The case of individuals who are not considered culturally German, but are German citizens, illustrates how “notions of belonging are often based on an inside/outside dichotomy.” Urban art has been one mechanism that these individuals attempt to break that dichotomy and bring issues facing immigrant communities to the forefront. Urban art, “increasingly being used as an instrument to collectively re-appropriate the urban space,” allows the issues and questions surrounding identity and culture to be posed to the public, literally out in the open. In Madrid, for example, “interventions in public spaces” serve to “sensitize for and resist against social exclusion.” Additionally, urban art serves as a forum for social commentary on issues like the inequalities associated with capitalism (“culture jamming”) (Youkhana 172-174).
I particularly liked the author’s description of urban art transforming a street into a “laboratory and a playground for creative acts,” as it addressed the core of what urban art stands for: an expression of emotion and opinion that may not be explicitly planned (Youkhana 174). Authentic urban art can arise spontaneously as individuals feel a calling or a need to put an issue out into the public, often anonymously. This notion of ‘authentic’ urban art that I just brought up was actually a question posed by Natalie earlier this quarter. She wondered what factors distinguished ‘true’ urban art from inauthentic versions. This article touches upon that matter with its discussion of how street art has been appropriated for tourism: public urban art is often commissioned to connect cities to things with positive connotations attached to them—vivid colors, beautiful murals, cleanliness. These commissioned urban art pieces, then, act as a façade—urban governments who utilize them are attempting to force a certain characterization upon their cities, one that may not be entirely true.
Within the realm of urban art, it appears that a tension exists between ‘original’ and ‘appropriated’ notions of street art. These tensions could be interpreted as a de-legitimization of urban art as expressions of ethnic discontent. Commissioned, city-sanctioned street art could be a deliberate counter against street art that exposes the ‘wrongs’ of society. In effect, commissioned street art potentially undermines the importance of spontaneous, authentic street art by its official nature, frustrating the efforts of minority groups for whom street art is one of limited options available to resist the status quo.