I am definitely repeating myself but I feel the point is lost on some graffiti artists. The point is that ‘Street Art’ as it stands is primarily commercial but the term is used to denote what graffiti artists don’t like if I can be general about it. The idea of not liking something isn’t particularly damning because it doesn’t really matter either way. So what am I complaining about this time? Nothing really though I do wish that people understood the commercial nature of street art. Not to say all street artists are making money and graffiti artists are not. There is a mix but what I want to draw attention to is the point of making the artwork.
Is the point of the artwork a commercial one? A graffiti piece can be in the same category as a mural depending on context and the process. Some people I paint with are accused of being street artists because some graffiti artists don’t like what they do. Who cares! I agree, but I want to make the point that any work that is of a commercial nature should and will fall into the category of ‘Street Art’ no matter what it is. But why does it matter? Commercial considerations change the playing field. What was once a field for delinquents is now a profession. You can’t play both sides of the fence in that case. Even if you did then your work is going to be different for the various contexts.
Can you be a professional delinquent? I am not sure but I am really trying. If money happened to start appearing maybe I could be. The fact is when you explore concepts around delinquency or disorganisation you aren’t in a commercial space unless you can get funding or have enabled an artistic miracle. People may or may not like what you do but when each party isn’t willing to part with cash you are in turn self funded and going against the flow of popularity. You are at best ‘out there’ doing something, though don’t think it is insignificant. Ideas can be exchanged, thoughts come and go but they may not be relevant.
Irrelevance can be just as important. Why would I delude myself into thinking this? Well what if it has a semblance to an era? What if it is simply ignored for the sake of other ideas that seem more important? What if money was considered more important that competing ideas? What if the function was more important than being completely irrelevant and off the main topics of the day? So these are my main points. Me and my painting buddies are not making a cent off doing our work on the streets. Is this a good thing? Not really but maybe the focus is on ideas of lines and forms that seem to make people wonder what all of these colours and lines are about? Maybe the lines and forms are suspect? Maybe they are lines and forms which should be ignored!
Either way they exist on the street and even then people don’t really see the artwork. They experience it. It is part of the experience of walking the streets. You see graffiti in photos and that is an experience of imagining the work in context. People will look though and may take a photo in front of the work. It is temporal, disorganised, and instantly misunderstood. If it was there for money the lines and forms would be organised and less suspect. They would be a pattern based on the exchange of money. Their existence is this point. Isn’t it pretty pointless not making money? Is money simply so plentiful that people can just do these things for no reimbursement. I would call Australia a wealthy country but you need money to get by. I work for my money and I choose to spend a small amount of it on various artworks that are free. If I could make some money out of it that would be great but it isn’t the drive. The drive is to see the ideas take form. To see them standing on the street. A way of making people believe that for a moment they are free from the normal rules. That they can do what they want for no other reason than the joy of expression. That suspect ideas can exist in a world where suspect ideas actually have primacy anyway. It is an undercurrent. It is an aberration. People need ideas more than they need money. Or maybe that isn’t the case. Maybe money is the first and last word. Then again maybe not.
Where you can see professional delinquency is in music. That is the most significant platform for suspect ideas as it helps people let go of their inhibitions at least momentarily within the piece of music. The musical ‘act’ is allowed to exhibit a level of delinquency where even if they die it only helps their record sales. So many famous musicians explore and celebrate their own depravity for entertainment. People wish they could get away with it. In a way alternative music was a way of expanding the music industry and it allows suspect ideas quite easily. Visual art has few equals unless we understand the rock gods of art like Anthony Lister or Brett Whitely who are few and far between. These people have free reign though there will always be limits. Their job then is to constantly try find the limits.
So what have I discussed through this article? It is to understand the role of ideas that circumvent commercial considerations. They can seem pointless but have a role in negotiating territory that could be dominated by commercial players. For example the wall that is a feature of my work was earmarked by a corporate clothing brand. Large sums of money were to change hands. The owner of the wall refused to give the wall to corporate interests as they had international artists in toe who were to make it all work. The owner of the wall wanted local artists and other interests to have the wall. He wanted the under dog to have the wall. That is really the core point. He refused money as he already feels he has enough. He has a lot of money and doesn’t want to give in to corporate interests. He is self made and knows the local area. He feels he knows what is right for the local area.
The question is, did he make the right the choice? Is allowing these misfits free reign over the likes of an international organisation the best choice? Well if you ask a ‘Street Artist’ you will get a predictable answer. They are the competition. They want to at least compete for it. What is right though should be of the best advantage? The best advantage is for the local area. He made the right choice not to sell out. Money shouldn’t always win and thankfully it doesn’t always win.