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Authenticity Manifested: Street Art and Artification

Adam Andrzejewski
p. 167-184

Abstract

The article aims to frame the issue of authenticity regarding street artworks. By introducing and analyzing the concept of artification, which refers to the situation when non-art is modified by art, I argue that street art manifests its authenticity through transforming the space around particular artworks. This transformation amounts to two facts: sanctioning certain practices which change our perception of the urban environment, and creating new aesthetic objects which are art-like.

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I am grateful to Iwona Lorenc, Mateusz Salwa and two anonymous referees for comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. Many thanks to Joanna Kulas and Mikolaj Golubiewski for showing me many aesthetic spots in Berlin. I am also indebted to my dear friend Filip Kawczyński for inspiring discussions on urban aesthetics. The work on this article has been made possible thanks to the National Science Centre of Poland (DEC-2013/09/N/HS1/00390).

  • 1 Ruppert 2006.

1It would not be controversial to say that cities are becoming the subject of the aestheticization process to an increasing degree1. This process is primarily driven by the ubiquitous large format advertisements, carefully arranged shop windows or utterly neglected streets and tenement houses. The more noteworthy elements of the aestheticization of the urban fabric are street artworks. This phenomenon is not entirely new, as it dates back to 1960s and 1970s, however, street art has only recently become a topic of theoretical discussion between philosophers and aestheticians.

2The objective of this study is to analyse one of the methods of manifesting the authenticity of street artworks. The argument that I am putting forward is that the authenticity of this art form manifests itself in the spontaneous creation of new visual and conceptual commentaries to artworks which are already in existence. This has an effect on the method of perceiving the space around the artworks by street art recipients. The phenomenon which facilitates the creation of these visual commentaries and the transformation of the ways of experiencing a specific space is artification, i.e. the process of modifying non-art through art.

3The outline of this article is as follows. Section 1 provides me with an opportunity to identify a group of artworks which I am interested in, which take the form of street artworks.

4I reconstruct and analyse the essential properties of this art form. In Section 2 I discuss the attributes of the concept of authenticity and I modify it to highlight the relationship between an artwork’s authenticity and the properties and content expressed by a particular artwork. Section 3 and 4 serve, in turn, to present and analyse the concept of artification, and demonstrate that the authenticity of street art manifests itself, among others, by the transformation of space encompassing the artwork. It is particularly evident by the creation of new objects which should be defined as artified, i.e. art-like objects. In Section 5 I briefly summarize my argument.

1.

  • 2 Riggle 2010: 246. Emphasis in the original.
  • 3 Ivi: 245.
  • 4 Ivi: 255. Emphasis in the original. In his polemic with Andrea Baldini, Riggle clarifies that he re (...)

5The discussion over the character and manifestation methods of the authenticity of street artworks should begin with the reconstruction and analysis of the actual phenomenon of street art. In his recent article, Nicolas Riggle suggested the following definition: «An artwork is street art if, and only if, its material use of the street is internal to its meaning»2. Put this way, the definition carries a considerable impact. Firstly, a work of street art is not so much displayed in the street as it is a part of it. The result is that street art forever interacts with people’s activities and changing weather conditions. Being ephemeral is an indispensable feature of artworks of this kind. Says Riggle: «In using the street, artists willingly subject their work to all of its many threats – it might be stolen, defaced, destroyed, moved, altered, or appropriated»3. If the street is integral to street art, as the definition provided by Riggle says, then the transfer of a street art work to an art gallery de facto destroys this work. (It will still be a kind of artwork, but it will no longer be a street art work.) Moreover, «the street» should be understood in a specific way here. As Riggle rightly observes, «For a place to be the street, people must treat it as the street […]»4.

  • 5 Bacharach 2015: 486. Emphasis in the original.
  • 6 Ivi: 487. See also Young 2013: 27-28.
  • 7 Bacharach 2015: 486.
  • 8 Ivi: 481.
  • 9 Ivi: 489.

6The identification of relationships in definition between street art and the broadly-defined street is not the only possible approach which permits the phenomenon in question to be conceptualised. This diverse strategy was adopted by Sonda Bacharach who defined two, in her opinion crucial, properties of street art. The first states that the lion’s share of street artworks is created without the permission of the owners of the space in which these artworks take form. It states that «[…] street art is usually made on property without the consent of the property’s owner—that is, it is made aconsensually […]»5. This fact is of great importance to the correct perception of this art form, and consequently, to its aesthetic evaluation6. Bacharach goes as far as to say that «[…] street art is defiant simply in virtue of its methods of production—by being aconsensually produced, and this distinguishes street art as importantly different from other art form that are defiant in other ways»7. The second necessity of street art is activism which accompanies this form of art. It is «[…] designed to challenge (and change) the viewer’s experience of his or her environment».8 This activism manifests itself in two different ways. Firstly, it is linked to the actual (and not only declarative) modification of space in which a particular artwork exists. In other words, street artworks contribute to the aestheticization of particular fragments of urban space. Secondly, the fact that these artworks have been produced aconsensually and (by assumption) are illegal, is conducive to a certain type of community forming around them (of people looking at the artworks and experiencing them). This community exercises a strong influence over a particular artwork, as de facto it is this community which decides how long a given artwork is to last. Bacharach admits «That a work of street art continues to exist is evidence that the community approves of the values, ideas and aesthetics features of the work in question»9.

