Archive for the ‘cities’ Tag

On the road again….

I’m travelling right now. In the last 9 days, I’ve been in London (briefly), Oxford, Bristol, and now Paris. Tomorrow, I’ll be heading back to London, to spend 10 days there. So what’s the reason for all this gallivanting? Over the last four years, as some readers may know, I’ve been researching the emergence of street art as a distinctive cultural practice, and the range of social, cultural, political and legal responses to it. The project has been a comparative one, and I’ve been able to travel to San Francisco, New York, London, Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin, to meet artists, collectors, bloggers, gallerists and curators, as well as in my home base of Melbourne. I ended up interviewing 62 artists and over 20 gallerists and other art professionals. I walked many miles in different cities, photographing what was on the walls.

And now I’m in the process of writing up this research. In addition to academic articles along the way, it will be published as a book, tentatively entitled Crime and the Urban Imagination, in 2013 by Routledge. (I just have to write it, of course – no problem!)

One of the things that became clear over the last four years was the increasing interest shown in street art by galleries, museums, graphic design, architecture and advertising, among other fields. It was also clear that the art market was deeply interested in the collectability and marketability of street art. So last year, I applied for funding from the Australian Research Council to extend my research by investigating these developments – to examine what the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu has called the ‘cultural field’ as it relates to street art.

My application was successful, and the project is now underway. This trip is the first fieldwork trip of the research; I’m also hoping to get to Berlin and the Fame Festival in Grottaglie in September.

So that’s what I’m doing, on the road again. The emphasis of the project is different from the previous research, so I’ve been going to galleries and taking notes on what it’s like to be a spectator of ‘urban art’ as it’s exhibited in gallery settings. But of course there’s the art all around on the walls of the streets, too… So it has meant that I find myself to be incredibly busy – visiting galleries, trying to meet gallerists and dealers, sometimes getting stood up for appointments by said gallerists and dealers (grrr), and always, always, walking, walking, walking. I’ve seen some great things on this trip so far, and a few posts will be following this one. My feet may be aching, but my eyes are happy.

The city-as-light

Over the years that I have been writing about street art, I’ve come across the work of many different artists. Out of all of these, the work of Miso is always there among my very favourites. (Full disclosure: along with Ghostpatrol and Timba Smits, Miso and I co-wrote a book about street art in Melbourne.) As regular readers of this blog will know, I’ve written about Miso’s work a number of times here, and her recent show, Les Lumières, demonstrates that she continues to be one of the most interesting artists in Melbourne (and indeed on the international scene).

Miso is well known for her beautifully placed, delicately drawn paste-ups on city walls, such as this:

But both Les Lumières and a previous solo show, Tschusse!, are evidence of her increasing interest in engaging with the shape and form of the city itself, by raising questions about how we experience it, about who owns it, and about how cities look and feel and are developed.

Les Lumières transformed the gallery space of No Vacancy at Federation Square into a vision of an urban space inflected by pockets of calm, of a city lit by white neon light, and composed of spaces oscillating between the functional and the beautiful. Gorgeously drawn works were present, of course, but also doorways, pieces of wood, and a range of objects, implements and plants that evoke the city and some of the possible things we do in urban space (such as move through it, make gardens in it, go out drinking in it, live in it…). It was a show that seemed influenced by travel (in that Miso has in the last couple of years been to the Ukraine, Japan, London and New York) but also by a lot of reading and thinking: the result was a show that invited us as spectators to look, think, and perhaps even to read…

The show finished several weeks ago, so apologies in that you are not able to go and have a look. But Miso’s website has some photos of the works, here, and if you are interested in reading about new ways thinking city spaces, have a look at the website of This Is Not A Gateway, which promotes ‘knowledge and agitation from emerging urbanists’.

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