When street art is declared acceptable, it is because it should become part of the identity of a place, and Shoreditch is a good example of how street art went from independent production to urban brand in the space of 10-15 years. The next phase is for the brand to become completely devoid of content, and left only with a highly-regulated version of corporate hoarding art, until all surfaces that could have supported autonomous voices are gone, and replaced by the carefully coated shine of high-end developments.
When the tours of the future come to Shoreditch, they might be tours of urban memory, where guides invoke past works from the glass elevations of the most recent high rises, and participants use augmented reality apps to ‘see’ into the pluri-vocal past through the screens of their devices. Surfaces which are still there will bear symbolic traces of works that were painted over, or weathered away, and places will become iconic because of these desirable absences. However, when even the surfaces are gone, there will be little left to show or tell, except how the showing and telling itself played a part in the gradual disappearance of its object. Where will all the inscriptions be, and where will the preferential art and its supportive surfaces go? Art-washed, financially-fueled, tour-enabled condos will have gone up instead, the dystopic result of removing the very thing they had banked on. In fact, they were not banking on independent surface scribblers and the buzz of multiple surface occupations at all; but on their branded, regulated versions, which will contain nothing but the aura of a city that is long gone.