  • 10 Ivi: 494.
  • 11 She recalls here Banksus Militus Ratus and Early Man Goes to Market. Both works are Banksy’s “museu (...)

7The characteristics listed by Bacharach are without a doubt valuable when one is trying to understand street art as a form of art. In my assessment, however, the consequences of this approach are excessively far-reaching. I am referring, in particular, to the statement that «[…] some significant works of street art are not in the streets at all»10. Bacharach claims that artworks which are illegal (and I mean this as actual and assumed illegality, i.e. a situation in which the recipient assumes that a particular artwork is illegal) and artworks which relate to artistic activism (understood in the manner outlined above) can be regarded as street artworks even if they are displayed in a museum11.

  • 12 Ivi: 485.
  • 13 Riggle 2016: 192. It must be noted that this definition of a street’s function, i.e. one which make (...)

8Not willing to accept this approach to the subject, I would like to clarify the following three issues. First of all, in his definition of street art, which is disputed explicitly by Bacharach12, Riggle states that for a certain place to become a street it is sufficient for it to be treated as such. In his opinion, for a place to be experienced as a street, it does not need to be directly linked to the function which enables movement. In his article, Riggle clarifies that he refers to a space which to a great degree enables an entity to freely express itself. Such a space can take the form of a thin passage between two buildings or a path in a park13. In other words, Bacharach’s understanding of the term street is too narrow. Secondly, the unquestionable advantage of Bacharach’s proposal is the determination of the necessary prerequisites for an object to become a street artwork, i.e. its illegality and artistic activism. (This permits, for instance, to differentiate between street art and public art.) It is worth pointing out, however, that the conjunction of these conditions is not sufficient for an object to become a street artwork. Not every illegal work of art which expresses activism can be considered as street art. The proposal by Bacharach does not pinpoint the most intuitive element which is the relation of a particular object, i.e. work of art, to the space which defines it, i.e. the street (understood in the widest possible sense).

9The last issue I would like to emphasize, and one which is directly linked to the two above-mentioned aspects, is the issue of the existence of street artworks outside a street.

  • 14 Binkley 1977: 269-271.

10In my opinion, such a possibility does not exist. The mentioned works of art only look like street art, but in reality they are solely examples of art of a different kind, i.e. they belong to a diverse type of art. In order to bring it to the fore, I suggest referring back to the established distinction between the physical medium and the artistic medium14. A physical medium is the matter necessary for the creation of a particular artwork, for instance, a sonnet is made up of language expressions. An artistic medium, in turn, is a collection of particular conventions which define the method in which a physical medium is distributed, e.g. the appropriate way of placing words in a sentence which makes it possible for us to recognise if a given entity is a sonnet and not a fragment of prose or a washing machine instruction manual. The artistic medium determines therefore specific parameters which are vital for experiencing and assessing a work of art.

11The physical medium in street art is often paint, charcoal or paper. The artistic medium, i.e. the distribution method of the physical medium, is the placement of physical media within the space of a broadly-understood street. The artistic medium has a direct influence on the ways of perceiving street art, i.e. their ephemerality, ontological instability and susceptibility to modification on part of the audience, as well as adverse weather conditions such as snow or wind. In the case of quasi-street artworks, i.e. those on display in museums or private collections, we deal with objects which share only the physical medium with street art. They look like street artworks, but their matter is not distributed in the same way as in the case of real street art. The reason for this is that the street – and everything which is linked to it – is no longer a central reference point (and a prerequisite) in the way these objects are experienced. Thus, equally important to the visual aspect of street art are the circumstances in which such art is encountered. They are a point of intersection of factors that would never play a role in a museum. This intersection, says Alison Young, turns street art into situational art:

  • 15 Young2013: 8. Emphasis in the original.

Such characteristics [of street art] can be encapsulated in the term situational, which gestures towards the importance of the spectator’s encounter with the work in a situation quite unlike other forms of viewing art, the artist’s interest in placing the work in public space rather than in a gallery, and the law’s desire to situate the street artwork as legal or illegal15.

