Friday, December 21, 2012

Political Graffiti: Truth on Arab Walls

Nancy Demerdash, "Concuming Revolution: Ethics, Art, and Ambivalence in the Arab Spring, New Middle Eastern Studies, December 3, 2012.

Artists across the region are also taking their craft to the street, the very locus of resistance. Of course, there is a long and sustained tradition of graffiti and mural arts in the Middle East, mainly in Palestine and the Occupied Territories.[16] But since the revolutions, these public art forms have exploded in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and to a far lesser degree in Syria.[17] Recognizing the Lefebvreian social and political production of urban space and its constant reconfigurations,[18] artists identify with the urban marginals who continually negotiate their integration with and contestations to the disintegrating systems of state and bureaucratic power.[19] Meaning, for these urban artists and everyday locals alike, is constituted from lived experiences within the spaces of revolution. Street artists have come to inscribe on public walls past memories and memorials to those struggles and lives lost in the revolutions. But for the general public, the spaces on these walls have acquired profound collective and personal meaning.  Murals and graffiti panels embody concrete memories for passersby and neighborhood locals; people gather around the walls, engaging in discussions of what should be represented and how a particular piece moves them or invokes a certain memory.[20] These art forms have transformed public spaces and streets into what Asef Bayat terms the “political street,” signifying “the collective sensibilities, shared feelings, and public judgment of ordinary people in their day-to-day utterances and practices… The Arab Street… should be seen in terms of such expression of collective sentiments in the Arab public sphere.”[21]
Check out the images. They're superb. H/t Alexander Key.

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