Urban Creativity Scientific Journal Graffiti, Street Art &

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Graffiti, Street Art & Urban Creativity Scientific Journal
Changing times: Resilience Vol. 4 / Nº 2


Title: Street Art & Urban Creativity Scientific Journal
Editor: Pedro Soares Neves
Copy Editing: Ronald Kramer Alicia Crumpton Will Shank
©Authors and Editors Lisbon, November 2018 Print Version: ISSN 2183-3869 Online Version: ISSN 2183-9956
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without written permission from the editors.

Street Art & Urban Creativity International Research Topic

Table of contents

Changing times: Resilience


Editorial, Pedro Soares Neves


Tania Di Brita, Independent Researcher, Zurich, Switzerland - Resilience and Adaptability Through Institutionalization in Graffiti


Art: A Formal Aesthetic Shift

Mari Myllylä, University of Jyväskylä, Finland - Graffiti as a Palimpsest


Burghard Baltrusch, University of Vigo, Spain - Framing Poetical Expression in Urban Art: Graffito, Performance and Poetic 36
Objects in Public Space

Georgios Stampoulidis, Tina Bitouni, Lund University, Sweden. Paris Xyntarianos-Tsiropinas, Syros, Greece - The “black-and-

white mural” in Polytechneio : Meaning-making, Materiality, and Heritagization of Contemporary Street Art in Athens


Katarzyna Piriankov, Ventzi School of Art, Poznań, Poland - Strategies For Creating Village Identity Symbols Using Street Art


Tactics: Staro Zhelezare, Bulgaria

Letícia Cabeçadas do Carmo, Luca Pattaroni, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Lausanne, Switzerland- The


Commodification Of Alternative Cultural Spaces

Jeffrey Ian Ross, University of Baltimore, USA; Ronald Kramer, University of Auckland, New Zealand - What’s Up Doc: A Review

and Analysis of English Language Documentaries On Contemporary Graffiti And Street Art


Essays / Working papers

Egidio Emiliano Bianco, Katholische Privatuniversität Linz, Austria - A Brief History of Street Art as a Term Up To 2000


112 Aparajita Bhasin, Independent Researcher - The Evolution of Street art and Graffiti in India

Danny Flynn, independent scholar; Marina Carter, Historian, Edinburgh University, UK - Depicting Physical And Social Fears:


Shark Graffiti On Reunion Island

Anton Polsky, independent researcher, Russia - Specifics of Periodization in Russian Street Art



Ilaria Hoppe, Catholic-Private University Linz, Austria - Review of Glaser, K., 2017. Street Art and New Media. Actors –

Practices – Aesthetics


Invited Author
126 Rafael Neves, Cultural Producer for OPNI Group - Grupo OPNI Graffiti and Urban Violence in Present-Day Brazil

Evy Raes, Master Performing Public Space ’17-‘18 - Photography in Public Space



Pedro Soares Neves
Executive committee SAUC Scientific Journal Editor

After Urban Creativity Lisbon activities (5,6 and 7 of July 2018) here is presented the 4th Volume of SAUC Journal, reaching other audiences and building an ongoing trajectory of recognition aimed to the highest standards, not only academic and or institutional, but above all production and practice-oriented. Engaging with a big heterogeneity of disciplines, focused on graffiti, street art as subjects of theorization and practice, towards the definition of an academic and professional disciplinary field of Urban Creativity. The 2018 activities thematic “about time” aimed the objective of problematizing the chronological constraints of street art, graffiti, and urban creativity in general. Reinforcing the idea of the atemporal, potentially interpreted as something indissociable of human nature, linking 30000 old archeological findings with today. If in the conference we used 3 venues, Main Auditorium, Lagoa Henriques of Fine Arts Faculty Auditoriums, and the Auditorium of Cascais Cultural Center, were more that 80 participants had the opportunity to share perspectives from more that 20 disciplinary fields, and 35 countries. Here in the 2018 edition of SAUC, Volume 4, with near 40 contributions distributed in 2 journal issues.