12It can therefore be inferred that street art is an art from which is to a great degree characterised by ephemerality, openness to diverse stylistic execution (e.g. execution techniques), accessibility and egalitarianism. Moreover, the majority of street artworks are illegal, or at least perceived as illegal. A key feature of street art is its artistic activism which is mainly manifested by the fact that the method and/or the lifetime of street artworks depends largely on their audience. All these properties of street art are generated (and amplified) by the certainty that this art form is inextricably bound with a broadly-understood street.

13The following sections of this article will provide me with an opportunity to analyse the methods in which street art demonstrates its authenticity. The argument that I am putting forward is that the authenticity of this form of art can be manifested by the changes to the surrounding space. In contrast to the opinion held by Bacharach, who seems to perceive these changes as aestheticization of a certain area of a city, I understand them as a spontaneous creation of new visual and conceptual commentaries to the artworks in existence. As a consequence, the authenticity of some street artworks is manifested in changes to the methods of perceiving the space surrounding these artworks by its audience. The phenomenon which enables the creation of these visual commentaries and the transformation of the way in which a certain space is perceived is artification.

2.

  • 16 Dutton 2010: 259.

14In this part of the article I would like to provide a brief definition of the concept of authenticity. My objective is to select a suitable understanding of this concept, one which will allow us to fully comprehend street art as a form of art. At this point, it is worth noting that there are two basic ways in which the term authenticity can be understood with reference to works of art, i.e. as nominal authenticity and expressive authenticity16.

  • 17 Goodman 1968.
  • 18 Dutton 2010: 271.

15The first kind of authenticity involves correct identification of the context in which a given artwork was created as well as the name of its author and of the work itself. In other words, this type of authenticity can be understood as a synonym of the term genuine. An appropriate identification of these properties is in most cases necessary for the audience to be able to make an aesthetic judgement on the artwork, and to understand the intention of its author17. The other type refers to the state in which we say that a given artwork aptly expresses or reflects the values and beliefs of a certain individual or a social group. In particular, the artwork must express the values advocated by the artist18.

  • 19 Bacharach 2015: 487; Young 2013: 134-135.
  • 20 Young 2013: 4.

16Both meanings of the term authenticity are related to one another, but there is no special connection between them. For example, many artworks enjoy authenticity in both senses, but there are also non-original artworks (e.g. forgeries) that can be expressively authentic and artworks that are authentic in nominal terms but inauthentic in terms of expressiveness. This paper focuses only on the aspect of the manifestation methods of expressive authenticity in relation to street art. This choice is justified by the fact that nominal authenticity plays a relatively minor role in the context of art which interests us. This is mainly due to the illegality of the lion’s share of street artworks, which is often linked to the intentional anonymity of their authors19. These works, however, are not rated as less valuable or more difficult to understand from the artworks which are legal and whose authors are known20.

  • 21 Feagin 1995: 265.

17I will now proceed to describe the concept of expressive authenticity in greater detail. To do that I will take advantage of the extremely helpful findings made by Susan Feagin in relation to the nature and function of painting. In her opinion, paintings are not solely visual objects whose aim is to satisfy our senses (in particular, the sense of sight), but are also entities which modify the space which surrounds them21. This modification is based upon the recognition and initiation of certain behaviours and reactions, and is not limited to the enhancement of the aesthetic value of a certain space. The function of space transformation becomes entirely clear when we become aware of the circumstances in place where such a transformation does not occur. Feagin writes:

  • 22 Ibidem.

But to describe a particular painting, such as an altar-piece, as an object that has the function of serving as a prop in a visual game of make-believe, and leave it at that, would be to misrepresent the character of that painting as an altar-piece, i.e., as that physical object. An altar-piece creates a space wherein certain devotions and rituals are appropriate, whether it be in a private or public devotional space22.

  • 23 Ibidem.

Altar-pieces don’t transform spaces the same way when they are hung on walls in museums. Neither do paintings originally produced for chapels in churches and cathedrals when they are also hung in museums23.

  • 24 Ivi: 266.
  • 25 The relationship of the functions of artworks with the aesthetic judgement is discussed in Davies 2 (...)

18The inability of space transformation by some paintings stems from the fact that they have lost their natural context and are no longer able to sanction activities of a particular type24. As an example, a painting depicting the Crucifixion of Christ displayed at a museum does not sanction anything else but make-believe, and it certainly does not transform the space into a place of prayer and liturgy. The reason for this is that works of art of a particular kind, e.g. religious paintings, are not created solely to be looked at. Their primary objective is most likely to help us focus on specific rituals and prayer25.

  • 26 It is worth noticing that this issue is similarly approached in relation to the authenticity of a h (...)

