Getting Up or Selling Out? Contemporary Street Art as Public Communication and Artistic Practice

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Scholarly level: 
Undergraduate student
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The past thirty years have seen the increasing ubiquity of a multitude of forms of urban inscription in our cities. While significant academic work has been committed to exploring graffiti in a number of ways, less attention has been paid toward the emergence of the specific practice of "street art". Focusing on the prolific UK based street artist Banksy, this paper presents a case study and discourse analysis ofBanksy's book Wall and Piece in order to explore the intersections ofart, politics, and commerce, and how they come to be configured through this emerging form of urban inscription. Principally drawing from Michel de Certeau's conceptualization around tactics, Pierre Lefebvre's idea of appropriation, and Howard Becker's characterization of the maverick artist, I suggest that the apparent contradictions between the antiestablishment themes in Banksy's work and the trajectory of his own commercially and critically successful career gesture towards a negotiated flexibility that is inherent in this emerging form ofurban artistic expression that meaningfully differentiates street art from other forms of graffiti. 

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
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School of Communication