The Splasher movement attacks the street art due to their effects that attract the gentrification. ‘The revolution eats its children’ they say.
“Street art gives the green light to investors, becomes that repugnant drug of tourism, and speeds the process of gentrification. By making the ghetto “beautiful”, the street artists neatly wipes her hands of any responsibility to examine underlaying social or economic oppressions at play and instead revels in her own mystified vanguardism.”
A very fitting example for such criticism can be the street artist-public authority collaboration in Istanbul, a city that is promoted as ‘the cool city’ of late years. The metropolitan municipality and local municipalities such as Kadıköy initiated ‘officially planned and motivated’ street arts in certain ‘popular’ sites in the city to cover/renovate the wornout urban fabric; giving street art or graffiti a definition reducing them to wallpapers; a form of art that uses the city as canvas. Although the Splasher attacks are not only limited to such an officialization of the street art, this might be considered as the sharp edge of where it arrives.
Tarlabaşı, a neigborhood in Istanbul that suffered a harsh urban transformation process along with the gentrification became a scene for several street art projects in the last months, just after the rough intervention (evictions and demolition of ancient heritage buildings) to carry out the project. ‘The street artists’ were fascinated by the ruins, assuming that they were ‘left’, although people that used to live in these ruins didn’t leave the place with a good grace.
‘Kamusal Sanat Laboratuvarı- Laboratory of Public Art’, a collective that takes the public art as a social issue protested one of the events, ‘Tarlabaşı Street Art Festival 2012-Renovation’ on 16th of September for the role of this kind of a street art in this gentrification and urban transformation process that made the neigborhood more attractive for the targeted clients. They visited the event with banners on which the figures related to this urban transformation such as the mayor, metropolitan mayor and the most prominent constructor that is continously involved in such processes celebrated this street art event for its contribution to the attraction of the site.
What Begüm Özden Fırat, a sociologist and activist, suggested in an article about these events gives a very smart clue for those who wants to intervene in this transformation in critical terms with street art: Do your graffities on the walls of the city hall or on the billboards that intend to hide the ruins and the tragic scene of the urban transformation from the eyes of the people !
“Hâlâ burada yaşayan ve dönüşümün ikinci etabında ikamet edenlerin ellerini güçlendirmek için, boşaltılan alanları yaratıcı direniş mevzilerine haline çevirmek bir alternatif. Şüphesiz bu tavır, yaratıcılık kadar, örgütlenme, emek ve stratejik bir perspektif gerektiriyor. Böylesi uzun erimli örgütlenmelere tahammülü olmayan, anlık müdahaleleri tercih eden sabırsız yaratıcı zekâlar ise, belediye binasını, GAP İnşaat’ın ofisini ya da bulvar boyunca tertemiz duran reklam panolarını tual olarak kullanmayı seçebilirler.”
“In order to strengthen the people that still live here during the second phase of the (urban) transformation, turning the evacuated places into the sites of creative resistance is an alternative. Beyond any doubt, this attitude requires organization, effort and a strategical perspective, as well as creativity. Those impatient and creative minds that cannot take such long-term organization processes and prefer immediate interventions might chose to use the city hall, the office of GAP Construction Inc. (the company that carries out the urban transformation project in Tarlabaşı) or the spotless billboards throughout the (Tarlabaşı) boulevard as their canvas.”
(To read the full article of Begüm Özden Fırat in turkish language: http://birdirbir.org/tarlabasinda-sanat-yikima-dek-gorulebilir/)
So could there be a way to perform street art that don’t mean to fall into such a collaboration with gentrification? May be taking the content-frame relationship in a more precise and smart way, rather than using the urban fabric just as a canvas that fits in some aesthetical touch?