This issue 2, “Changing times: Resilience” gather contributions about Resilience and adaptability through institutionalization, formal aesthetic shift , Graffiti as a Palimpsest, Framing Poetical Expression, Poetic Objects in Public Space. Geographically framed approached as The “black-and-white mural” in Polytechneio in Athens, The Evolution of Street art and Graffiti in India, Shark Graffiti On Reunion Island Russia - Specifics of Periodization in Russian Street Art . Temporal overview looks upon: strategies for creating village identity symbols using street art tactics, The commodification of alternative cultural spaces, English Language Video Documentaries On Contemporary Graffiti And Street Art, A brief history of street art as a term up to 2000. And finaly an article review of Glaser, K., 2017. Street Art and New Media. And the invited contribution of OPNI Group - Grupo OPNI graffiti and urban violence in presentday Brazil.
With contributions from Switzerland, Finland, Spain, Sweden, Greece, Poland, New Zealand, USA, Austria, UK, Russia, and Brazil.


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Changing times: Resilience

Scientific Committee
Andrea Baldini, School of Arts of Nanjing University, China Christian Omodeo, independent researcher (Le Grand Jeu), Paris, France Eduardo Duarte, Faculdade de Belas da Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal Gökçen Firdevs Yücel, (Turkey)- Assistant Professor, Aydin University, İstanbul,Turkey Gregory J. Snyder, Baruch College, City University of New York, US Ilaria Hoppe, Institut for Art and Visual History, Katholische Privat-Universität Linz, Austria Jacob Kimvall, Stockholm University, Sweden Javier Abarca, independent researcher (Unlock), Spain Jennifer Baird, Ancient Graffiti in Context, University of London, UK Lachlan MacDowall, Centre for Cultural Partnerships, University of Melbourne, Australia Luca Borriello, Inopinatum, University of Naples “Suor Orsola Benincasa”, Italy Laima Nomeikaite, the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research, Norway Maria Domenica Arcuri, Università degli Studi di Napoli L’Orientale, Italy Myrto Tsilimpounidi, Institute for Sociology- Slovak Academy of Sciences- Slovak Republic Nick Dunn, Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts, Lancaster University, UK Peter Bengtsen, Art History and Visual Studies, Lund University, Sweden Polly Lohmann, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, Germany Rafael Schacter, University College London, UK Richard Lachmann, University at Albany, The State University of New York, New York, US Ronald Kramer, University of Auckland, New Zealand Susan Hansen, Middlesex University, UK Susan A. Phillips, Pitzer College, US Eeva-Maria Viitanen - University of Helsinki . Finland
Executive committee Pedro Soares Neves – CIEBA/FBA-UL AP2 - Associação para a Participação Pública, Street & Urban Creativity Research Topic hub.
Copy Editing: Ronald Kramer Alicia Crumpton Will Shank
R&D units and institutions CIEBA/FBAUL (Artistic Studies Research Centre / Faculty of Fine Arts);
FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia CML - Câmara Municipal de Lisboa DGArtes / MC - Direcção Geral das Artes / Ministério da Cultura
Contact and information
[email protected] Urbancreativity.org

Resilience and adaptability through institutionalization in graffiti art: A formal aesthetic shift
Tania Di Brita, Independent Researcher, Zurich - Switzerland [email protected]

Abstract The subject of this paper is the institutionalization of graffiti art. It examines the contextual and formal aesthetic shifts of graffiti within the urban space to graffiti art exhibited in art institutions. The goal of this paper is to demonstrate the adaptability and resilience of graffiti art within an institutional framework conducted by formal aesthetic shifts within the art works. Graffiti is always in the verge of the institution and seems challenging to integrate into the institutionalized framework. The significance and contextual change entering the white cube causes several effects such as neutralization, aestheticization and censorship. A formal aesthetic shift based within the art works will be demonstrated by five detailed analyses. Finally, further effects such
as reduction and abstraction processes as well as aestheticization and autonomy of the art works will be observed.

