Street art found its origins in political graffiti and slogans painted in the public domain to express dissent through the window of art and aesthetics. This movement has now become a contemporary crusade that is present worldwide. Street art can be seen from the streets of Shaheen Bagh to Hong Kong. Street art has become universally acknowledged as a technique through which artists can make their work available to a larger audience. Furthermore, the disenfranchisement of voices in popular spaces of culture has led to the evolution of this form as a way of expression for artists.
The truest origins of this art form are ambiguous. However, according to common sources the graffiti first occurred during the first World War. The graffiti was titled ‘Kilroy Was Here’. This can be noted as the beginning of the movement. This was further popularized in the graffiti boom in New York City in the 1980s. Additionally, popular imagery of spray-painted subway cars in the Bronx could be noted as the first modern prevalence of street art.
The Banksy Effect
In recent years artists like Banksy have used street art as a method of articulating disappointment and disillusion. This angst is against cultural spaces that profit off artists. This was witnessed by people all over the world in the year 2018. Banksy uploaded an Instagram post captioned “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge – Picasso”. He posted about how he had built a shredder in his painting if it was ever up for auction. Consequently, in the video, we see how Banksy destroys his own painting. This is done to prevent it from falling under the entrapment of capitalist art.
Banksy has also been predominant in media for spray painting political messages in public spaces such as subway stations. Some critics have criticized his work as being enforcement of art onto some who may not wish to see it. Hence, a non-consensual application of imagery. However, vandalism, street art and graffiti still continue to be popular processes of political expression.
Street Art in India
In India, street art has found pervasiveness in various movements. Campus spaces of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia Milia Islamia, Jadavpur University and more recently, Presidency University has seen the rise of graffiti. The graffiti hence translates student protests into art on their university walls. The massive sit-in protest on the streets of Shaheen Bagh saw artists paint their anguish and cynicism. Their protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizenship was converted onto murals and posters for display. In Kolkata, Nutan Sangha organised a fest called ‘Behula’ which invited artists to once again paint their protests on the streets. Subsequently, during the pandemic students protested against Delhi University’s enforcement of Open Book Examination (OBE) by vandalising billboards, notice boards and walls in North Campus.
Street art can be noted as a non-violent and peaceful method of expressing dissent against established systems of administration. The pandemic has witnessed people all around the globe turn to art for comfort. Hence, art has also been converted into a form of revolution. Street art, graffiti and vandalism are perceived by some to be outrageous in terms of where the art appears and what it tries to convey. Nevertheless, this art form finds itself to be omnipresent from the lanes of small towns to billboards in first world countries.