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Politics in Street Art

The Text below is written by Madeleyn Green, from Cornell International Affairs Review Vol 8 No 1 'A Beautiful Mess: The Evolution of Political Graffiti in the Contemporary City'

In his analysis of Banksy's street art, cultural geographer L. Dickens calls modern street art "post-graffiti" and argues that tagging "as the core component of graffiti writing, is increasingly being replaced by ‘street logos'; a shift from typographic to iconographic forms of inscription." Schacter, an ethnographer, further examines the contemporary function of street art, and after interviewing street artists, concludes that street artists ultimately seek "alternative ways of approaching public space" to make "meaningful connection to their surroundings" in pursuit of artistic expression that aims to "re-affirm the city as a place of social discussion."

In an impersonal metropolitan environment, street art is a manner through which individuals reclaim territory in spaces where organic meaning and identity are obscured by logos, sociopolitical oppression or consumerism.

In 2003, Banksy was at the center of global attention when he painted an image on the West Bank wall in Gaza Strip that ingeniously criticized Israel's policies towards Palestine. "A local man came up and said 'Please - what does this mean?' I explained I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on my website – but on the internet people only look at pictures of kittens."Banksy often culture jams by subverting advertisements, material goods or even currency to proliferate his political views.

Graffiti's close ties to groups with lower socioeconomic status and Black and Latino youth has made it historically provocative. The word "graffiti" often evokes images of urban squalor and crude scrawls on dilapidated buildings or idle trains. Archetypally, a graffiti writer is a disenfranchised youth that rebels against society by spray-painting their name to claim unique space in the society that makes him or her feel invisible.

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