Street art discoveries from Mexico, Canada and the US #artbits
Street Art is an interdisciplinary contemporary art form whose origins can be traced back to graffiti. It can be found on walls and surfaces all over the world and is a natural part of everyday life for millions of people. Street art makes an important contribution to social discourse through the mostly unauthorized use of public spaces as canvases for artistic, political and social discussions. Due to its largely non-commercial use and often anonymous or pseudonymous artists and the anarchic structure of the scene, it has a reputation of being one of the last truly independent, free art forms.
In this photo collection, colleagues from the Goethe Institutes in Montreal, Los Angeles, Mexico City, New York City, Toronto and Washington, D.C. took photos of street art in their respective cities. We have sorted our discoveries into thematic series. In the beginning, we started the blog with a series of our favourite pieces, followed by works by German artists in our cities. In the course of time, however, new ideas were added, which are presented here in loose succession. Apart from city specials and current topics, #artbits also contains relevant articles on artists that we found particularly interesting.
Participate by taking photos of street art in your hometown and sharing them under the hashtag #artbits.
The best art is on the street.
Shaping the Past
...from an Artbits perspective
The project Shaping the Pastof the Goethe-Institut is about ways of dealing with the past: What are the social effects when monuments and memorials are charged with history? Is it possible to reshape the current culture of remembrance with alternative and innovative approaches? But there are also modern monuments, as this year's Black Lives Matter fence in Washington, D.C. was able to impressively demonstrate: an ephemeral monument of the present. And the Artbits team found two more great examples of a shaped past, presented below.
Television - This parallel world, both hated and loved, has shaped the last century, bringing joy and sorrow, stupification and enlightenment, suspense and relaxation to the masses. It has turned ordinary people into larger-than-life heroes and shrunk important personalities into patsies. Very real history was reinterpreted and utopian futures were dreamed of. Their protagonists are better known than some world leaders and are part of public conversation like neighbors or colleagues.
The suspicion that the reality you serve up is not what it claims to be will grow.
Theodor W. Adorno
To them we dedicate our series about people you only know from television, although they are very real. One exception is Cleo from the Mexican film Roma, but she too is a reality. The others - Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Vance and John Oliver - are television versions of themselves, which makes their depiction in street art all the more appealing.
The old post office site in the Berlin district of Spandau has - at least temporarily - become a place of the arts. This was made possible by the fact that the site was given over to associations such as "Neuen Urbanen Welten" (New Urban Worlds), whose activities on the site were aimed at reviving Spandau's cultural scene and bringing together creative people of all kinds. The abandoned and derelict premises of the Alte Post were used, among other things, as a shooting location for music videos and as a venue for events, and the old parcel hall on the premises was rebaptized “Urban Art Hall”, a space dedicated to Street Art. Mostly local, but also international artists were to present themselves here legally and in a creative, exchange-oriented environment. And that's what some of Mexico's best street art artists have done, and this series showcases some of the best pieces. In October 2019, New Urban Worlds came to an end, with the creation of offices, condominiums and other commercial spaces. But the story contionues: The Neue Urbane Welten is already looking for new premises!
Street art is everywhere and speaks to everyone. It is full or void of color, loud or calm, gaudy or subtle and sometimes more queer than straight. Our new series Queer as Artsy Folk is about queer street art - by queer artists with attitude, mission and goal. Whether Homo Riot confronts the public with their homophobia or Hugo Gyrl sends the militantly encouraging You Go Girl through the continents - queer street art has many exciting facets. A few of them we show here.
The ubiquity of street art and the inexhaustible number of public walls, columns, telephone booths, subway trains, the fact that public space is exactly that – public – encourages (forces!) its use as a political medium. Street art as a means of protest, as an expression of dissatisfaction and demands for or against prevailing circumstances is as old as it is itself.
Not only since Banksy and other superstars in the political art scene has street art served a higher purpose. Our bloggers have devoted themselves to this phenomenon in this series - as always without the claim of completeness or representativeness. That would be impossible simply because of the large amount of great, relevant, exciting street art – and it wouldn't be fair either. That's why we've made a very personal selection to take a look at this world of political art – artivism in Los Angeles, Mexico, Montreal, New York, and Washington, D.C. – and to take a closer look at the world of political art.