Keywords: institutionalization, aestheticization, graffiti, graffiti art, white cube, institutions, neutralization, censorship, formal aesthetic shift, resilience, adaptability, urban references, tag, style writing, graffiti code, abstraction

1. Introduction and main objectives The fascination for graffiti can be observed worldwide since its beginning. In the 1980s there were attempts to institutionalize the urban phenomenon. At the same time, institutions always had an ambivalent attitude towards the cryptic, rebellious and peculiar form of art from the very beginning. Nowadays this ambivalence is changing into a trend. Since 20061, institutions have been able to deal with graffiti, street and urban art more intensively and with greater expertise, thus finding their way into museums. The transformation of this unique art form from the urban to the institutional space creates an interesting tension that has aroused a personal and academic interest.
The subject of this paper is the resilience and adaptability through institutionalization of graffiti art. It examines the contextual and formal aesthetic shifts of graffiti within the urban space to graffiti art exhibited in art institutions. Urban space is the natural habitat for traditional graffiti, whereas the sterile and institutional framework or white cube offers a place for contemplation of art and commercial sale. The distinction

between ‘street’ as the organic context of graffiti and ‘institution’ as its artificial context illustrates the art historical interest in the research subject. The tension between the ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ is intensified by its site specificity. Therefore, the following core thesis regarding the formal aesthetic shift arises: Through institutionalization and commercialization of graffiti art, a formal aesthetic change takes place. Thus a formal aesthetic shift in studio based and institutional works are obvious. Therefore, it should be asked how the aesthetic foundations of graffiti in their traditional environment of urban space differ and manifest in studio-based works created for institutional space? Are there tendencies on a formal aesthetic level that show the shift from the urban to the institutional context?
The objective of this paper is to demonstrate the adaptability and resilience of graffiti art within an institutional framework conducted by formal aesthetic shifts within the art works. By pointing out similarities between graffiti art and recognized art historical genres, this thesis of adaptability and resilience in and around institutional frameworks should be supported and finally contribute to the academic legitimacy of this art

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genre. Since the change of graffiti from urban to institutional space is at the centre of the attention, the term ‘graffiti’ is to be used exclusively for lettering sprayed freehand with spray cans (mostly illegally) in the streets and in urban space. For forms of graffiti after entering art institutions and exhibition spaces, will be called ‘graffiti art’ according to the explanations of Joe Austin and Heike Derwanz (Austin, 2001: 193-195; Derwanz, 2013: 199-203). Regarding the use of the terms ‘institutionalization’ and ‘white cube’, it should be clarified that the terms are used in general to refer to the institutional framework.2
1.1 - Graffiti code: semiotics, rules and hierarchies
The boundaries between street art, graffiti and graffiti art are not clearly defined. Because this paper analyses only graffiti based art works, a short and preliminary distinction between graffiti and street art regarding the main concerns of this paper should be made. First of all, important contributions that have been devoted in particular to this border area should be pointed out, such as Gabbert, 2007: 15-17; Lewisohn, 2008: 15-23; Reinecke, 2007, 13-17; Waclawek, 2012: 112- 155. Furthermore, a difficulty in the distinction of graffiti and street art, is their coexistence and in some

Changing times: Resilience
cases their interaction as exemplified in figure 1. The main differences between graffiti and street art lie in their form,
function and intention (Lewisohn, 2008: 18-23). On a formal level, graffiti means freehand lettering sprayed with spray
cans or markers in the streets, subways and in the wider urban space. Graffiti is therefore based on words, letters,
writing as well as its stylisation and typography. In other words, pieces in the field of graffiti are basically bound to fonts (Lewisohn, 2008: 18-23). Street art, on the other hand,
serves a much freer and broader description, as Gabbert
puts it, street art relies on characters, signs and symbols, whose visual language and imagery is illustrative, flexible,
accessible and recognisable (Gabbert, 2007: 16). As a result, all those interventions in urban space that are bound to figure belong to street art. On a material level, the differences are just as clear. As the piece in figure 1 shows, graffiti writers
only use spray cans or markers. Street artists use a much
wider range of materials and techniques, such as, spray paint, stencils, posters, installations and many more.3 Their formal distinction therefore leads to its different functions and intentions. While in graffiti the codes are difficult to
decipher, they usually address a few insiders of the local graffiti scene or specific crews. Street Art, on the other hand,
is very accessible and aims to connect with a large audience.

Fig. 1: D*Face, Dog Tag, 2010, stencil and tags on wall, Ecuador.

