Site & Situation: The Street

2016-05-07-14-53-17

In ‘Symbiotic Postures of Commercial Advertising and Street Art,’ Stephania Borghini, Luca Massimiliano Visconti, Laurel Anderson and John F Sherry Jr immersed themselves in the street art culture in order to view the crossover between advertising and street art.

They discovered that street art’s ‘rebelliousness and anarchic origins have turned in a different direction’ and through this exploration of rhetorical practices used by the artists, could be applied for more effective advertising. These practices encompassed street art use of everyday platforms, from kerbstones to dustbins to park benches, as objects in their own right and through the artwork they were transformed and given a new lease of life. Whilst street artists have their own style and also use branding much the same as the advertising world does, they don’t limit themselves and allow a certain sense of freedom of experimentation to come through in their work, e.g. the emulation of other artists such as Andy Warhol or Salvador Dali as well as the incorporation of humour and through taking particular brands or symbols out of their original context and give them a new direction.

However, in the paper ‘Critique of Urban Geography” written by Guy Debord (1955) it is debated as to whether your environment has an effect on you emotions and your behaviour or whether you would need to put yourself in an unknown situation (e.g. by following a map of London in a region of Germany) in order to change your viewpoint. Debord says that it should not matter what your surroundings are, but that there is the propensity to overlook the ordinary and to just assume that because a particular area is ‘elegant then that is reason to feel a sense of satisfaction just as poor streets are depressing and one need look no further’.

Debord says that opportune moments only really occur when one awakens from ‘the pathetic illusions of privilege’ and that the market needs to be altered through the use of ‘desires whose fulfillment is not beyond the capacity of humanity’s present means of action’ and one decides to take a risk by stepping out of ones comfort zone and venture into unfamiliar territory in order to be able to view our surroundings, and our lives in a different light.

The movement, Nouveau Réalisme, was founded in 1960 by critic Pierre Restany. Its leading interpreters were: Arman, César, Christo, Jean Tinguely and Daniel Spoerri (www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/n/nouveau-realism/#introduction), also joined by Jacqués Mahé de la Villeglé, who along with Raymond Hains, Francois Dufrêne and Mimmo Rotélla are often referred to collectively as the “Affichistés” (poster). Villeglé studied sculpture and architecture from 1947 – 1949 but abandoned his studies to move to Paris in 1949 where he associated with radical intellectuals including Guy Debord. (www.moma.org/artists/6163)

His early work avoided imagery and he concentrated on typography, focusing on colour and shapes. A keen observer of urban art and society, he has never waivered from his appropriation technique.  In 1949, he and Hains began working on torn commercial posters, fixing them into formal pieces of artwork. For Villeglé, the posters were as much witnesses as they were actors in their environment, he was completely absent from their actual execution, which were carried out and created by an anonymous collective, describing them as “lacères anonymes.” He stated in an interview with Blouin Artinfo that he “didn’t want the work to have a political context, so when there was the face of a politician, because there used to be a lot of political posters in France, I would tear a piece off so they would not be recognisable.” (www.blouartinfo.com/news/story/1068524/french-artist-Jacques-Villeglés-on-his-ripped-posters)Les Jazzmen - Jacques Villeglé (© Tate, London 2016)

Villeglé’s piece, “Jazzmen” (1961) was taken on 10th December 1961 from Rue de Tolbinc, a thoroughfare in the 13th arrondissement in South East Paris. The large blue and green advertisements for Radinola provided the main visible surface for the work. He viewed the process of the overlaying and peeling of the posters by passersby to be a manifestation of a liberated art of the street and that he was just ‘a conduit for anonymous public expression.’ (www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/villegle-jazzmen-t07619/text-summary)

I believe that advertising can learn and benefit extensively from street art, through its use of different platforms and approaches to its audience and whilst it has and does attempt to emulate street art, it does not have the capacity or scope to ever be able to fully embrace it as a means to promote itself.

Street art, as well as the New Realists, knows that there is beauty in the ordinary and it is this that should be highlighted, not the fake glamour of unobtainable lifestyles and pursuits that the advertising industry currently bombards us with on a daily basis. By making the ordinary extra-ordinary, you are allowing the viewer to engage more fully with what they are seeing and the opportunity to join in, there is a strong community influence running through them both, there is no room for self-obsession of advertising there.

I have recently finished working on a project in Tottenham whose main focus has been a series of community workshops engaging with craft as a medium for conversation resulting in an exhibition of the participants’ work. Using clay sourced from the site of the new stadium at White Hart Lane it brought people together through different viewpoints; there were diehard Spurs fans, soem who had lived in the area for many years or who had recently moved there and wanted to discover more about the area, along with an array of ages. It wasn’t just the opportunity to work with a locally sourced material that drew people in, but also the chance to look inside a Grade II listed Georgian building whose doors where usually closed. The inside of which evoked thoughts of Nouveau Réalisme with the peeling wallpaper, along with some graffiti written back in 1849! The chance to look at inside somewhere that was usually unnoticed and to be a part of a greater whole has shown me the importance of not dismissing something just because it’s not standing out and that it can be reinvigorated. It appears that here are very good reasons to stop and relook wherever possible. (www.collectiveexchange.org)