The Greek street artist Bleeps painted the above piece in response to a recent street art festival in Athens. Essentially, a mural festival was held ostensibly to spark discussion about the economic crisis in Greece and “on the controversial issue of the value of street art in a period of crisis.” Oddly it would then seem, the festival featured no Greek artists. This raises the issue of street artists being flown around the world to paint murals in communities to which they have no connection to in order to aid the existing power structures there. Bleeps says:
[In] the field of street art which has become a main “attraction” for the last decade, we have been experiencing the proliferation by corporate logic and the state in an “antagonistic” policy, while independent voices are either kept in silence, or subjugated.
Most recently the Αthens School of Fine Arts (state University) in collaboration with municipality of Nikea and private galleries organized a “crisis” street art festival entitled “CRISIS?WHAT CRISIS?”, from which Greek artivists were of course excluded. The organizers invited 20 European artists to create works for the festival. The formal argument of the Αthens School of Fine Arts to exclude local artists was that graffiti and street art in Athens are mostly anonymous and of dubious artistic value. The attempt to commodify art in the public sphere and the “politicized” orientated one, is more than obvious.
In addition to that a festival’s spokesman stated that the goal of the imported artists is to start a discourse with the local ones. Of course no discourse can occur on the basis of exclusion.
There are some amazing street art festivals around the world, but there’s something to be said for the argument that festivals and murals are antithetical to street art and graffiti. I imagine there is more to the story here than just Bleeps’ critique (although I can’t find much about the festival online), but I think Bleeps makes a valid point. Maybe next year Bleeps will be invited to take part in the festival, but I hope he declines the invitation. After all, capitalism is absolutely brilliant at co-opting it’s critics. As @JonHanna recently tweeted, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then they make you a brand, then they win.”
Photo by Bleeps