What is the purpose of street art? It’s of cause a rhetorical question. The purpose – if any – is probably as diverse as the practitioners themselves. Anyhow the reason I’ve come to ponder this question, is due to having painted a few legal walls recently. And by painting legal walls I’ve made some compromises, either concerning site or temporality. As for site, a wall can be more or less public – that is to say exposed. If the wall is less exposed to the public, then who is the street art for? And when doing street art on a central location but only for a short time, as with the container mentioned in the previous posts, then what? Does this transform street art to a mere temporal art exhibition? And is this so differently from the rather ephemeral character of street art on ordinary walls?
I don’t think there are any clear-cut answers to these questions. Most likely there are different answers depending on one’s attitude towards street art, if you look at street art more as art, then this could be less disturbing than if you’re more on the activism side. For me at least I feel somewhat uneasy with a street art that is moving towards designated walls with less general exposure, or towards a temporal, exhibition-like character.
There are some obvious advantages with this transformation regarding the ability to spend longer time working on a piece which then looks better (also on the Internet), or one gains access to and exposure in otherwise hard-to-do places. But there are some vital losses as well: the surprise element for the viewer, the ability to freely choose a context to play with, the spontaneity and general attitude. There is a great temptation to fight of being provided with legal walls. The best remedy will probably be to keep making genuine street art in the (non-legal definition of) right places, while taking advantage of the new possibilities to try new modes of working.