing abilities.) This is accompanied by an elegant video of male and female hands collaborating to string the fishing-line. And a sound piece that all worked together in a successful harmony.

The final space contains a scatter style installation by so many artists that it would be hard to imagine them all working together in the small space. “Working space” is a reference to the title of a book by Frank Stella.

“Advance/Retreat”is about lines: minimalist lines, vibrating lines, and dividing lines. Lines area major component of art, from visual lines to written lines, but that does not make them interesting. Lines might be essential for art but I don’t suspect that good art is about the essentials. Searching for creativity in artist-run-initiatives appears to be endless exercises rather than new experiments.

I don’t know if the number of collaborating curators, artists and designers (15+) added to the quality of this small exhibition. I can see the strategic advantage to the collaboration. Collaborations like this allow the artists to record more exhibitions on their CV and spread themselves thinner. However, collaboration should not be a goal in and of itself as it is simply a means of working.


Spray the Word

Deciding to complete my view of current street art exhibitions I bicycled to the The Library Artspace to see “Spray the Word”. The bicycle ride along the Upfield line in Brunswick and through the underpasses under Royal Parade was another exhibition of street art. Some of the pieces were so fresh that you smell the paint.

The GST crew has painted a colorful new piece north of Brunswick railway station. It is a beautiful piece with fantastic characters and creative use of aerosol techniques.

In the bicycle underpasses under Royal Parade the former railway tunnels have been decorated with graffiti; one a legal street art project, the other one anarchic.

“Spray The Word” is a collaboration between Australian and Brazilian stencil artists and poets. There is a delight in collaboration in street art; arranging contact between artists and is generally effective. Online electronic translators and virtual contact make international communication and collaboration possible.

There are about twenty images in the exhibitions all of them combing one-line poems are combined with stencil art images. The combination of text and images are natural for street art. Project coordinator James Waller and the rest of the team should be congratulated for assembling this exhibition.

Ozi, a stencil artist from Brazil has created some of the best images in the exhibition. His bold two-color stencils on the patterned surface of shower screen vinyl were slightly damaged as they were posted rolled up but these small paint chips adds to the image. I also particularly admired Satta van Daal’s ‘Femscape’ and his collaboration with Seldom in ‘POP’. Brazilian stencil artist Bette has a distinctive folk style.

The Library Artspace is in the former library of the former St. Joseph’s College in North Fitzroy. It doesn’t have any books and shelves left, just a glass-fronted office, a large flexible space and a smaller projection room. The Library Artspace is part of J-Studios where some of the exhibiting artists work. 


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