There’s a story in my hometown of Newcastle that reads more like folklore than fact. The story is about a legendary piece of graffiti that was written by a frustrated uni student on the upper extremities of one of the city’s most unsightly destitute buildings. Abseiling down from the roof of the building one night, he scrawled the immortal words, ‘This Is Not Art’. The rest they say is history. This famous act of vandalism has since become the title for an annual national ‘Independent, emerging and experimental arts festival’, which provides ‘a platform for innovative and passionate culture makers to present their ideas.’ (This Is Not Art, 29 Sept – 3 Oct, Newcastle, Australia)
Needless to say, I’ve been intrigued by graffiti and street art ever since. It stops me in my tracks and takes me by surprise. It makes me angry and it makes me smile. It gets me thinking and it opens my eyes. In fact, rarely do I visit a new city without snapping shots of street murals, wall art and stencils. You can’t miss them, they’re everywhere – in wide-open public spaces, dark alleyways and car parks. Stairwells, fences and overpasses. Bridges, doorways and trains. But what’s the difference between street art and graffiti? Is it a battle of culture makers and political & social commentators? Or is it just plain vandalism? Who’s to say? Does street art legitimize vandalism?
It seems this debate (and the tensions between the two camps) has been festering for years. Surely the common link between street art and graffiti is that they’re both trying to make a statement in their own way, with the difference being between their ideas, aesthetic approaches, culture and history.
Perhaps the answer lies in the eye of the beholder…Check out my pics of urban expressionism from Berlin, Bondi Beach, Buenos Airs and Barcelona.