19By transferring these observations onto the topic of authenticity, it could be said that expressive authenticity is a fact or a state which outlines the relationship between the content or the values exhibited by an artwork and the function which is performed by this artwork. Expressive authenticity makes a reference to a specific type of faithful representation of the artwork in relation to the content or values represented by it26. Moreover, I suggest adopting a rather uncontroversial approach which states that works of art express their authenticity by means of various manifestations. By way of example, the authenticity of politically engaged art is manifested through its faithful representation of the content being projected and its potential to change particular political or social views.

  • 27 Ivi: 26-27.
  • 28 As will be shown in full in Section 4, the interaction I propose goes far beyond the activism refer (...)

20In compliance with what has been said above, we can pose the following question: What is the manifestation of authenticity of street art? I shall go as far as saying that the authenticity of street artworks manifests itself not only in the constant changes they undergo but also in the modification of the urban space around them, spontaneous reactions which they trigger, creation of visual statements and encouragement to action on the part of the various social groups27. This is why, I believe, the concept of artification is best suited to describing such manifestations. I don’t claim here that the converse is true. There are undoubtedly authentic works of street art which do not interact with the cityscape around them28. They are not the subject of my analysis in this essay though.

3.

21I will now go on to explain the concept of artification. In order to do this, I will use a quotation from Ossi Naukkarinen and Yuriko Saito’s paper:

  • 29 Naukkarinen and Saito 2012: § 1.

The neologism [artification] refers to situations and processes in which something that is not regarded as art in the traditional sense of the word is changed into something art-like or into something that takes influences from artistic ways of thinking and practicing29.

  • 30 Cf. Shapiro and Heinich 2012.

22Presented in this way, the concept of artification can be understood as describing two fundamental phenomena, i.e. transformation and modification. Transformation refers to a phenomenon whereby a certain object which is not classified as art becomes a fully fledged artwork, usually through a gradual process30. Modification is a phenomenon whereby artistic practices, ways of thinking and ideas have an impact on objects that are not artworks. As a result of modification, these objects acquire certain properties which allow one to regard them as art-like objects.

23The above outline of the basic ways of understanding the concept of artification shows that Naukkarinen and Saito perceive artification as modification. In other words, for them, artification does not involve creating art (as is the case with transformation), but art-like objects, and this is the understanding of artification that I refer to in this essay. I would like to emphasise that by modification I mostly mean a change that occurs in an object or phenomenon, but a change in the perception of a given object is also acceptable here. The latter, however, is somewhat secondary in character (which means that a change in the way a given object or event is perceived results from a certain change in that object or event itself).

24Now I would like to clarify several matters concerning the concept of artification so as to be able to use it more efficiently to show what role it can play in understanding the authenticity of street art works.

  • 31 See also Andrzejewski 2015.

25Firstly, I would like to underline that the definition of artification provided above, as a process of changing a non-art object into an art-like object, is informative only when a certain theory of art is applied. This theory must encompass a definition of art which makes it possible to distinguish accurately (at least for the majority of cases) works of art from non-art objects. To put it differently, in order to establish whether a given object has been transformed in a way which is of interest to us, i.e. by way of artification, we must first be equipped with a theory which will enable us to distinguish a piece of art from non-art objects. This is linked to methodological principles which state that the theory of artification is at its most general level neutral in respect to particular art concepts, i.e. it provides us with information on the course of a certain event, however, it is not involved in any specific definition of art. The values which must be exhibited by an object for it to be considered art-like, e.g. particular aesthetic, historic, relational or other values, depend on the characteristics which must be met by a work of art on the grounds of a particular art theory. It should be noted that the definition of artification I have adopted is linked to the slightly formal statement which specifies that on the grounds of art theory α object x is a work of art if it meets all the required conditions which are necessary for it to be a work of art, while object y is an art-like object if it meets only some of the necessary conditions which are not sufficient for it to be considered a work of art on the grounds of theory α31. In my deliberations I do not assume the veracity of any particular definition of art. Nonetheless, the analyses included in this study comply only with those art theories which consider certain objects in an urban space as rightful works of art, i.e. street art.

  • 32 I would like to point out that the distinction I propose is neutral in regard to particular art the (...)

26To sum up, I would like to single out two primary types of artified objects. The first type includes objects with an art-like status as a result of other existing works of art. The second group of artified objects encompasses objects with an art-like status regardless of other individual works of art. Therefore, the objects from the first group are qualified as types of art which are similar as a result of a broadly-understood «contact» with the existing works of art, while the second type is based on the modification of a non-art object through practices linked to art32. This study focuses exclusively on art-like objects of the first type, as they are essential to street art and the manifestation of its authenticity.

27Therefore, the phenomenon of artification is the process of modifying non-art objects by art (i.e. specific works of art or practices linked to art). The modification process itself takes place on many levels, for instance, physical, discursive, contextual or perceptive, while its outcome is the creation of artified objects, i.e. art-like objects.