Montreal from spring to autumn, that means festival season: for the past 5 years, solidly embedded between the Experimental Dance and Theater Festival Transamériques and the Montreal International Jazz Festival there is the international street art festival MURAL. Its visibility makes the festival one of the major events of the year - it takes place on the boulevard St-Laurent, the so-called "Main", one of the principle arteries of the city, the demarcation line between its eastern and western part and even without a festival one of the most dynamic streets of the metropolis. The organism MU ("Transformer Montréal en Musée à ciel ouvert" - Montreal becomes an open-air museum) also contributes to the city's diversity of exciting street art. In our Montreal city special, we present some of the works that have been produced over the last few years at the MURAL festival or with the support of MU.
Marie-Pierre Poulin has been the director of the library for the Goethe-Institut Montreal since 2011. She developed an interest for street art in 2014, and has been on the hunt for art on the streets ever since. Her other interests include foodism, languages, travel, and bunnies. Follow her on Instagram @aim_pe
Katherine Lorimer is a Brooklyn-based graffiti and street art enthusiast, photographer, curator, librarian, and author of (Un)Sanctioned: The Art on New York Streets. She's worked as the librarian at the Goethe-Institut New York since 2002. Since 2005, she has spent her free time exploring New York City in search of art in unexpected locations. A co-founder and regular contributor to The Street Spot blog, she is passionate about documenting urban artforms and supportive of all creative endeavors to redefine public space. Her photographs have been exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago and have appeared in leading street art books and magazines. She has presented her observations at the Brooklyn Museum and the New York Public Library, guest lectured for the History of Street Art & Graffiti course at Long Island University, and contributed commentary for the HBO documentary Banksy Does New York. Follow her on Instagram. @lunapark
Stefan Kloo, also known as Lord Jim, is an art-dork, book thief, and collector who figures that someone needs to keep an eye on things. He's been documenting street art for well over a decade now and can't shake the feeling that there might just be something to it.
Originally from Germany, Lord Jim lives with his wife and sons in Los Angeles where he also does the most damage.
His photos and musings on street art have been published in numerous books and articles. ( Most notably Stay Up - Los Angeles Street Art with author Jim Deichendt / Shepard Fairey Inc. by Jim Deichendt / Banksy - You are an acceptable level of threat by Carpet Bombing Culture, etc.) His sizable Street Art photo collections can be found on his Flickr pages. Lord Jim thinks that Banksy smells like soup.
Nesa has been director of the library at the Goethe-Institut Mexico since August 2017. Having just arrived in Mexico City, street art discovery tours have been a great opportunity to get to know the city from another side. She also likes to look at art in museums.
Mike Maguire is a Washington, DC photographer and writer. His photos have appeared in The Washington City Paper, The Baltimore Sun, USA Today, and Thrasher Magazine. A native of the DC area, he loves photographing the city's nightlife and street art. He cowrote the 2012 feature film Ultrasonic about a fictional DC rock musician and is the author of the sci-fi novel Three Days Breathing and the wordplay book Drawn Inward and Other Poems. Follow Mike on Instagram @mike.j.maguire or his webpage mmaguirephoto.com
Pete is an Assistant Professor of German Studies & History at Montana State University. Over the years, he has called Toronto, Montreal, and Minneapolis home. In addition to photography, he likes visual culture and the great outdoors. Follow him on Instagram or Twitter @p_schweppe.
She likes mangas and animes from the 80s and 90s and dark music and metal. Lucía is always exploring her hometown in Mexico in search of the unusual in ordinary places. She likes to take photos of everyday life in the city and finds them all the more interesting if street art is also present in the pictures.
NorCal-based Sophoan Sorn was born in a refugee camp on the border of Cambodia and Thailand in 1985. He is a curator and organizer of contemporary international film festivals, now in his 10th season as Director of the Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, an annual program of the Goethe-Institut San Francisco.
Through the years, he has worked as a portrait photographer, documentary filmmaker, and graphic designer. He watches hundreds of films each year and has attended major festivals such as the Berlinale, Cannes, and Sundance. He is also Director of the San Joaquin International Film Festival, which he founded in 2008. An avid traveler, he has been to 60 countries around the world.