Contemporary Street Art as Cultural Expression and Political Resistance
Kat Dwyer '11, Bridget Montesanti '11, Charlie Reetz '11,
Spencer Homick '06, and Catherine S.K. Tedford
October 21 - December 10, 2010
"Based on conversations I had with Berliners and others, and even now extending online, I have created an art installation and performance that incorporate multiple perspectives and opinions regarding street art and how it is communicated through social media." --Bridget
“As a creative writing major, I have chosen to portray certain well-known street artists, such as Prost, El Bocho and Invader, as well as Kunsthaus Tacheles, an independent, non-commercial arts center facing demolition in an increasingly gentrified Berlin.” --Kat
"It's difficult to describe the subculture I observed and experienced in Berlin, but that's what I have tried to document in my film for this exhibition. I photographed the gritty sh** you see on the street—the grimy hard-core paint thrown up on walls, the hundreds of new messages that appear every day—all coloring in spaces that are not meant to be colored in." --Charlie
Based on a student research trip to Berlin and Munich in May-June of 2010, this exhibition documents contemporary street art through photography, printed ephemera, creative writing, performance and film. Berlin, in particular — post-reunification — is home to a lively alternative and internationally thriving street art culture. Nowadays, for better or worse, almost every surface in the city is marked with handwritten scrawls, painted and spray-painted designs, stickers, stencils, paste-ups and posters.
Situated metaphorically at a complex intersection of imagery and content — and formed by history, mass media, commerce and pop culture — street art in Berlin addresses both the personal and the political. In some cases, for example, artists will “tag” a wall or sign, leaving behind words and images that are mysterious or mundane and thereby claiming a space temporarily as their own. Street art also sells goods and services — from hip-hop music to skate decks, energy drinks and clothing. And street artists use irony and humor to subvert advertisements as a form of culture jamming.
A notable percentage of the street art we encountered dealt with issues that are highly political and specific to Berlin and Germany, including national and transnational identity, ethnicity, capitalism, authority, anti-fascism, gentrification and surveillance. Unprecedented urban redevelopment has also generated a number of visible protest movements encouraging citizens to “rette deine Stadt!” and “save your city!”
Social media also play a role in this context, and Web sites, listservs and blogs have created a hybrid mix of what could be called “street art 2.0.” As such, street art exists without borders in both physical territories and virtual worlds. --CSKT
St. Lawrence University's Center for International and Intercultural Studies provided funding support for research and travel to Germany.