Dr Andy Zieleniec, lecturer in Sociology and Media Communication and Culture, has been awarded a £5000 Keele Santander Research Scholarship for his project on the Paradox and Playfulness in Spanish Urban Street Art.
The Santander grant will allow Andy to focus on the particular and specific experience of graffiti in some selected Spanish cities. Spain has a long history of wall art in the form of political murals and sloganising dating back to the Civil War and this has been carried through to the present day.
Graffiti, ‘writing on walls’ is as old as the architecture and buildings it appears on. There is a long history of people leaving signs of their passing in all ancient cultures, from the Pyramids, Hadrian’s Wall, the Parthenon and Constantinople.
However, from the 1960s and 1970s graffiti has been associated with urban youth culture and the politics of new social movements.
The influence of graffiti writers in Philadelphia and New York in creating new styles, using new techniques and materials and also of colonising more and more spaces in the city has become a global phenomenon. Graffiti in its many forms is now commonplace in cities across the world. It decorates or defaces, depending on your point of view walls across the world.
Alternatively graffiti is an art form that is exhibited in art galleries and bought and sold for large sums of money in auction houses around the world.
The aim of the research is to apply theoretical perspectives on the production of urban space (Simmel, Lefebvre, Harvey etc.) to analyse how graffiti can be understood as acts of intervention and active engagement in the cityscape that resists the dominant discourses and approaches of planning and urban design by (mis)using and appropriating space.
That is, graffiti is an everyday practice and subcultural that changes the way we see, read and experience the city.
How we think about who has the power to design, plan, build and regulate the city impacts on who can use or shape everyday environments with their own input and use.
This ‘reading of the city’ through the signs and symbols written and painted on its building and streets reflects claims and demands for a more inclusive understanding of urban experience that prioritises a more democratic and inclusive ‘right to the city’, and one that emphasis an aesthetics of play, fun, humour, etc. instead of merely acts of anti-social vandalism.