AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

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AFB x JAAC DISCUSSIONS: CHACKAL ON STREET ART

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“Tara”, Fauxreel (via unurth)

Welcome to the second AFB x JAAC Discussion!

Today, we will be discussing a paper by Tony Chackal (University of Georgia) called “Of Materiality and Meaning: The Illegality Condition in Street Art” from JAAC’s Fall 2016 volume, 74 (4). It’s available online here and in the print version, which members should have received recently.

And big thanks to Christiane Merritt (Washington University in St. Louis) for providing the critical précis. Chackal’s response follows that, and they will both be available to discuss your questions and thoughts in the comments thread! Check it all out below the fold.

borf

“peek-a-borf” by jason coile (via Flickr) [image of highway sign street art by Borf]

Critical Précis by Christiane Merritt:

Tony Chackal makes an important contribution to the burgeoning philosophical literature on street art. He gives an account of how illegality and illicitness come into play when we consider whether a work counts as street art and when we evaluate its aesthetic content and value. While previous accounts of street art have made mention of illegality, Chackal provides a thorough and nuanced discussion of exactly how and why a street artwork’s illegal status matters. He also ably demonstrates why the street — both the physical street and the more abstract space he calls the sociocultural street — is crucial to street art’s meaning. This might seem like an obvious point; it’s called street art, after all. But it turns out not to be so simple, and Chackal offers a sophisticated analysis of how the street figures into the production and appreciation of artworks.

I find myself in agreement with many of Chackal’s conclusions, but ultimately I wonder if illicitness is more central to street art than illegality. I will return to this point after giving a summary of the article.

Chackal notes that he largely agrees with the definition of street art that Riggle (2010) offers. But Chackal disagrees with Riggle on two points, arguing that street art must be in the street and that illegality is a prototypical feature of street art. Further, illegality explains the conditions of intentionality, ephemerality, and anonymity.

Chackal argues that street artworks must be in the street, where “the street” might mean either a material space or a sociocultural space (or both; they often overlap). He further argues, contra Riggle (2010), that being “in and of the street” is a necessary condition for a work to count as a work of street art. A work’s being in the street (public space) means it makes use of the street’s material resources. This is the materiality requirement. A work’s being of the street (a physical and/or sociocultural space) means its use of the street is partially constitutive of its meaning. This is the immateriality requirement.

Chackal presses the importance of a work’s being actually in physical space. For example, he argues that works like Invader’s map books of the locations he has tagged do not count as street art, since they are not in the street (although they have some relationship with the street) and are not committed to conditions like ephemerality. The materiality condition is important because it guarantees the distinctiveness of street art as an art form. Compare mainstream art and public art. Both might appear to be street art in that they might share certain formal features with works of street art. A work of mainstream art, appearing in a gallery, might use a lettering style associated with graffiti. But it fails to be street art; among other things, it is neither illegal nor ephemeral. Similarly, a public artwork might look for all the world like street art, but it fails to meet the immateriality requirement and the ephemerality commitment.

 

Chackal then introduces illegality as an historically significant aspect of street art. He does not consider illegality a necessary condition for a work to count as a work of street art. Rather, illegality is a prototypical and paradigmatic feature of street art (compare Riggle 2010, who considers it typical). Illegality can be a matter of degree; even where art is de jure illegal, it may be de facto legal and therefore less risky (perhaps the local residents welcome it and the authorities are not interested in prosecuting). Illicitness, which involves the violation of dominant customs or norms, is also a paradigmatic feature of street art and, like illegality, runs the gamut.

Chackal argues that illegality is “the historical and artistic norm of street art — it is the paradigmatic form of making street artworks” (363). It is typically co-constituted with illicitness and it is what makes street artworks authentic. Asking for permission is the exception, not the norm, and sanctioned works that appropriate the markers of street art are typically considered inauthentic.

