Graffiti: Urban Art as a Gentrifier, Calum Gill-Quirke


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Graffiti is a form of urban art that has allowed people for decades to express themselves, normally against political and social conformity. Art throughout history has been used predominantly as an expression of socio-political contexts, as highlighted in David Harvey’s popular book on Post-Modernism. The relationship between artistic movements amongst the bourgeoisie described in his book is the inspiration for this article, which will put it in a 21st century perspective. In an age of globalisation and gentrification, graffiti seemed to be the most relevant artistic movement. Graffiti is symbolic of rebellion from working class, ethnic minority and disadvantaged groups who are the main victims of the gentrifying processes of globalisation and cultural development. However, graffiti has gained more positive connotations as it is equally symbolic of uniqueness, culture and social expression which are becoming more evident in the recent ‘hipster’ trends. Graffiti is a “multi-vocal, visual urban discourse that alters the texture of street experience through inventive juxtaposition of mass-mediated and local imagery” (Kane, 2009). Therefore as a movement, it is contributing significantly to the cultural gentrification of formerly social class communities that is the cause of so much displacement.