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Artist Faile explains this difference:
“Street art is more about interacting with the audience on the street and the people, the masses. Graffiti isn’t so much about connecting with the masses: It’s about connecting with different crews, it’s an internal language, it’s a secret language. Most graffiti you can’t even read, so it’s really contained within the culture that understands it and does it. Street Art is much more open it’s an open society.” (Lewisohn, 2008: 15).
Nevertheless, graffiti and street art have some common aspects, such as illegality, gaining fame, broad dissemination of their pieces or tags and thus their aim for recognition. Both art forms are integrated into their local context and space. Graffiti and street art pieces are often autonomously produced and financed, do not have a commercial aim and are freely accessible (Lewisohn, 2008: 15; Jaccard, 2012: 29 and Gabbert, 2007: 16).
“Graffiti writing is an activity completely reliant on the tag. Love it or loathe it, we have to accept that the tag is the core of graffiti, and a graffiti writer without a tag wouldn’t be a graffiti writer.” (Lewisohn, 2008: 21) The semiotics, rules and hierarchies of traditional graffiti as well as the fundamental aesthetic “codes” play an important role when analyzing studio based graffiti art works in the institutional space. The decoding of contemporary graffiti art is thus based on the verbal, visual and aesthetic principles and traditions that emerged in the streets of New York in the 1970s and 1980s. As the quotation above says, in the beginning was the tag. The tag is s cryptic, calligraphic and monochrome lettering that is considered the elementary form of all graffiti (Jaccard, 2012: 31; Lewisohn, 2008: 48; Waclawek, 2012: 14). Tag, throw up, piece, master piece, are just a few of many expressions for aesthetic codes which were created by the graffiti movement. Moreover, graffiti evoked not only unique and peculiar aesthetic fundaments, but also its own rules and customs, such as the game for fame and foremost train writing (Jaccard, 2012: 31; Reinecke, 2007: 23). Gaining fame is strongly connected with graffiti hierarchies. In general, a tag or piece of another writer should not be sprayed over unless it is sprayed on a hall of fame4. If it does happen outside of a hall of fame, it is defined as a crossing and in most cases means an attack on a writer and therefore a hostility between

Changing times: Resilience
two or more crews (Zolle, 2009: 78-79; Macdonald, 2001: 204-215). Aesthetically and hierarchically speaking graffiti cannot be summed up in a couple of sentences. A profound research on the aesthetics, hierarchies and rules of graffiti can be found in Nancy Macdonald (2001) as well as Craig Castleman (1986).5 Graffiti codes are difficult to decode, which is why they usually only address a few insiders of the local graffiti scene or specific crews. “Graffiti doesn’t have any message for the general public. It’s for an elite group of people. If people want to understand it, they have to work hard to enter the language of graffiti. Public art is the opposite.” (Crew Against People, in: Lewisohn, 2011: 160). This short quote from the Prague artist collective Crew Against People (CAP) states an important issue in the nature of graffiti. Due to the inaccessibility of symbols and coded language, graffiti has no intention of reaching a large mass, which distinguishes it also from street and public art (Lewisohn, 2008: 15). Some of the main elements of graffiti include illegality, opposition to the system, inherent aesthetics as in style writing as well as context and site specificity (Stahl, 2002: 107-108). Based on these fundamental principles of graffiti, it seems almost impossible to think about the exhibition of graffiti art in art institutions.
In brief, traditional graffiti has developed its own terminology, which does not originate from “traditional” fine arts. The unique system of signs and symbols, regulations and hierarchies that graffiti developed, could mostly and only be decoded by insiders of graffiti culture. The peculiarity of its semiotics, regulations, hierarchies and goals makes accessibility, understanding, decoding and acceptance for outsiders very difficult. As demonstrated in this short section dedicated to graffiti in the streets, it becomes clear, that there are challenging and heavy connotations accompanying it. This illustrates the development of a certain tension when entering the institutional space, which will be presented in detail in the next section.
2. Institutional shift in graffiti art: From the streets to the white cube Up to now graffiti was a subcultural practice with a systematic life of its own and a social context that distinguished itself from elite society (Katadzic, 2014: 68, Thornton, 1996: 162). In the 1970s and 1980s, a first attempt was made to decri-