Chackal further argues that illegality is what explains the intentionality, ephemerality, and anonymity of street art. Illegality means that artists must intentionally choose where and how to break laws in order to place their works. Illegality also explains why ephemerality is a characteristic feature of street art. Artists may expect authorities to remove their artworks if placed illegally; they may also realize that passersby or other artists could (illegally) alter or destroy the work. If the work is sanctioned and the artist is committed to ephemerality, the artist recognizes that someone else may illegally alter or destroy the work. Anonymity can also be accounted for by the illegality of street art; artists obscure their true identities in an effort to avoid detection by the authorities.

Illegality also enables some distinctive features of street art, namely risk, danger, and audacity. Sanctioned street art simply does not carry the same risks as illegal street art, where one can be fined or even jailed. Likewise, the production of street art often entails danger: climbing billboards, dodging oncoming subway trains, etc. Sanction typically removes this kind of danger by allowing artists to work in safe conditions with appropriate assistance. Finally, audacity typically involves illegality or illicitness, which lend boldness to a work. For example, an artist might spray paint a message that violates community norms (illicitness) in a highly exposed public area that is monitored by police or CCTV (illegality). However, not all highly risky works are audacious, and vice versa. Audacity is a matter of cultural boldness.

One might wonder whether, on Chackal’s account, we know illegality when we see it (epistemic transparency). Moreover, do we need epistemic transparency in order to appreciate what illegality contributes to an artwork? First, many examples of street art have features that make their illegality (and therefore their risk, danger, or audacity) quite clear. Aesthetic appreciation then follows from perception of the work’s non-aesthetic features. Otherwise, there are three options: presume illegality; presume sanction; or suspend judgment. The norm is to presume illegality, both because of the history of street art as a form and because the public is aware that it is illegal to mark most public spaces and private property without permission.

Examples like Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s Stop Telling Women to Smile series, which comprises illegal and sanctioned works that are visually very similar, pose an interesting problem for epistemic transparency and the question of illegality. Even though one might presume illegality for one of the sanctioned works, upon learning that it is legal, one might revise aesthetic judgment. Chackal acknowledges, though, that Fazlalizadeh’s sanctioned work is prima facie illicit in virtue of its larger-than-life-size depictions of women asserting their right to public space. Where illegal, the illicit nature of the work follows from its form and not just its content: the artist embraced risk, danger, and audacity. So these three features can be nonaesthetic as well as aesthetic. Moreover, in such cases, the aesthetic features supervene on the nonaesthetic (e.g., the aesthetic property of riskiness supervenes on the non-aesthetic property of the riskiness of the artist’s actions).

poster_boy

“Not Coming Home”, Poster Boy (via Flickr)

Chackal’s argument is thorough and convincing. I do have some questions around the issues of sanction and illicitness. As far as Fazlalizadeh’s sanctioned pieces:yes, they are part of a larger series. But each also has a presence in a specific public site. I think there are two senses of ‘licit’ at play here (which Chackal hints at) and they rest on two senses of ‘the public.’ In one sense, the street artwork’s public is anyone who can, at least in principle, happen upon the artwork (in its site-specific location). In another sense, the street artwork’s public is its intended audience. These are usually the same, but it’s interesting to think about cases where the two publics come apart. In one sense, the public for Stop Telling Women to Smile is anyone who happens to walk by one of the posters. In another sense, the public is actual or potential street harassers. The work is illicit in one sense if it was placed illegally; it is illicit in another sense if it challenges the norms that enable street harassment. Chackal acknowledges all this, but it’s hard for me to see what distinctive aesthetic illicitness is added in this case by any of the pieces’ being illegal. So, I’d like to hear more about what, aesthetically, illegality adds.

