The Street Art & Graffiti Workshops
The Street Art and Graffiti Workshops were a public engagement project funded by the Public Engagement Unit at University College London.
These workshops were designed to provide a space for people to engage with graphic inscriptions on city walls, in order to develop their critical judgment and define their criteria for understanding these inscriptions.
Inscriptions are marks which vary from street art, tags and posters to stencils, objects and graffiti. Which ones have aesthetic worth and add value to a place, and which are perceived as unappealing and detrimental? By breaking down the inscriptions into various formal components, this exercise tried to answer these questions, as well as point to the reasons behind people’s varying preconceptions, experiences and perceptions.
The workshops took place in five different areas of London where street art and graffiti are frequent occurrences. Participants were given a briefing about each area before the start of the workshop, but the intention was to keep the initial contact with these places as unmediated as possible, in order not to influence perception and opinion by providing selective information of the type: “this is a well known artist” or “that is a wall where painting is legal”.
The locations were Leake Street, Blackall Street, Brick Lane car park, Toynbee Street and Hackney Wick.
Participants were asked to bring a digital camera for each of the workshops, and to take 20 photos of 20 different inscriptions or marks they could find in a limited area. They then had to complete the following questionnaire for each of the inscriptions, in order to establish connections between the formal features of inscriptions and their aesthetic appeal.
- Size (XS, S, M, L, XL)
- Colour (1-10 degree of variation and intensity)
- Does it contain letters or writing? (Y/N) If yes, can you read the writing (Y/N)? What does it say?
- Is it figurative (does it show a character, portrait, or any other recognisable figure/ object)? (Y/N) If yes, do you recognise the character/ thing (Y/N)? Who/ what is it?
- Is the inscription abstract (geometric, decorative, neither written nor figurative)? (Y/N)
- Does the inscription have a message? (Y/N) If yes, what is the message?
- Do you think the inscription is political? (Y/N) If yes, how?
- Do you think it was done with permission? (Y/N)
- Apply all suitable labels: tag, street art, graffiti, sticker, poster, paste-up, object, mural, stencil.
- Would you have noticed it just by passing by? (Y/N)
- Is it well placed? (Y/N) Why?
- Can you observe a connection to its immediate environment (to other inscriptions, or to the place where you saw it)? (1-10 degree of connectivity)
- Does the inscription add value to the surface, or is it detrimental to it? (+/-)
- Would you rather keep or remove it? (K/R)
- Rate the aesthetic appeal of the inscription (1-10)
The following people were involved in the workshops, sharing their street art expertise with participants and making for a very engaging experience:
Dave “NoLionsInEngland” Stuart has been exploring, photographing, writing about and critiquing street art in London for nearly 10 years. His photographs have appeared in notable exhibitions, many books and countless newspapers and online publications. He is founder and lead guide for Shoreditch Street Art Tours, and London’s first street art photography workshops.
Dr. Lee Bofkin is the co-founder of Global Street Art, the largest online street art photo archive in the World. Global Street Art also organises the Walls Project which has sourced permission for over 300 street art murals since 2012. He’s a snappy dresser too.
Joe Epstein is the London-born founder of LDNGraffiti, where he has been documenting London street art and graffiti for over 6 years. Joe has a unique insight into the diverse landscape the capital has to offer and the many artists working within it.
Oskar Walin is a young graffiti entrepreneur who has been deeply immersed within the south coast graffiti community for many years. Currently on the verge of bringing out his first graffiti zine, he is a passionate communicator about the sociological and cultural elements of the sub-culture, as well as the stylistic elements of this controversial art form.
The results of these workshops will be published here in due course.