Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Graffiti and the Arab Spring

There was a great article in the Guardian last weekend, reporting on a talk given by Charles Tripp about the role of graffiti and other forms of political art in the recent revolutions in the Arab world:
Perhaps the most powerful form of art in the Middle East is graffiti. For Prof Tripp, its potency lies in its "reclamation of public space" and he argued that as well as creating a sense of solidarity, graffiti can powerfully represent the public's hold over territories: "The infrastructure is not enormous – as long as the spray can holds out". While the Israeli West Bank wall has long been a target for street artists, the open space of Tahrir Square has demanded further inventiveness. Children became billboards for scrawled messages, as did carefully arranged plastic cups. According to Tripp, this effected a psychological change – the square became a place of "everyday public, rather than an everyday police state".
The rest of the article is worth checking out: you can find it here. You can catch some of the talk on video here:

He notes in this talk that these forms of politicised public art are not new to the 'Arab Spring', and traces some of the longer histories of these kinds of interventions in different parts of the Arab world before 2011.

Meanwhile, here's some nice video of an art installation in Tunisian city La Goulette that accompanies the Guardian article: