Bridging the islands of consciousness: on street art’s potential to affect our perception of public space

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For the “Street Art, the City and the Public: Changing the Urban Vision” session at International Visual Sociology Association conference 2013, I discussed the unsanctioned nature of street art and the way it may influence our perception of public space.

Taking as a point of departure George Simmel’s well-known thoughts on the blasé urban resident, I see public space as being dominated by individual routine actions. Thus, in our daily lives, we tend to use the city in a largely unthinking manner, routinely moving from A to B (e.g. from home to work) with minimal interaction with other people and with little regard for the spaces we pass through on our way. The sites which we move between constitute what I call “islands of consciousness”, that is to say sites where we are more fully present mentally and socially. (It should be noted that with the increased use of technology such as smartphones and tablets, even the existence of sites where we are at once physically and mentally present can be brought into question).

In my presentation, I argued that street art, in virtue of its unsanctioned and ephemeral nature, has the potential to bridge these islands of consciousness and create a new awareness of the spaces that lie in between. Unlike sanctioned public art, the perceived unsanctioned nature of street art can potentially turn the everyday environment into a site of exploration. The knowledge that an encountered artistic expression is not supposed to be where we find it, and that it could be removed or replaced by something new at any moment, puts into focus the urgency of the here-and-now existence of the individual in a particular space.

Also, in virtue of their very existence, unsanctioned street artworks point to the possibility of interaction with – and also question the order of – public space. By triggering the imagination and instilling in the interested viewer a feeling of urgency, exploration and independent agency, street art’s unsanctioned nature may thus significantly influence both the interpretation of the actual artwork and our sense of public space. It could even be argued that the increased awareness and sense of agency constitute parts of the foundation on which a critical public is built.


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Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Konstvetenskap


StatusPublished - 2013
Peer review utfördNej
EvenemangIVSA 2013 Annual Conference: The Public Image - Goldsmiths, University of London, London , Storbritannien
Varaktighet: 2013 jul 82013 jul 10


KonferensIVSA 2013 Annual Conference

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Peter Bengtsen


Projekt: Avhandling

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