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Graffiti in the city

Graffiti is present in nearly every city globally. Although it is often considered a form of vandalism, it can also be regarded as a form of urban art with a variety of benefits. For example, urban art in the alleyways of Melbourne promotes tourism, improves the quality of the environment, contributes to feelings of safety and creates neighbourhood pride and identity.

Graffiti can be seen as a platform of expression and communication in the city. Graffiti, as youthful rebellion, is a form of activism and urban commentary and is often a response to hostile urban environments or expression that has no other channels. Graffiti is frequently in use at times of conflict and can generate conversations around political and economic protest and decolonisation. For this reason it has deep and pertinent roots in the anti-apartheid history of the Gauteng City-Region (GCR).

Graffiti is temporary, whether through its active removal or erasure, the nature of the medium or the act of repainting. An archive of graffiti can therefore be invaluable in providing a record of these urban conversations and the investment of time and money.

This research project will map photos and locations of urban art in the GCR using a mobile application developed for the purpose. Initially this will be populated by commissioning urban artists to record urban art in certain areas with the aim of creating create a public application for use by residents of and visitors to the city-region. The app will be a model for participatory GIS applications and will also form an archive of graffiti as it changes over time. To develop the technology, GCRO is collaborating with Open Data Durban who will run a parallel project in Durban.

The map database will be combined with a GCRO occasional paper that will explore the various facets of graffiti and urban art including the historical dimension of protest art in the GCR; the way that urban art is being used to create neighbourhood identities in very different contexts; how ‘legitimate’ urban art spaces are being managed; and ultimately an understanding of the conversations being conducted through urban art in the GCR.

Last updated: 27 October 2017


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