The spatiality of architecture «works» through how it forms, and informs, our pattern of movement – our pace, gaze and pose. Nevertheless, architecture does not primarily work as objects on the body. More often it works by communication. Through its symbols and codes we are made to react in specific ways. However material and concrete buildings are, they have to communicate their meaning and function in order to serve its purpose.
This opens the field of different meanings. When meanings and functions are mediated by symbols, differences in meaning will occur. Symbols are interpreted based on knowledge, personal experience, and filtered through aspects like age, class, ideology, status and interests.
Street art may interfere with the interpretation of architecture and public space. Brutalism may be added wit or beauty, architecture of dominance may be rendered more human, the non-referentiality in modernistic architecture can be re-encoded, etc. A building is physically built, but its significance is socially constructed. Street art may thus play an active part in the social construction of public space.
Some perspectives are dominant amongst planners, architects and politicians, and thus govern the development of the city. As humans we still react differently to the same environment. A redevelopment scheme may have as a purpose to promote hygiene, integration, democracy, etc. in an area – hoping to instil these same values in the populace through their surroundings. However noble purpose, the result can be interpreted as opposed to values of the locals linked to identity, history, openness, inclusion, creativity and self-determination.
Street art may be a response stirred by differing perspectives or life worlds, as a way to redefine the sense of space. Experiences we cannot handle directly, we understand and express through symbols. This constitutes a common basis for creativity applicable to both science and art. That is to say, we handle complexity through symbols, and by symbolical creativity, human reality grows more complex.
If there is a need to define street art, I believe one should focus on street art’s role in altering experiences of public space, and hence its role in constructing our cityscapes. This way street art is sees as closer to architecture than to the ordinary art scene. Focusing on these aspects makes it easier to dismiss the politically motivated label of ”vandalism”. Street art is a response to the built environment as well as a re-enactment of it, but it is not an act of destruction.
…I guess all this just is a pretentious way of saying that street art is the weapon of the weak for making the city a thriving and inclusive place…