Increasingly the street art world is going the way of the more established contemporary/fine/mainstream (delete as appropriate) world. We now have the arbiters of what constitutes ‘true’ street art (generally hiding behind the anonymity of social media) declaring authoritatively what can or cannot be done in the name of said street or urban art. For the first week of October I was working at MAUSA (Musée d’Art Urbain et de Street Art) in north east France after being offered a residency and exhibition. Because this is specifically a museum space that focuses on urban and street art I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to recreate one of the urban art interventions that I was the most proud of. So, I set about more fully creating the environment that I worked on for the Paris Tour 13 project seven years ago. I never considered that it would be something that I would have to defend or explain but I find myself inviting the ire of a small but vocal set of what can only be considered street art ‘purists’. Apparently, street art and by association the Tour 13 project were, and are, definitively and absolutely ephemeral and temporary; so their reproduction is a contemporary urban art heresy. I have broken the rules… I am the heretic.
Where to start with this eh? OK – here goes…
Firstly, I am recreating the work because I had more ideas for the original installation than I had time to execute. I also have more resources available from the commissioning museum and I am not having to self-fund the work as was the case with the original.
Secondly, we’re dealing with a museum installation – and museums, by definition, take objects or ideas from their original context as a resource of public record, engagement and discussion.
Thirdly, the street art world of graffiti and associated art/vandalism has mutated from its original notion of protest and anarchic self-expression into (at its extremes) just another vehicle for urban gentrification and fake anonymous art celebrities.
Finally, on a personal level, it was the first time that I was able to express my writing, my visual art and my graffiti history together. Previously each of these strands of my creative life had remained stubbornly independent – mainly due to commercial gallery reticence at handing over expensive wall space to work that could not be physically sold.
I’m in my fifties – don’t tell me what I can or cannot do artistically. I didn’t listen when I was a kid – what makes you think it’ll be any different now?