Paint, play, write... express yourself!
Recently I wrote about politicians behaving like stage artists... But the opposite is also quite true: art has indeed always been a magnificent vehicle of political engagement. Think of Dali with his painting about the Spanish civil war ; think of Emile Zola with his "J'accuse" article during the Dreyfus case ; think of Moliere, Voltaire and co. Artists use their skills to express intimate thoughts and feelings, and you are to admit that politics can easily tap in both categories, so no wonder that their art express their political consciousness...
The street is ours
In this article I wanted to focus on two contemporary street artists who share more than a graphic technique: Miss Tic in Paris and Banksy in London. Both can be qualified as engaged graffiti artists since both express their convictions through stencils on the walls of their own capitals (and beyond). Their artworks use a subtle blend of graphic design and wit to visualise some profound ideas: anti-capitalist, feminism, anti-war, anti-establishment or pro-freedom....
I find extremely interesting to see that on both sides of the Channel, two artists are having a similar subversive approach. In a world of consensus and political correctness, I like the fact that some people out there provoke reactions by pointing out the flaws of the system in a nice, witty, visual... way.
And it changes the way you approach a city. Since I came across the first Banksy stencils, I have been walking around London looking for the next one. They are always brilliantly located, taking full advantage of the surroundings. Alternatively, if you are not keen on walking around with your eyes staring at brick walls, you can always opt for a retrospective book... I can only recommend this volume which is not only inspiring and thought-provoking but also a nice coffee-table object.
Update 31/03/07: in order to maintain some sort or parity between France and the UK, I wanted to refer to an article that presents the French scene of street artists. It is to be read in Colour of Bohemia. Thanks Lisa for this insightful coverage.