Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

British Street Art is Quite British: A Picture Blog

September 19, 2010 · 3 Comments

British street art is British for many reasons. First of all, it is rather egalitarian. Anyone can go up to a wall, etc. and post something. Street art also provides a sense of camaraderie and bonding the Brits so desperately desire, demonstrated in the mass art movements (in this post, the space invaders (p.s. there’s one right outside of Arran!) and einsteins-on-bikes). Though one may say that street art is generally anonymous and therefore no one gets a real sense of friendship – well, that demonstrates their social dis-ease. A sense of camaraderie without social interaction? British social utopia. These mass movements also embody the idea of fair-play, as anyone with a couple tiles (for space invaders) and anyone who can call Fatheads (large adhesive poster company, for Einstein) can contribute to these city-wide projects.

Other ways in which British street art demonstrates the conclusion section of Kate Fox’s book (and the main indicators of British social interaction and sociological thinking) are the ideas of moderation, modesty, and courtesy:

Moderation – Yes, street art in the simplest sense violates moderation. However, compared to American street art, it is very much so. A lot of American street art is gang signs, or is much more graphic (in general) than say… little weird monsters, pacman characters, or a large prelican-y looking thing. Even the famous banksy highly disguises political messages by reducing potentially graphic scenes into less explicit ones (but, at the same time, makes them all the more powerful!): http://blog.collectables-now.com/2008/01/12/bank-on-banksy/

Modesty – most British street art remains anonymous. Though there are exceptions to every rule, much of the art is left unsigned. No one still knows who Banksy, arguably the most famous street artist of all time, actually is. Looking above – clearly the squirrel and bird/pelican are of the same artist, and require a bit of skill. Neither has a signature.

Courtesy – my favorite, and in my opinion the most distinctive, aspect of British street art. A large amount of British street art is on non-permanent structures, like construction panels (see above pictures), or is either sprayed on newspapers which are then posted on walls, or are somehow non-permanent (like the einsteins, or the old woman).

Well, British street art is two things: awesome, and really British. Let me know if you find any that you think is neat, and let me hear your thoughts on whether you think it is British.

Categories: 2010 ChristopherB
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3 responses so far ↓

  •   Young Dennis // Sep 19th 2010 at 19:30

    The wrinkled face bears a strong resemblance to the WH Auden mask from “The Habit of Art.” Loved the bit about “A sense of camaraderie without social interaction? British social utopia.” Kate Fox says a similar thing about the internet, saying it was practically invented for the British.

  •   bowmanc // Sep 19th 2010 at 19:34

    Sorry everyone for having a repeat of the squirrel. If i delete one, the other goes. Dennis – great point about the internet, I think she also talks about an affinity for texting as well for this same reason.

  •   lawronski8 // Sep 20th 2010 at 07:04

    Did you notice any “rules” of street art? That is, unspoken rules of conduct that are generally agreed to an not crossed. Are there any examples of street art that went to far and disregarded these rules? If so, what was the reaction to these works?

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