This brings me to my larger point: perhaps it’s illicitness rather than illegality that is more basic to, or paradigmatic of, street art. For Chackal, illegality and illicitness often go hand in hand, but illegality seems to be the more basic concept in his account. But consider a piece that went up in Bushwick in 2015, “Moonshine Kingdom” (see here). Three 15-foot-tall crocheted figures — a scout and twins in blue dresses — hold hands in a mash-up of characters from Moonrise Kingdom and The Shining. This work was placed without the permission of the building’s owner but, I would argue, derives no aesthetic illicitness from that illegal placement. The work strikes me as not at all paradigmatic of street art for the very reason that its content is in no way challenging to dominant social norms. Bushwick has rapidly gentrified, and “Moonshine Kingdom” became a kind of symbol of how the influx of wealthy white residents has displaced and marginalized the neighborhood’s longtime black residents. It does appear as if the artist did not realize that the building’s owner had not granted permission for her piece, but the point is that the work would have been more like other obviously paradigmatic pieces of street art had it had some kind of illicit content. What would illegal placement allow us to appreciate aesthetically here? Again, I would like to hear more about the supervenience relation between (non-aesthetic) illegality and (aesthetic) illicitness, because it seems as if illicitness is doing the heavy lifting. I also think that privileging illicitness would allow us to include paradigmatic instances of non-U.S. street art, like murals in Northern Ireland painted on the sides of residences, but I’ll end here for now. I look forward to further discussion of this interesting and important article in the comments!

References

Riggle, N. A. (2010). Street art: The transfiguration of the commonplaces. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 68(3), 243-257.

Voon, C. (2015, September 23). “Artist Will Remove Bushwick Crochet Mural that Sparked Community Protest.” Hyperallergic. Retrieved from http://hyperallergic.com.


Il cattivo esempio

A post shared by Clet A (@cletabraham) on

 

And here is Chackal’s response:

I appreciate Merritt’s critique. As I see it, she is raising two central questions.

1. What is the relationship between illegality and illicitness?
2. Which is primarily paradigmatic in street art?

1) As Merritt acknowledges, I argue that illegality and illicitness are often mutually constituted, entwined, and inextricable. A certain amount of illicitness is gained from illegality just because it is open defiance of external laws. But some kinds of illicitness, such as where a piece goes or what it depicts, could only be achieved through illegality, because certain works would never be sanctioned. Illegality can add a number of things aesthetically — it enables pieces to occur in whichever sites are chosen, despite not having permission. This means that works gain materiality and meaning that they might not have if they were illegal and permission was not granted. This is the case across all billboard and sign alteration. So, the illicitness that comes in the material subverting of advertising— a major theme in street art— could not arise unless done illegally. The illicitness of illegality comes first in the form of the work. As such, it is a non-aesthetic feature of the production process. If the illicitness of the content supervenes on the illicitness of the form, then illicitness can be an aesthetic feature of the work itself in addition to being a non-aesthetic feature of the production process. I do not claim that works will be illicit in content merely from being illegal in form. But in certain work, some illicitness of materiality and meaning arises from illegality, as in the work of Poster Boy, Billboard Liberation Front, and Clet Abraham. In Fazlalizadeh’s case, she assumed greater risk, danger, and audacity in postering works without permission, exposing herself to the perils of street that her work takes aim against.

2) Historically, illegality is more primary. Much of original New York graffiti was not terribly illicit in content— in either depiction or representation. Its central illicitness arose from illegality. So historically, the norm is illegality. However, what has clearly happened in the last decade is that artistic and aesthetic norms in street art have shifted. There are more opportunities to create sanctioned work because an increasing number of cities, neighborhoods, and property owners have begun to value and permit it. As this continues, the norms of street art will continue to alter, in addition to already differing according to place. So, while illegality is the historical norm, it could come to be displaced as primary by illicitness. One reason I lean toward illegality as being more basic is the so far untheorized notion of illicitness. While many street art enthusiasts rightly see it as challenging prevailing social norms and values, I think this may sometimes be overblown. This is because of the tremendous variety of values among artists, spectators, and places. Sometimes a piece being illicit is really a matter of one person seeing a work as contradicting prevailing social norms. Whether works will be seen as illicit will extend from the perspective and understanding of the spectator, revealing the essential relational aspects of aesthetic appreciation and understanding. At the least, illegality’s illicitness is more universal (within a given place) because it contradicts a law that has scope over everyone.

I think “Moonshine Kingdom” is a peculiar case. I agree that it being illegal did not add anything illicit to the form or the content. But, this is because London Kaye was not working on the presumption of illegality—she did not think that she needed to take any precautionary or covert measures to avoid exposure. Perhaps this reveals that risk, danger, and audacity arise from illegality in part because the artist reasonably presumes that to make the work is illegal. But, Kaye was operating under the presumption of sanction, so did not believe she was taking risk of exposure or penalty. Had it been known to her that she did not have permission, then the work would not have been made there at all. The fact that this piece was contested also reflects the plurality and diversity of values at play— some people see artworks as illicit to mainstream values and value them, while others see them as representative of gentrifying neighborhoods advantaging outsiders over insiders.

