Trajtenberg, Graciela: Street Art as Political Participation

The political significance of street art has been at the epicenter of artistic and theoretical discourse for the last two decades (Biron 2009; Bishop 2012; Chaffee, 1993; Cronin and Robertson 2011; Deutsche 1998; Ryan, 2017).  At the same time, political researchers and theorists have been debating the virtues of civil society (Della Porta 2010; Kaldor et al. 2012; McCrone 2010) and the meanings of citizenship ( Beaman , 2016; Delanty, 2002; Vega & van Hensbroek, 2010) Both parties share a common interest –  advocacy for a social space that is free of state and economic constraints –  and have tried to adumbrate the conditions necessary for reducing these constraints for the sake of social change.

Street art has undergone an interesting path from political-artistic practice defined as illegal to its definition as (il)legal. After decades of denying unauthorized street art municipalities have started to embrace the practice. This dualism raised voices that maintain street art became mainstream  i.e. the artistic political practice was subject of cooptation. Although the socio-political effects of artistic practices are difficult to measure yet, an analysis of the logic of artistic action leads also to the conclusion that the “adoption” by authorities can be seen as the success of the artistic-political practice to reclaim public space. The case study illustrates the logic of action that bridged between the artistic and the political.    What is really perceptible is that the relationship between the different subfield of action (the illegal practice, the incursion of some artists to the institutionalized world of art and, the participation in outdoor municipal’s enterprises) not necessarily collide; our protagonists have developed a logic of action that makes the combination tenable.