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Call for Papers

Street Art. Iconoclastie et institutionnalisation

editors Silvia Viti and Cinzia Bianchi.

deadline: 24 June 2016

On the night of May 12, 2016 the street artist Blu, armed with a roller and some grey paint, set out to paint over all the works he had done in the city of Bologna. In this intent, the following day also, he was helped by activists from the social centres, his own collaborators and ordinary citizens united in an informal community that upheld his cause. Many others gathered either to celebrate this rite of destruction or to complain in disbelief, but in any case, to watch as it happened. Attention centred particularly on the large mural that dominated the XM24 (a squatted social center in the Bolognina district) which had previously been a focus when citizens mobilized to pro- tect it from new building projects that envisaged the destruction of the build- ing (July 2013).

The artist’s statement appeared in a post sent to the Wu Ming Foundation blog and explained that the event was a response to the exhibition Street Art - Banksy & Co.: Art in the Urban Form, produced by Fabio Roversi Monaco and Genus Bononiae with the support of the Carisbo foundation. The exhibition that opened on March 18, also displayed some works by Blu, including three that had been removed from the location where the artist had created them to protect them from destruction and to preserve them as objects of artistic and cultural heritage. It was immediately apparent that Blu’s gesture was political as well as artistic. Blu had already acted similarly in Berlin. On the night of 11 December 2014, facing the relentless gentrifica- tion of the city, Blu had erased two of his most famous works, “Brothers” and “Chain” that occupied two huge walls on Cuvrystraße since 2008 and had become symbols of the Kreutzberg district that were recognized by residents and tourists as well.

Street art is a form of discourse in the urban space; a form of clandestine art, that is both ephemeral and illegal. The life cycle of such art obeys the rules of the street and is subject to the weather, the city’s cleaning policies, and to anyone who may choose to paint over or remove a work. This is not the first time street art has radically come at odds with the processes of in- stitutionalization and preservation of works by institutions. Yet Blu’s gesture has created an unprecedented uproar and sparked an international debate not only about the artistic but also the social value of street art, questioning its relationship to the space where it is created, and to the communities it affects. The event has divided the public opinion into two camps; even the community of street artists has been split in its reaction to the gesture, , to the extent that some have harshly criticized Blu for wrongly “re-appropriating” works that had been given to the community. A counter- exhibition was organized by the Associazione Serendippo, and running at the same time, would appear closely related to this theme.

Social sciences showed a great interest for the Street art and graffiti- writing since the phenomenon first appeared, triggering analysis and consid- erations from philosophers, anthropologists and sociologists. As early as 1973, Jean Baudrillard’s interpretation recognized the outbreak of an insur- rection of signs (“Kool Killer ou l'insurrection par les signes”), while the re- flections of Michel De Certeau and his research team in L'invention du quo- tidien. Arts de faire (1980) focused on the socio-political dimension of a phenomenon previously considered as an individualistic and egocentric ac- tion. In Italy, reflection on street art began in the ‘80s when the Bologna Uni- versity School of DAMS -Drama, Art and Music Studies became a reference point for the study and criticism of the phenomenon, in the wake of Frances- ca Alinovi’s research, that led to the organization of the exhibition Border Art. New York Graffiti in 1984, that brought a rich collective of New York artists and graffiti writers to Italy for the first time.

In recent years, the Italian semiotics has approached street art from a re- flection on the urban space and the resemantization practices that run through it. Some examples are issue 8 of Carte Semiotiche (2005) devoted to “The semiotics of space” edited by Paolo Bertetti, the volume Senso e metropoli. Per una semiotica post urbana edited by Gianfranco Marrone and Isabella Pezzini (2006), the collection Palermo. Ipotesi di semiotica ur- bana published in 2010 and the special issue of the journal Lexia, Writing the city. Graffitismo, immaginario urbano e street art (No. 12, 2013) edited by Roberto Mastroianni. In 2015, Marcello Faletra’s book Graffiti. Poetiche della rivolta came out, in which the author commented on Blu’s gesture call- ing it “one of the most meaningful images of the disappearance of contempo- rary art” that symbolically opposed the fetishism of the image.
Blu’s recent activity of destruction has once again focused international attention on Bologna by opening considerations on street art beyond aca- demia; the topic has indeed become of public interest, directly involving citi- zens, institutions and movements operating in the area.

Against this backdrop, Ocula has chosen to dedicate a special issue to street art to examine it further in what we consider a crucial moment in its evolution. The call for papers is open to different disciplinary contributions (philosophy, art history, sociology, anthropology) that can dialogue with se- miotics. The aim is to collect in this issue a series of contributions and semi- otic analyses on the process of musealization, transmission and preservation of street art as a practice of resemantization of space that is destined to be born, live, and (in many cases, though not always) to die, in the street. It is therefore necessary to investigate the phenomenon and its many contradictions: lawlessness and institutional recognition, anonymity and authorship, ephemerality and preservation, and finally to address the question: who owns street art? What does its future hold in store?

This theme could be developed in a variety of ways. We are proposing the four sections below:

1. Forms of contemporary iconoclasm.
The discussion of iconoclasm proposes to start from Blu’s cancellation of its own works to then reflect on a practice that has always accompanied street art. Street art, in fact, is not a creation of discourse ab nihilo, but is frequently the affirmation of an alternative discourse that comes from the remediation of a pre-existing text. Such is the case of guerrilla art advertising and interventions on billboards. Here, street art develops an alternative dis- course through the remediation of an earlier message. Is it right to speak of a form of contemporary iconoclasm? What phenomena and practices can en- rich this reflection?

2. On and offline. Street art and the role of the media.
This section reflects on the role of the media (mass media but also trans- portation) as a vehicle for the diffusion and the remediation of street art. In this framework, it is necessary to investigate the relationship of street art to new media, in particular social networks; today, street art begins on the street and continues on the net. How can semiotics account for this contami- nation between production and use, as made possible by the web? Which method should be implemented to observe and analyse interactions within the web community and forum? What relationship develops between street art and the phenomenon of online mapping?

3. Urban crossings and the poetics of the ephemeral. Recon- structing the text.
This section investigates the fundamental relationship between street art and the urban space, in a physical interaction that totally involves the artist's body as in the performing arts (e.g. Parkour, skating, free running). How can we rebuild such an ephemeral and transitory text? What semiotics should we adopt for the analysis of practices that move across space?

4. The musealization of street art. One of the central issues of the exhibition organized by Genius Bononiae was preservation. An analysis of the different approaches to exhibitions will reflect on the theme of musealization: legalized walls, open-air galleries, online galleries and the many other formats spread around the world. What contradictions are present in the idea of preserving and maintaining some- thing that was originally considered illegal? How can the relationship be- tween the work and the urban space be recovered once the work is trans- ferred to a museum? What happens when there are guided tours through a city to explore street art as though it were an outdoor exhibition? What me- dium is most suitable for documenting street art?


Submission of the essays: September 15 2016 Notification of acceptance, rejection or revision request: December 30, 2016 Scheduled Publication: March 15, 2017 Accepted languages: Italian, English, French Abstracts and articles must be sent to: redazione@ocula.it and in cc: Silvia Viti: at.silviaviti@gmail.com Cinzia Bianchi: cinzia.bianchi@unimore.it
We thank you for your kind attention


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