A Street Art Study

The Project

I have always enjoyed the visual aspect of Street Art and have often found myself photographing it without real intent or purpose. The beginning of this project was however a turning point for me in this area. After being prompted to ‘create a collection’, I realised that I had already begun to do this during my first few weeks in this new country and really turned my focus towards what it was that I was photography and why. I realised rather quickly that I was often initially drawn in by colour and scale as well as the individuality of each piece. It was during this time that I also discovered my fascination with lettering. I always felt the need to read the graffiti and street art around me to discover what messages they held. And of course, for all of these, placement was key!

I began to pull together photographs that I had already taken and made sure to pause and photograph any street art that caught my attention during my travels, whether these were to a new city or simply on route to the shop and back. I began to walk different routes to try and discover new pieces that I had not yet uncovered and found I was beginning to make a sort of a mental map of imagery in my head, particularly of Weimar.

As my collection began to expand I realised the need to find some way of organising or categorising my images. Funnily enough my initial instinct had not been to simply organise them by where they were found but primarily to find similarities in the works themselves. I began to organise the works due to their scale and or nature, the surface on which they were displayed or even their colour schemes. This quickly became complicated with individual pieces not quite fitting into certain categories or being equally relevant to numerous. It did not take me long to realise that I needed to alter my approach.

This was the point at which the placement of the pieces really became relevant to me. At first this just seemed to be a very simple way to group the works without having to judge the pieces myself in any way. However, during the process of organisation it began to dawn on me, the relevance of this style of grouping, I was beginning to create an image of a city through its street art. With Weimar being the first city for me to arrange, I found I really began to see a visual representation of the city and its community through its street art and this began to highlight potential themes and messages present there. There were messages about politics, sexuality, art and history and this idea of getting to know a community within a certain area due to the marks they made on the walls of their city became incredibly fascinating to me. I loved the idea of creating similar portfolios for other cities around Europe and potentially being able to use these portfolios to visualise much grander issues than simply the art itself. In theory it could hold the potential to see how world issues played out across a continent, to see how things such as poverty or politics effected the opinions of regions or even to help calculate which areas were most in need of extra support or attention due to the issues being addressed through this form of art.

I continued to expand my collection as much as possible, travelling to different counties and cities in my free time. At the point of the Summary Exhibition I had managed to create a collection that included 11 cities in 4 different countries. Although I was very proud of what I had managed to collect in this time I was still very keen to expand further and eventually cover more cities and countries around Europe and potentially worldwide. My main concern with this would however be the time scale in which this would take me. Even with my full focus and commitment to this project, funding and time restrictions would mean that by the time I would be nearing completion of the project (if it can ever really be completed) the photos I have taken at this time would most likely be very outdated and no longer representative of the city and its community. To tackle this, my suggestion would be to take this project online and make it accessible to the wider community. I could encourage people to send in images of art work near them and potentially create a digital map in its literal form that displays different street art from around the world. Although I am very keen to move forward with this idea, I feel it will take some refining as well as support and research on how best to create this webpage. This may be my next step moving ahead.

Development Work Alongside the Project

Throughout the duration of this project my mind couldn’t help but wander into the idea of creating my own piece of street art. I had many ideas of the messages that I wanted to portray due to my previous work around female sexuality and the influence of digital media on the sexual expectations of our modern-day society. My study of this style of work had however really focused my attention on just how much these artists truly risked ensuring their work was seen by the public. I knew very little of this cultural community before this project and in reality, my knowledge has only grown a small percentage since, due to the anonymous nature of this style of art. However, it had become very apparent to me just how powerful and often controversial some of the messages of this work were. Many demonstrated opposition and retaliation again widely accepted, inbuilt social norms or at times fought back against powerful groups or individuals higher up in the societal hierarchy than themselves. Through doing this, the artists risked not only potential conflict with the law, due to the illegal nature of this art, but also resilience from the aforementioned targets of higher social stature. I decided rather quickly, due to my position of Foreign Erasmus exchange student, that I did not wish to put myself at this risk.

I had briefly considered other methods by which I could create street art. I investigated the use of water resistant spray paint that becomes visible when exposed to water in hopes that this may lead to less repercussions and a lower likelihood of being caught. I began developing design ideas based upon scenes from pornographic videos, demonstrating the female in a very commonly seen, submissive position. In particular, the downwards pointing camera shot, focusing on the females face whilst she waits to receive the male ejaculation, usually onto her face or into her mouth. I found this was even more relevant to the medium of water resilient paint and how it interacts with liquids. It would also be very easy to position this low down on a wall and if produced to a lifelike scale, could be a very striking piece with a hard-hitting message. Once again, however, my confidence was low when it came to my ability to execute this in an unfamiliar city without receiving punishment. For this reason, this may be something I continue to work towards now that I am back in the UK1. Universitätskommunikation – a service of the university taking care of public relations 2. United Kingdom.

Another idea I had was to actively search for an area that was designated for street art and to apply to produce my work here. I did find a street in Weimar where this was the case but after giving this idea some thought, I realised the purpose of this style of work was lost when it was put into a controlled space, particularly when this space was so hidden from the public.

I continued producing work non the less and found that my illustrations really took a turn towards capturing a message. I began by using quotes from famous artists and moved onto scholars and activists to mention but a few, all in relation to the male phallus. This work then directed back towards feminism once again, only this time, using quotes of my own or well-known sayings. I found great enjoyment in the production of this work and due to its simplistic style, I found I was able to produce a large amount of work, addressing numerous issues, at a faster rate. This work began to receive attention and I started to produce posters and eventually item of clothing with this artwork stitched in. I really enjoyed the feminine flair that the embroidery brought to the work I was producing, and I was able to start selling my embroidered t-shirt designs to many of my international friends. Due to this I now have my work being fashioned in England, Germany, Australia, Belgium, Portugal and the USA and have more pre-orders lined up. This exciting outcome really made me realise that although I didn’t feel comfortable to leave my artwork on the streets of Weimar, I was able to release my artwork and the messages that it holds into the world in a different way. A way that I hope will continue to spread and that will still be seen by people from different communities around the world.