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Paul Mellon Centre | Street Art: An Image of the People?

June 9, 2021 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

At a time of resurgent populism, the issue of how and if “the people” can be represented has become an urgent one. While at various points in history, the people seemed to congeal into firm visual appearance in painting, prints, posters, photography and film, their current visual form often seems wavering and uncertain. One place to look for them is street art, which often claims to speak on behalf of “the people,” and to embody values that are (or at least have been) demotic and anti-elitist. In recent actively insurgent situations, the people do seem to step forward into a coherent visibility, and a result street art becomes actively dangerous, and authorities ban it and punish its artists; in the neoliberal street, by contrast, the situation is more paradoxical, as artists oscillate between populist sentiment (which encompasses class antagonism) and individualist self-advertisement. Using the concepts of entropy and Sianne Ngai’s zany, these tensions will be explored, to ask if the people can only appear reactively, and only summon the mere spectre of the collective.