5C: Street Art: A Visual Voice for the People

When people are unhappy with their government, they voice their concerns by forming strikes, rallies and other similar forms of protest. Some even take their opinions to social media sites in order to inform and garner support. How do street artists protest? They take it to the streets, literally. By using everything in their creative arsenal: stickers, posters and spray paint to communicate their message – their approach is much more effective as they target areas of the city that receive the most foot traffic. When the work is established it’s seen by thousands as if it were the Bat-signal.

Due to its ability to illustrate messages without the use of words, street art has become the “visual voice” for the people. There are many forms of expression available to street artists, we’ll take a look at the most popular ones deployed in city streets.

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  • Street Art in the Political Spectrum

Street art’s messages are bold and direct. Due to the art’s autonomy, artists are free to express their opinions without fear. When a street artist from the Hong Kong district was asked what it was about street art that was much more appealing than regular and traditional forms of protest he replied with:

“I think it’s good that nowadays young people are quite concerned about their city, and they’re trying to protest in a more creative way, with posters and art, not just marching in the street. Street art is a way to get the message out. You can express yourself and your anti-government views on Facebook but street art is more direct,” said Ying. “The streets belong to the people.

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 Below you’ll find works that are geared towards the government.
  • Poster Art

Poster art is the most common form of street art that most street activists utilize. Posters are popular because they don’t cost a heck of a lot to make, add to the fact they’re ultra easy to apply on surfaces by method of a disgusting mxiture: wheatpaste (water, vegetable starch). If you go to places like New York City, you’ll find plenty of political posters on the street criticizing the government or even Barack Obama (as seen above). The subject matter in these posters vary, but they all share one thing: a strong, opinionated idea that criticizes society, and the government.

Some posters are very propagandistic in their approach. They want to change people’s ideas and notions, so that they conform to their point of view. Most of Shepard Fairey’s works (below) fit this mold.

Shepard Fairey’s “Guns & Roses” print is one of the most iconic political works of street art. Fairey who spearheads OBEY is known for appropriating propaganda from previous time periods and putting his own creative spin to them; effectively giving the works a brand new meaning. As seen from the image above, he adds flowers to the work completely changing the intended meaning from “being pro-war” to “anti-war”.

Left: Original - Right: Shepard Fairey's Version

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  • Stickers

Stickers like the one found below are another popular way of getting a message across (also known as sticker bombing). Stickers can be found scattered across city walls, poles, newsstands and other types of surfaces found throughout the city. These stickers may carry with them a political message, a comment on society/culture or tongue-in-cheek criticism. Stickers are effective because they’re cheap (compared to spray paint) and they also do less harm to the environment as they can be easily peeled off.

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  • Stencil Art

Stencil art has a very distinguished look in that is composed of only one main colour. Stencils are created by cutting out parts of an image leaving a few untouched so that when spray paint is applied, the achieved look should look like the image above. Banksy has perfected this form as most of his graffiti works are composed through intricate stencils. Stencil art is particularly useful for producing multiple copies of a work. It’s definitely less painstaking than traditional graffiti since the artist just has to cover all open areas of the stencil with spray paint to complete the work. Due to its method of production, works can be produced at a lightning fast rate which is great for artists who want their work to cover more ground.

As seen below, multiple copies of the slogan ‘STOP WARS’ were painted on a Subway station platform. If I were to wager, the whole process must have taken under ten seconds to complete.

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  • INQUIRING MINDS WOULD LIKE TO KNOW…

Which method or form of street art would you choose if you had to head a campaign? Perhaps you’re fed up with paying ridiculous tuition fees, or you’re unhappy with a political issue. How would you utilize street art and get the most out of it? Would you employ a propaganda approach to your art or would you be less controversial? Leave your answers under the comments section, I’d love to read them!

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