4.

28Equipped with this understanding of the concept of artification, we can turn now to the analysis of a relationship that obtains between the authenticity of street art and artified objects. The best way to capture this relationship is to use an example. The photograph below shows a work called Astronaut, created by a well-known street artist, Victor Ash. The mural appears on the side of an apartment house at 195 Mariannenstrasse in Kreuzberg, a district of Berlin. The work was an entry in the 3rd edition of Backjumps Festival in 2007.

Figure 1. Astronaut by Victor Ash (2007).

Figure 1. Astronaut by Victor Ash (2007).

Source: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/​wiki/​Ash (artist)

29A popular (though by no means the only) interpretation of the mural is that it is a statement about man and his attitude to technology. In the last few decades man has made an astonishing technological leap and reached for the stars. On the other hand, rapid technological progress (or generally scientific progress) has led to the expansion of man’s world. We have discovered new stars, new diseases and nature-governing mechanisms. Paradoxically, this technological advancement has led to life becoming more complicated (which is partly caused by information overload). The direct effect of the latter is man’s alienation from the world that surrounds him and a sense of insecurity in interacting with technology. Astronaut is an ambivalent work. At first glance, the image towers over man, makes the mind boggle with its detail, drives home the significance of one of man’s greatest achievements, which is reaching for the stars. But the image is haunted by a sense of loneliness, with the astronaut being tossed into an empty space. The drama is heightened by the astronaut’s outstretched hand, seemingly grasping at something (something outside its reach), while the visual effect is amplified by the black colour in which the astronaut was painted and the vast white space of the wall on which the image appears.

30Astronaut has of course undergone a number of greater or smaller changes and, in its latest incarnation, the mural looks as shown in the picture below (as of August 2014).

Figure 2. Astronaut by Victor Ash (2007). Photograph by the Author (2014).

Figure 2. Astronaut by Victor Ash (2007). Photograph by the Author (2014).

31Figuratively speaking, we could say that Astronaut is no longer a lonely figure. The white wall which at first provided a formal and semantic contrast for the work has lost its immaculate look having accreted a layer of tag lines, graffiti, stickers, political slogans, etc. Roughly, this is what it looks like now:

Figure 3. Photograph by Adam Andrzejewski (2014).

Figure 3. Photograph by Adam Andrzejewski (2014).

Figure 4. Photograph by Adam Andrzejewski (2014).

Figure 4. Photograph by Adam Andrzejewski (2014).

32At first glance, all accretions on the wall seem to be accidental and unrelated to one another. Some, however, appear to carry a message which, thematically (at least implicitly), ties in with the meaning of Astronaut. For example, a viewer can make out a picture of Mark Zuckerberg, signed «Information control reduces our privacy». This refers, of course, to the often criticised Facebook databases, relationships which are formed through social networks, or the (dangerous) anonymity on the Internet. In terms of the meaning of Astronaut, we could say that the image of Zuckerberg picks up the theme of technology, the freedom which it gives, and the prospect of being enslaved again if we embrace technology unconditionally (i.e., uncritically).

33A somewhat different link with the mural is established by the image of a singing woman and the words scrawled on the drain pipe «It’s time to dance». We are being invited to join the fun and frivolity. (After all, we are in Berlin!) At first appearance, the message is not related to the semantic content of Astronaut, but the poignancy is sharpened by the fact that this serious work by Victor Ash is located in one of the most fun-loving, touristy and counter-cultural districts of Berlin. The singing woman and the invitation can be there to challenge Astronaut: «This is Kreuzberg! Cheer up, time to have fun!».

  • 33 Ossi Naukkarinen claims that in order to be able to artify something we must first have a certain c (...)
  • 34 It should be noted that this state of affairs may also apply to a hypothetical situation in which t (...)

34The accretions described above are a special type of artification. Their change of status from ordinary objects to art-like objects takes place by reference to Victor Ash’s work (e.g. as visual ‘statements’). In other words, the viewer knows full well that they are not art, yet he treats them as entities related to a work of art. This way the modification of non-art by art, as described by Naukkarinen and Saito, happens at the level of perception. Non-art objects are, in this case, perceived in a way similar to the way art is perceived.33 Moreover, the existence of these artified objects is in a way legitimized on the wall. Ash’s mural had been sanctioned to go on the wall; the accretions below had not. But the elements which are in some way related to Astronaut seem to have a stronger claim to being there than those which are not34.

35A similar pattern of artification can be found in another work. Shown below is a work called Mermaid, by an anonymous street artist. The mural sprang up at 2 Rysia Street in Warsaw. The photo was taken in November 2013 (currently the work is partly painted over):

Mermaid by an unknown artist (2009). Photograph by Adam Andrzejewski (2013).

