Archive for the ‘law’ Tag

Space Invaders: The National Gallery of Australia’s exhibition of street art

It’s never unproblematic when galleries and museums exhibit the work of street artists – some believe that street art is no longer ‘street art’ when it’s exhibited indoors in a gallery or museum space; others think that whatever constitutes the ‘street’ aspect of street art is more of a free-floating sensibility that pervades certain artworks whether they are installed inside or outside; still others believe that genuine ‘street art’ must be carried out illegally in public space and anything that doesn’t meet these criteria is rather a kind of site-specific artwork or is graphic design work or is even a form of advertising. These issues have been debated and argued over in many different fora (and the book that Miso, Ghostpatrol, Timba and I recently published, Street/Studio, is partly about the tensions – productive as well as constraining – that arise when artworks move between street and gallery).

Whatever your opinion of the street/studio relation and its implication for street art, there is, however, no denying the importance of a major cultural institution putting on a large-scale exhibition of street artwork – and such an exhibition is about to open at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. Its exhibition, Space Invaders, opens on 30 October (and runs until 27 February 2011, touring in 2011 to other cities). You can read here about the scope of the exhibition, which covers street art’s links to graffiti, its diversity of forms (including stickers, stencils, paste-ups, and so on), its connections to zine culture, the impact of pop culture upon the look of Australian street art, and its recent expansion into labour-intensive media involving drawn images.

I’m going to Canberra this weekend (along with a stellar bunch of some of Australia’s greatest street artists) for the opening festivities, and will be able to report next week on how the exhibition looks…. But it seems impossible to ignore the significance of this particular moment: Australia’s national gallery is putting on an exhibition dedicated to an art form which is often the product of activities deemed illegal by state governments and local councils in Australia, and many of the artists celebrated in the exhibition routinely risk fines or other punishments in order to make the artworks featured in the exhibition. Do we just chalk this up as being yet another instance when municipal and local governments are out of step with wider culture? Or is it time for local and state governments finally to admit that their persecution and prosecution of street artists and graffiti writers is just plain wrong?


Welcome to this blog. I hope to use this site as a place in which to think and write about the place and significance of the image in everyday life. Sometimes that will mean writing about an actual image – such as an artwork, or a piece of graffiti, or a movie – and sometimes it will mean simply reflecting on how images work on us, on the purchase that images have in contemporary life.

I’m a university academic, and I teach and write about images. I teach one subject which deals primarily with film, particularly films that focus upon violence, crime, law and justice. At the moment, I’m writing a book about that, and much of the ideas for that book have come from the experience of teaching this topic over the last 12 years. The book is called Visions of Violence: Cinema, Crime, Affect, and it is two thirds completed. No doubt there are going to be some posts arising out of the process of finishing the book over the next 6 months.

I also teach a course, also focusing on violence, which engages with images as well as textual representations: post-Holocaust art, for example, or photo-documentation, or comic books. And for years I’ve been fascinated by the intersections and interconnections of law and the image. I wrote a book a few years ago called Judging the Image: Art, Value, Law – it looked at the encounter between law and image and tried to imagine it as a relation of co-implication, rather than the collision or struggle it is so often conceived as.

When I was writing that book, I became very interested in trying to write about the experience of spectatorship: that is, trying to say what it is like to look at an artwork. That’s definitely something that I would like to pursue here: to think about spectatorship of images, to call attention to the looking that gets done in the quotidien spaces of the everyday. Part of that is going to be about the phenomenon of subjectivity in the city. I’m also writing about street art – artworks that appear in the urban spaces of cities such as London, Melbourne, New York, Sao Paulo. Looking at such artworks often occurs in the most mundane and yet exciting ways: walking past a wall on the way to work, or turning a corner to take a shortcut and suddenly coming across a painting on a peeling concrete wall.

So this blog is intended as a space for the recounting of sites of spectatorship. It was my partner Peter who had the idea of blogging about this: I owe him thanks! It feels like a new relationship – a new way of thinking and writing, and I’m excited to see where it will go.

And to mark this inaugural post, I’m including what I consider to be one of the most beautiful street artworks I’ve seen in a long time. This is by the French artist C215, and I took this photograph in Shoreditch, London, in July 2008.