Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Guide to Viewing Street Art in the White Cube: Space Invaders @ UQAM

Phibs, Derailed, 2003, stencil

I put off seeing Space Invaders at the University of Queensland Art Museum for a while, mostly because I knew what it was going to be and I didn’t think I was ready to see it, to me it was like stepping over some sort of finish line. Street Art in a major museum connotes a type of finality and I couldn’t help but think “what’s next?” Where do we go from here?”  My friends all saw it way before I did. “It’s cool” one of them said. “A bit too cool, if you know what I mean.”  I knew exactly what he meant.

It is beautiful, such a cliché way to describe it, but the high ceilings, the white walls, the polished timber floor, the way your footsteps echo when you walk through the museum, it’s romantic and I love that. But I couldn’t help and compare it to what it was not.  Sure it was nice not getting harassed by the junkies in Hosier Lane,  not having to strategically place a milk crate over the vomit that, bless its heart was in the perfect place to photograph the Reka piece.  But it just wasn't the same. Without those things, it was too clean, too pristine and it freaked me out to see Everfresh crew stickers inside a glass box. 

Meek, Begging for Change, 2004, Stencil

I was thinking of everything the museum had done wrong and seeing the stickers the installers had stuck on the wooden plinth, it struck me that now there was a middle man in Street Art. Then I realised it was not them, but me. They were doing what they had always done; finding an innovative, low brow art with the capacity to make money and turning it into high art within the museum walls. In fact if this was not the way the museum cannon worked none of us would have experienced art as we know it, and here I was hating them for it.

Really what did I expect? The very nature of Street Art is inherently commercial, paste-ups for example are predominantly reproduced over and over again. They are reproductions, material proof of Walter Benjamin’s theory of originality. The idea which was basically because these artworks are reproduced so many times we have no sense of the original, the aura of the work is lost. Who would be able to tell the difference between HA-HA’s first ever Ned Kelly paste-up and his fifty first? Maybe this is why it is so easy for advertisers to pick up on the Street Art aesthetic.  We see this everywhere, from tampon commercials, Toyota using paste-ups to envision the perfect urban environment for you to drive your Hybrid, to Fauxreel being commissioned to promote the new Vespa. So I guess now the question is, whether the establishment of Street Art into the Museum cannon will ultimately cause its death?

Fauxreel for Vespa via Adland.tv

DLUX! Dont be Scared it's only Street Art, 2003, Stencil

This of course is something that I cannot answer, I don’t know, maybe it will. There’s still the question of where to go from here and if we look back to the past once a low brow art was established within the museum the artists who were driving the movement moved on and took their art further, leaving the movement behind. Then on the other hand, is this a type of ‘fuck you’ to the establishment, by a genre that was so against the system making a statement on how easily if it wanted, could enter it?

The debate  around Street Art’s establishment within the museum will obviously continue, but for now I want to suggest a guide for viewing the Space Invaders exhibition. Recognise the works for what they are and where they are, recognise that this is not an in-situ exhibition and fundamentally recognise that these artists and their works want to be here. Don’t think your going to see a twin Miso guarding the doorway in a back alley in Melbourne, because you’re not.


Miso, paste-up, via theopeninghours

Space Invaders
University of Queensland Art Museum
Until June 5th

No comments:

Post a Comment