Mermaid by an unknown artist (2009). Photograph by Adam Andrzejewski (2013).

36Blobs of chewing gum stuck to the wall are not part of the original work. They soar over the mermaid’s hand and make it look as if the mermaid was blowing something off her hand. The chewing gum, stuck on in the way it was done (probably by many people), complements the work very well, even though the impulse was an act of vandalism. The chewing gum is artified in the sense that it is perceived by the viewer as «part» of the work, even though, originally, it does not belong to the work.

37The analysed cases provide me with an opportunity to use a more theoretical method of conceptualisation of the issue of authenticity manifestation of street art, which is the concept of artification. As mentioned previously, works of art may manifest their authenticity by their ability to transform the space which surrounds them (where space refers primarily to a space characteristic of a certain type of artworks, for instance, in the case of sacral art this space can take the form of a temple, etc.). Such a transformation constitutes in the sanctioning of certain actions and practices resulting directly from the content which is exhibited by a certain work of art. By way of example, the previously mentioned works of religious art transform the space which surrounds them into a place of prayer and contemplation. In order to understand the transformative role of street art in relation to a broadly-defined street, I would like to refer to the aspect of the so-called community-specific art.

  • 35 Kwon 2002: 11-32.
  • 36 Young 2014: 48-57.

38In her work One Place after Another, Miwon Kwon argues in favour of rephrasing the existing site-specific concepts, which are based on the close association of an artwork’s identity with a specific physical location, institution or discourse35 towards a more abstract term which is community-specific. In her opinion, in order to perceive the authenticity of some artworks we need to go beyond the strictly physical or institutional parameters which define their location, and try to analyse the methods in which these artworks function within a particular community. Community-specific art is a type art which assumes that a space in which a given artwork exists is something which belongs to the members of a particular community. By creating a certain work of art, the artist places it not only within a physically perceived fragment of a street, but also (or primarily) within a network of existing interactions, customs and values which are expressed by the inhabitants of a particular community. It would be worthwhile to clarify at this point exactly who is included in a community. These are people living in a specific location or street, but also passers-by, and individuals who work or study within a particular space. In other words, a community is made up of people who actively contribute to the creation of unwritten rules and dependencies controlling a particular place36.

  • 37 At this point I would like to underline the fact that the changes to a space as defined by Bacharac (...)

39The authenticity of street art is exhibited through changes made to the space surrounding a work of art. These changes should not be understood solely by using the method advocated by Bacharach, which assumes that a street – or to put it more broadly: the city – acquires an aesthetic and artistic element in the form of a specific work of art.37 The nature of these changes is directed at the sanctioning of the creation of various, spontaneous, scheduled, legal or illegal practices, actions and objects which take place as a result of the existence of street artworks. To put it in a different way, the changes introduced to a particular space are based on the sanctioning of the creation of new aesthetic elements around the existing works of art. One of the consequences of authenticity of street art perceived in this way is the analysis of its relationship with the community which perceives and experiences it. Bacharach states that if a work of art exists then it is a sign that the community has accepted the values expressed by this work of art. Agreeing with this opinion, I hasten to add that this is only a partial reflection of a more complex state of affairs. Street artworks are not static objects which refuse to accept any changes or prevent external interaction. Consequently, the fact that specific artworks are partially painted over, transformed or even destroyed does not mean that the community has rejected them. In fact, it may be quite the opposite. Members of a particular community, by not treating street art as a specific type of street painting, and instead by modifying it, expanding it, adding visual commentaries or even by destroying it, confirm that they treat street art as a rightful form of art and that they understand the rules which govern it. This form is ephemeral, and by definition unstable, while the artists who place artworks as part of a street – most often illegally – anticipate a whole range of potential reactions to their creative output. What is more, this active interaction with the structure of a work of art, and with the space surrounding it (manifested through artification practices) highlights the fact that this work of art results in a real and authentic reaction of a community to the urban reality which surrounds it.

  • 38 We can’t rule out some other process in play here that would change these objects into fully-fledge (...)

40The objects I have listed, i.e., the picture of Mark Zuckerberg, the image of dancing woman, the lines: «Information control reduces our privacy» and «It’s time to dance», and the chewing gum acquire their art-like status by association with existing artworks. The moment these artworks would cease to exist, the objects would cease to be artified38. We are thus dealing here with a special change of space around street art. Not only do street artworks undergo constant change but they also trigger change in the objects and planes surrounding them. Artification of the space which encases street artworks changes the viewer’s perception and understanding of the urban space. A street is not a gallery with petrified objects but a space which provides the setting for an artistic event. Artification is something that is conceptually lighter than art, more spontaneous and more personal. In the urban landscape artification gets its meaning from the existing works of street art. This can happen because one of the objectives of street art is to change the perspective from which we perceive the city, mobilise social groups, galvanise political groups into action, etc. Artification which happens through the agency of the viewer of street art allows the same viewer to be both a recipient of the art and an active contributor to the aesthetic landscape of the city.

