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May 11, 2009 | by  | in Visual Arts | [ssba]

Street Art

When you’re walking to uni it’s often so easy to zone out, and in a city like Wellington this means you can potentially miss some true gems of public art, as street art like stencils and graffiti art is easily overlooked. But the thing that’s so exciting about this kind of public art is, unlike art that is bought by the council for the city (which can be as much about status and money as it is about appreciating art), street art is our art, the voice of the people—everyone can access it, everyone can change it and no one person has any more right to it than anyone else. Once it’s out there the artist can’t get annoyed if anyone changes it, and there’s no way to vandalise it because technically it is vandalism already. Take the graffiti alley between Ghuznee and Left Bank for instance. This little alley gets hurried past constantly and is probably the most dynamic and collaborative work of art in the city. Multiple collaborators are constantly adding to it, reworking and editing potentially infinitely.

The other factor that makes street art so egalitarian is that unlike some contemporary art, which can be hard to understand, street art shares simple, direct meanings, whether they be about political dissent or simply creativity, absurdity and pure aesthetics. In fact, I think it’s those works that are little nuggets of creative absurdity that are most important, like the lollypop stenciled on Glasgow St. They contribute so much to the aesthetic of Wellington. Granted, you could see this as part of the kitsch cliché of ‘quirkiness’ the city often seems to aspire to, but I think they really serve to raise collective creativity by acting as a counter to the pretence of rationality and order that can overshadow life. Little absurdities like these snap people out of their boxes and remind them life doesn’t have to be so serious. A lot of pressure to put on a lollypop, I know.

The beauty of the street art in this city is that even if you’re not the kind of person to stop into art galleries to have a browse, you can still have a truly awesome art experience—just slow down your walk a little bit. There’s a lesson about life in here too I think—so much enjoyment can be derived from life if only you stop to appreciate simple, minor absurdities, because let’s face it, times are getting tough and the world can be a shitty place. Sometimes the best you can hope to do is change your environment for the better, even if it’s only minor. This isn’t to say I’m encouraging readers to start scrawling on walls every time they take a piss, I’m just hoping the rad idea for a stencil you’ve been thinking of pops up sometime, and hopefully on my way to uni.


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  1. Madelaine says:

    My nugget of joy!

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