June 17, 2013

The Visual Writing on the Wall

What is Art?

One of my favorite genres of visual communication is the ironic street installation--painted or sculpted commentaries one comes upon in unexpected places where an artist has often taken an existing flaw in the landscape or architecture and worked it into a surprising image.

Is it really art? Does it arrest the viewer? Does it suggest the infinite? Does it bridge two worlds? Does it help us envision something new? Does it create new knowledge through the senses or the subconscious?

One of my favorite professors, Bernie Brock, who was considered a foremost expert on Kenneth Burke's theories of rhetoric in his time, used to have a rather silly Socratic habit when one of us would ask an either/or question in his class of answering, enigmatically, "yes." I may have been the most important lecture of my graduate experience though each time it lasted probably less than 5 minutes. "Is it art? Or not?" "Yes," Bernie would say. He repeated this response to various questions often enough that we, his disciples, learned to question authority with the talent of all the old sixties activists (which he had been). 

Street art has always been closely associated with political commentary. It is often a social intervention of sorts. It doesn’t hang in a museum, but it slaps you in the face on the streets where you live, and makes you look at the world differently. 

Some suggested resources for inspiring street art: 

http://www.streetartutopia.com Dynamic street art captured all over the world.
http://www.ted.com/speakers/jr.html French street artist JR at TED Talks shows his project to cover the world with art.
http://www.magicalurbanism.com Street installations captured by designer and urban planner Mike Ernst
http://www.tyreeguyton.com The art of Tyree Guyton