Street art is about statements, discourse and communication. It’s not about intellectual property rights or economic entities. Actually, property rights are most often something you need to have a flexible attitude towards when doing street art. Trying to cling on to rights to your own street art thereby seems absurd.
It’s somewhat sad even having to have this discussion – reflecting how ordered and appropriated by capitalism our life world has become.
Still the discussion does have some interesting points. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon – the first self-proclaimed anarchist – stated, “property is theft”. Still for Proudhon, there was one legitimate source of property, namely labour. For him property is freedom, when referring to the product of an individual’s labour, the tools of ones trade and the income received by selling ones products. What one produces is one’s property, anything beyond that is not.
So Proudhon could be used in support of claims that property rights to land – and hence public areas and city walls – are illegitimate. However, he could also be taken in defence of the artist’s rights towards a work of art or other intellectual property.
Still the main point here is: what is street art? To me it is not a work of art in its own right, but a statement in a public context and on a specific public place. Street art on canvass is of cause another issue. Being no longer street-art, but gallery-art, ordinary property rights have to apply to it alongside the rest of the commercial art field. Street art proper is not a product but a contextual discourse. It is thereby not an object which it is meaningfully to describe in a capitalistic vocabulary as property, product or a prized item.
Property right aplied to street art is an oxymoron. Street art defies rights in property.