  • 39 Young 2014: 88.
  • 40 Ivi: 145. Emphasis in the original.
  • 41 I would like to reiterate that artification is only one of many possible ways of manifesting the au (...)
  • 42 Naturally, I only refer here to a particular manifestation of artification. This phenomenon can tak (...)

41The fact that artified objects are created as a reaction to the existing street artworks is one of the methods of manifesting the authenticity of this art form. The creation of numerous visual and conceptual commentaries in a space inhabited by street art provides a particular community with an opportunity to showcase its creative output, but also to relate and rephrase the existing laws which govern a particular space. Every city, district or housing estate is different. They are all characterised by diverse dynamics, culture or history. Also, street art created in these spaces is different39. It makes references to dissimilar topics, uses distinctive resources, attracts a specific type of artists, etc. There are cities in which people react enthusiastically to this form of art, while in other locations it can be treated with indifference. Alison Young aptly points out: «Street art thus makes its own space, not as a partitioned, permitted, semi-tolerated activity, but as an emergent, autopoietic practice […]»40. Street art creates its own space, primarily because it is an invitation and justification for the creation of various art-like interventions by members of a particular community into the urban fabric. In other words, the more a particular artwork invites us to create artified objects, the more authentic it is41. If street art is a form of art which is based on the redefinition of our approach to the urban space, and the perception of complex and unobvious relationships which occur between art and public space, and between an author and the audience, then these functions appear to be ideally manifested within the phenomenon of artification. This phenomenon is built on aesthetic and artistic activation of members of a particular community which changes the perception and experiencing of the urban space42.

5.

42The purpose of this article was the identification and analysis of one of the potential methods of manifestation of the authenticity of street art. I tried to show that change in the surrounding space which is effected by street artworks could be accurately explained by the concept of artification, i.e., modification of non-art by art. Artified objects are objects which are suspended, so to say, between art and non-art objects. Artification in the context of street art takes place on the back of the existing artworks. From this we can assume that the authenticity of street art manifests itself not only in changes in the inherent attributes of the works themselves but also in changes wrought to their environment, which is not art in the strict sense of the word. The authenticity of street art manifests itself through changes to the methods of perception of the immediate vicinity of artworks. Put another way, street art claims authenticity from changes in the objects and changes in the space that surrounds them.

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Bibliografia

Andrzejewski, A.
– 2015, Framing artification, “Estetika: The Central European Journal of Aesthetics”, LII/VIII, 2: 131-151.

Bacharach, S.
– 2015,
Street art and consent, “British Journal of Aesthetics”, LV, 4: 481-495.

Baldini, A.
– 2016,
Street art: A reply to riggle, “Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism”, LXXIV, 2: 187-191.

Binkley, T.
– 1977,
Piece: Contra aesthetics, “Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism”, XXXV, 3: 265-277.

Davies, S.
– 2006,
Aesthetic judgements, artworks and functional beauty, “The Philosophical Quarterly”, LVI, 223: 224-241.

Dutton, D.
– 2010,
Authenticity in Art, in J. Levinson (ed), Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics, Oxford, Oxford University Press: 258-274.

Feagin, S.
– 1995,
Paintings and their places, “Australasian Journal of Philosophy”, LXXIII, 2: 260-268.

Goodman, N.
– 1968,
Languages of Art, Indianopolis, Bobbs-Merrill.

Know, M.
– 2002,
One Place After Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity, The Mit Press.

Lynch, M. P.
– 2004,
True to Life. Why Truth Matters, Cambridge (MA), The Mit Press.

Naukkarinen, O.
– 2012,
Variations in artification, “Contemporary Aesthetics”, special volume 4.

Naukkarinen, O. and Yuriko, S.
– 2012,
Introduction, “Contemporary Aesthetics”, special volume 4.

Riggle, N.A.
– 2010,
Street art: The transfiguration of the commonplace, “Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism”, LXVI, 3: 277-281.

– 2016, Using a street for art: A reply to Baldini, “Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism”, LXXIV, 2: 191-195.

Ruppert, E.S.
– 2006,
The Moral Economy of Cities: Shaping Good Citizens, Toronto, University of Toronto Press.

Shapiro, R. and Heinich, N.
– 2012,
When is artification?, “Contemporary Aesthetics”, special volume 4

Young, A.
– 2013,
Street Art, Public City: Law, Crime and the Urban Imagination, New York, Routledge.

