It seems as though we all know what urban means. It is an attribute that has infiltrated diverse discourses in the 20th century, and continues to do so in the 21st century. Here is the question – if we are all quite sure that this adjective describes a cultural space of modern city areas, are we then confident that this kind of approach to the subject is accurate? Because, urbanization is primarily determined by a large number of people. In this regard, it is the interaction of social and cultural elements which decisively establish the nature of the adjective urban. This is crucial – the presence of modernization, technological progress and a new social paradigm, combined with an immense number of groups and individuals, creates the essence of the urban. Sounds familiar?
After everything being said, it could be argued that it is in the core of urban art, from the point of emergence, the same thing that is in the multimedia virtual space of the on-line communities. The interaction with diverse individuals and a bigger public than, say, the work of fine art would have, is a stance that has made urban art what it is. Of course, the spirit of rebellion and an urge to create in public space can be equally important formative elements, but this is a story for another time. Let us consider this: How exactly have the proliferation of social platforms and methods of digitalization transformed urban art? It can be said immediately that it is not a question of some negative influence, as asserted in the previous paragraph, but that urban art and the process of digitalization share an important common ground. It is the transformation of the cultural space by the power of multimedial expression and, what is more, the intent to transform the notion of space itself.
We have asked ourselves about the change in the nature of urban art in terms of the unfolding of a hugely more significant role of virtual space. Certainly, this is the question of accessibility of urban art. Once available to a limited group of people, through the activity of galleries, collectors and other art enthusiasts, the digital cultural space made way for access to different marketplaces and, more importantly, created an opportunity for younger artists to find a place in the world, while earning money for their work, thus having a chance to continue working. As for the renowned artists, their work could find its place in the pantheon of artwork masterpieces, and rightly so. It could be said that it forged its place in the body of pop art. On the other hand, the activities of on-line collections, sharing the database of artwork with the world, have created a valuable cultural space for both professionals and enthusiasts. This can also be said for numerous portals dedicated to promoting, sharing, discussing and appreciating urban art. Websites devoted to urban art can provide a total experience, including the artwork itself, an analysis, as well as a preview of the creative process (behind the scenes look, or even documentation of the entire process of artistic creation). But, there is value to the digitalization of urban art which is not strictly commercial…
Urban art is not looking for its place in the virtual world. It has already found it. Artist Parker Ito said once that Pablo Picasso made 250,000 works in his life time, and that he (Ito) could manage this in 5 minutes. His intention was not to be simply humorous, but to verbalize the possibilities of urban art in the vastness of digital reality. Let us consider the impact of artists such as Banksy or INSA – the space of social media has made their message a part of a language of a generation. It is not the time when large number of people can only see a mesmerizing mural in a city centre, but they can also discuss the importance, the aesthetics and the value of this work. And do all of this with art historians, gallery directors, famous bloggers and even artists themselves. Urban art has transpired artwork in amazing shapes and forms since its presence in the digital space. This is the arena of urban art, and it has an abundance of possibilities.
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