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minalize graffiti and integrate it into galleries as art. Graffiti was considered a new trend in the art world from 1980-1983 (Waclawek, 2012: 58). Suter (1994: 148) describes the transition of graffiti into the institutionalized art world as highgraffiti. Julia Reinecke describes three attempts to establish graffiti in the art world. The first began in 1972, the second in 1980, the third attempt has lasted since 2000. Within the third attempt the term ‘street art’ has arisen and established itself as part of urban art (Reinecke, 2007: 26-29). The shift to the institutionalized art context brought up the problem of street-credibility. The basic concept of street-credibility is considered as authenticity characteristic for graffiti. Exhibiting in galleries was thus considered a sell-out in the 1980s (Katadzic, 2014: 69).
The introduction of graffiti into galleries and the commercial art market in the 1980s was therefore not only fundamental and important for the art movement’s acceptance and legitimation, but also for the establishment of a target group (Derwanz, 2013: 195-234; Lewisohn, 2008: 138). This is accompanied by the change from graffiti as a subcultural practice of expression to a commercial art form. With the negatively connoted term sell-out, graffiti lost credibility within the scene and thus also respect for its hard-won distinction from the commercial system, but managed to catch up with the art market. Gradually, but successively, the transition of the graffiti phenomenon from ‘outside’ to ‘inside’ began, which to a certain extent led to the adaption towards the conventions of the institutional system of art (Derwanz, 2013: 208). The institutionalization of graffiti generated a re-evaluation of a former subcultural movement. Through the institutional shift graffiti was not only re-evaluated, but also recognized as an independent art genre (Austin, 2001: 193 and Derwanz, 2013: 199). This shift implied that the transition to the curated gallery space marked the end of traditional graffiti, which led to a terminological distinction. By entering the system of the art institution, graffiti had to be recognized as ‘art’ and consequently gained the label ‘graffiti art’ in order to be considered as an independent art genre (Austin, 2001: 193-195; Derwanz, 2013: 199-203). Thus ‘graffiti’ belonged on the street, but ‘graffiti art’ was exhibited in institutions (Austin, 2001: 199). Exhibitions in museums, the sale of graffiti art in galleries and its resale in auction houses did not only lead to a repositioning but ultimately to a re-evaluation and legitimation of the art movement (Bengtsen, 2014: 116; Danysz, 2016: 223 – 231). Most of these integrational results

Changing times: Resilience
are becoming visible today, when commercial companies are using graffiti and street art for marketing strategies or even private or state gentrification processes promise to increase urban development, as for instance the Wynwood Art District (Miami) demonstrates (Abarca, 2015:232).
3. Graffiti art in the white cube: Significance and effects The institutional shift leads foremost to changes in the context, which is a central point of criticism and discussion, especially amongst relevant literature. The loss of context or the inseparable nature of object and context in graffiti must be critically questioned (Duncan, 2015: 129-137; Bengtsen, 2015: 220-233). Thus, in graffiti, the quality of a piece only comes out in the context directly connected to it (Duncan, 2015: 130). Its significance and effects will be discussed in this section. By entering institutional space, the subversive values of graffiti art directly collide with the values of the established and elite art system (Duncan, 2015: 130; Derwanz, 2013: 207). This shift of graffiti and street art to a completely different and changed context means a loss of its original function in the public sphere. In its natural habitat graffiti is accessible to everyone, in the institutional framework it leads to the exclusion of different social views and thus the access remains only for the privileged class. Additionally, the context shift means not only a site-specific shift, but also a change in its before mentioned target group (Duncan, 2015: 129,135). Before graffiti was accessing only a hand full of people that were able to decode the inscriptions, whereas nowadays art collectors and connoisseurs reflect on the market value of a studio based graffiti artwork. The challenge to connect graffiti and the institution especially can be pinnacled on its ideological divergence. Graffiti which arose completely separate from the traditional and institutional art system, therefore developed its own urban ways of communication, its own qualitative standards of style and aesthetics (Duncan, 2015: 136; Lachmann, 1988: 242-243). Therefore, the implementation of graffiti into the institutional space seems very challenging and delicate.
Furthermore, exhibiting graffiti art in an institutional framework means the loss of its organic meaning or even censorship. That is why Lewisohn describes art institutions in relation to graffiti and street art as “sanctioning bodies” (Lewisohn, 2008: 134). Art institutions function as sanctioning bodies, because the original rebellious and dynamic

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Urban Creativity Scientific Journal Graffiti, Street Art &