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Note

1 Ruppert 2006.

2 Riggle 2010: 246. Emphasis in the original.

3 Ivi: 245.

4 Ivi: 255. Emphasis in the original. In his polemic with Andrea Baldini, Riggle clarifies that he referred to the social and cultural function of a street. Cf. Riggle 2016: 192. See also Baldini 2016.

5 Bacharach 2015: 486. Emphasis in the original.

6 Ivi: 487. See also Young 2013: 27-28.

7 Bacharach 2015: 486.

8 Ivi: 481.

9 Ivi: 489.

10 Ivi: 494.

11 She recalls here Banksus Militus Ratus and Early Man Goes to Market. Both works are Banksy’s “museum interventions”.

12 Ivi: 485.

13 Riggle 2016: 192. It must be noted that this definition of a street’s function, i.e. one which makes a reference to its social and cultural function, originates from the newest work by Riggle, to which Bacharach had no access (her article was published at the end of 2015).

14 Binkley 1977: 269-271.

15 Young 2013: 8. Emphasis in the original.

16 Dutton 2010: 259.

17 Goodman 1968.

18 Dutton 2010: 271.

19 Bacharach 2015: 487; Young 2013: 134-135.

20 Young 2013: 4.

21 Feagin 1995: 265.

22 Ibidem.

23 Ibidem.

24 Ivi: 266.

25 The relationship of the functions of artworks with the aesthetic judgement is discussed in Davies 2006.

26 It is worth noticing that this issue is similarly approached in relation to the authenticity of a human being. Cf. Lynch 2004: 124-127; Dutton 2010: 266.

27 Ivi: 26-27.

28 As will be shown in full in Section 4, the interaction I propose goes far beyond the activism referred to by Bacharach.

29 Naukkarinen and Saito 2012: § 1.

30 Cf. Shapiro and Heinich 2012.

31 See also Andrzejewski 2015.

32 I would like to point out that the distinction I propose is neutral in regard to particular art theories. This is because every art theory, at least to my knowledge, agrees with the fact that there exist certain objects (i.e. artworks) and practices related to them (i.e. methods of their creation or evaluation).

33 Ossi Naukkarinen claims that in order to be able to artify something we must first have a certain conception of art. In this case the artifying persons assume a conception of art which, as one of its tenets, proclaims the difference in perception (i.e. interpretation) of art and non-art objects. See Naukkarinen 2012: § 1.

34 It should be noted that this state of affairs may also apply to a hypothetical situation in which the artwork by Ash would be illegal.

35 Kwon 2002: 11-32.

36 Young 2014: 48-57.

37 At this point I would like to underline the fact that the changes to a space as defined by Bacharach are not strictly characteristic of street art. It should therefore be assessed if paintings or sculptures in an art gallery also change the space in which they are displayed through its aestheticization.

38 We can’t rule out some other process in play here that would change these objects into fully-fledged works of art.

39 Young 2014: 88.

40 Ivi: 145. Emphasis in the original.

41 I would like to reiterate that artification is only one of many possible ways of manifesting the authenticity of street art.

42 Naturally, I only refer here to a particular manifestation of artification. This phenomenon can take various forms. They all, however, as defined in Section 3, boil down to the modification of non-art by art.

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Indice delle illustrazioni

Titolo Figure 1. Astronaut by Victor Ash (2007).
Credits Source: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/​wiki/​Ash (artist)
URL http://estetica.revues.org/docannexe/image/2077/img-1.jpg
File image/jpeg, 508k
Titolo Figure 2. Astronaut by Victor Ash (2007). Photograph by the Author (2014).
URL http://estetica.revues.org/docannexe/image/2077/img-2.jpg
File image/jpeg, 1,1M
Titolo Figure 3. Photograph by Adam Andrzejewski (2014).
URL http://estetica.revues.org/docannexe/image/2077/img-3.jpg
File image/jpeg, 1,1M
Titolo Figure 4. Photograph by Adam Andrzejewski (2014).
URL http://estetica.revues.org/docannexe/image/2077/img-4.jpg
File image/jpeg, 644k
Titolo Mermaid by an unknown artist (2009). Photograph by Adam Andrzejewski (2013).
URL http://estetica.revues.org/docannexe/image/2077/img-5.jpg
File image/jpeg, 490k
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Per citare questo articolo

Notizia bibliografica

Adam Andrzejewski, « Authenticity Manifested: Street Art and Artification », Rivista di estetica, 64 | 2017, 167-184.

Notizia bibliografica digitale

Adam Andrzejewski, « Authenticity Manifested: Street Art and Artification », Rivista di estetica [Online], 64 | 2017, online dal 01 aprile 2017, consultato il 25 settembre 2017. URL : http://estetica.revues.org/2077 ; DOI : 10.4000/estetica.2077

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