In his seminal text Coding-Decoding, cultural theorist Stuart Hall questioned the role of the public in perceiving media content. With a certain degree of simplification, the conclusions he had drawn concerned the active role of the public in the perceiving of messages. He had deduced three ideal-case scenarios in which the public either accepts the dominating concept of the message, opposes it completely, or accepts only a part through the process of critical reflection. If we would to transpire these cases to the pondering of the perception of street art, it could be argued that in either case the artwork has a significant impact on the subject which perceives it. After all, the arenas of existence for urban art today have become greater in numbers. It is not only the surface of the wall that is the vessel for graffiti art, but also virtual reality, video art, human body and endless iterations of social media platforms in the digital world. Today, a street art piece, especially if created by an emerging artist, must survive the machinery of public discussion, the cruelty of the market and, to a certain degree, the judgment of fellow artists and art professionals. Even if we consider the scenario of opposing the message as well as the appeal of an urban art piece, there is still the issue of interacting with it. This is reflected in the inherently postmodern nature of urban art – it is present in the world.
The notion of appeal as understood in modernity has been interpreted through a different kind of deliberation. Perhaps it can be argued that the appeal of urban art resides somewhere in the space bordered by Roland Barthes’ concepts of plaisir and jouissance. We seem to be told by our friends, society and the public what exactly constitutes the object of our affection. It is the socially regulated idea and a socially sanctioned enjoyment of an artwork, or any cultural text for that matter. However, there is the other side – it is the sense of inscribing oneself into the work of art. This is the aesthetics which incorporates the artist’s drive to convey his message, almost like the notion of romanticism - presenting the artist as the hero. This is the aesthetics which carries the possibility of inscribing one’s identity and ideology into the art. It is a moment when we become the girl who is throwing the brick or the girl holding the balloons. This is an aesthetics which feels so personal and intimate, yet it is composed of elements which are not “just our own”. This is where the beauty of urban art lies.
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