Is Street Art a Crime? An Attempt at Examining Street Art Using Criminology Zeynep Alpaslan
Department of Sociology, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Received February 1st, 2012; revised February 29th, 2012; accepted March 13th, 2012
A clear and basic definition is the fundamental element in understanding, thus explaining any social scientific concept. Street art is a social phenomenon, characterized by its illegal nature, which social scientists from several subjects have increasingly been examining, interpreting and discussing for the past 50 years. Even though the concept itself has been defined much more clearly over the years, its standing concerning whether it is a crime or form of art is still a borderline issue. This paper attempts to first try to define street art under a type of crime, then examine it using criminological perspective, with criminological and deviance theories in order to understand and explain it better using an example, the KÜF Project from Ankara Turkey. Keywords: Street Art; Definition; Criminology; Crime Theory; KÜF Project
Art, in the general sense, is the process and/or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses and/or emotions. Street Art is a form of subcultural activity that is defined as unsanctioned visual art developed and/or practiced in public spaces. This form of art has generally been seen as a post graffiti writing movement and is often characterized by its illegal nature (Hundertmark, 2003). Even though street art carries a much different meaning from its predecessor traditional graffiti artwork, it does include modern graffiti, art intervention, flash mobbing, guerrilla art, sculpture, stencil graffiti, sticker art, street poster art and wheatpasting, street installations and video projection. Typically, the term is used to distinguish contemporary public-space artwork from territorial graffiti, vandalism, and corporate art. John Fekner defines street art as “all art on the street that’s not graffiti” (Lewisohn, 2008). Street art is a powerful platform for reaching the public due to its visual advantages. Its philosophy includes a strong sense of activism and subversion. The universal theme in most, if not all, is “reclaiming the city” and adapting visual artwork into a format which utilizes public space, allowing its artist, who may otherwise feel disenfranchised, to reach a much broader audience than traditional artwork and/or galleries would allow. “For the street artists, the medium is all forms of public expression and the message is resistance to the uniformity of the city and all that it embodies. This idea of resistance to the city is not only resistance to the visual landscape of the urban environment, but also to the revision of what it stands for and who stands for it.” Justin ARMSTRONG (Armstrong, 2005) When the need for artistic expression and free speech created by oppression, regardless of why it is created, is not possible, individuals who wish to communicate their emotions and ideas seek alternative means of expression and street art acts as a readily available vehicle for those who chose to benefit from Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
what it has to offer. The street artists, who use the technologies of the modern time to claim space, communicate ideas, and express social and/or political views, have motivations and objectives as varied as the artists themselves. Yet there is a constantly looming threat of facing consequences for displaying their art. For this reason many of them choose to protect their identities and reputation by remaining anonymous. With the commercialization of street art, in most cases, even with legally exhibited art, the artists tend to choose anonymity.
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