As a professional anthropologist, my focus is on consumer culture. That’s what I get paid for. As a sub-set of that, i am particularly passionate about “street” culture: the cultural conversations and sub-cultures that exist on the ground in areas with more dense populations (like cities) and the dialogues that happen outside of media. In this case, “street art” (in contrast with graffiti for the sake of tagging) is a significant reflection of the mores, values and cultural tensions experienced by city denizens.
Creativity in the form of art and music are an outlet of self-expression and a way to tackle social issues for those whose voice might not get heard by an audience of means who also have influence on society. It is this collective voice that produces ground swells and eventually makes its way into the mainstream by virtue of persistence and discovery by those “passing through” who DO have means.
I say now and have repeated many times that “culture” is what results from our collective reactions to the constraints placed upon us by the world and society. Street culture is thus a reaction from mostly those who are / have been disenfranchised by the current system and represents a very rich social conversation. At times i get annoyed when i see marketing and brands co-opt street culture for the sake of reaching a certain demographic or for enhancing their “relevance” without an authentic right to that point of view.
But when i see street culture elevated in a truly reverential way, I am affirmed. In this case, I am referring to the “You Are Not Banksy” series by photographer Nick Stern http://nickstern.com/?galleries=banksy
In this series, he recreates iconic pieces from “incognito” street artist Banksy, who is known for using his guerrilla-art installations to illustrate acute social commentary.
What Nick Stern has done is take ideas from the “fringe” and bring them to the mainstream in a way that elevates their validity through socially accepted means: through “high art”. This brings Banksy’s messages (and thus the message of the denizens for whom he is communicating) to a more influential audience.
I applaud the homage and share it here.
Here are a few examples:
- Made in Iran: Street Art and Punk Music? (observer.com)
- Banksy’s Bristol pens a love letter to the spray can (independent.co.uk)
- Banksy’s art Personified (freshforms.wordpress.com)
- Will London Really Erase Banksy’s New Olympics Art? (theatlanticwire.com)
- Street Art Olympics: Banksy Works on 2012 London Games (weburbanist.com)
- First Look: ‘Brandsky’ Is Poking Fun At Banksy Street Art (pinkisthenewblog.com)
- Ratting out Banksy in the West Bank (dreamingofargentina.com)
- Free Write – Banksy and Photography (arth318snapshot.wordpress.com)