Looking forward to discussion in the comments!

41 thoughts on “AFB x JAAC DISCUSSIONS: CHACKAL ON STREET ART

  1. I can’t help but wonder what will happen to the illicit and illegal status of street art as it becomes more mainstream and loses its subversive edge. Is it possible for street art to have a “death” similar to punk music? Of course punk music still exists, but its scene is not what it was in the 70s and 80s before it was appropriated by pop musicians. We can already see examples of reactionary “street art” with figures like SABO, the self-proclaimed “conservative street artist” who printed posters depicting a shirtless, tattooed, and beefy Ted Cruz. He claims that the cops love his work and he has been lauded by Glenn Beck. I also wonder about the relationship between blackness and the illicitness of street art. It seems to be that street art is becoming increasingly white as it becomes decreasingly illicit. Of course we can’t know the skin color of many street artists because of the anonymity but many of the most widely-accepted artists are white. I think there is something to be said about an art form thats origins are deeply rooted in black and hip-hop culture being profiteered by white artists. This phenomenon is not unique to street art and a prime example of this is the corporate appropriation of hip-hop.

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    • CQ, I think that’s a very interesting take on the future of street art, and I can certainly see some truth behind it. After all, in Atlanta it is becoming more and more popular for artists to get permits from the city to paint walls with intricate and creative designs, and in doing so drown out, in a sense, the voices of more illicit street artists who had painted the walls before them. Artists are now painting the walls of buildings and tunnels over the span of several days or even weeks, and then going as far as to ‘tag’ their work, so as to attract more business in the future. Certainly street art is becoming more mainstream, and thus, in some senses less illicit. However, I think going as far as to say that this will lead to the “death” of street art is taking it one step too far. In Chackal’s paper, he underlined the qualities of a paradigmatic piece of street art as illicit and illegal, both of which are aspects that I feel will keep street art, as it has been historically known, from dying out.

      I believe that unlike punk music, which was appropriated by pop musicians and suffered as a result, the concept of street art is built on the idea that the public can participate, making it not just a style of artwork known and practiced by the privileged few. Street art finds its creators and its audience among the same crowd, and a proliferation of less illicit street art can certainly lead to, in some cases, appropriation; however, on the whole I do not believe that the rising popularity of street art will give rise to more bland and “acceptable” street art. Inflammatory and challenging street-art is just as popular, if not more so, today than it was back in its early beginnings.

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  2. Continuing the issue of the future of street art brought up by CQ, I wonder what effect the rise of social media and image sharing sites such as Reddit and 4chan will have on the illicit value of street art that Tony points out as paradigmatic feature of it (Chackal 362). Many street artist wish to use the medium to express opinions that are contrary to the popular ones of the times. If this is their most dominant driver to create street art, then there are certainly easier and less risky ways of doing this. Of course, taking an easy way out might decrease the power of the message, as another major aspect of the street art is its illegality, and sites like 4chan have little to no official laws, and certainly none worthy of breaking just to get a point across. Still, someone who wants to use the art mainly to get a point across, such as someone upset with the current racial or political issues of our country might be more inclined to use technology to reach a wider group of people and have a wider variety of artistic mediums available to them.
    Aside from the logistical conveniences of using technology, CQ had a good point that street art is becoming more generally accepted and there are a growing number of places where street art is de facto legal and accepted (Chackal 362). Facebook, however, is a site mostly used to connecting with friends and family, not viewing counter cultural art. A bold statement or picture in a mix of family pictures and happy birthday messages might stand out more than one piece of art painted on a wall along with 12 other pieces of similar style and message. A counter point would be that things on Facebook or even 4chan can be easily deleted or scrolled past, whereas street art cannot be so easily erased. Ultimately it is up to the artist which tradeoffs are worth it, but it will be interesting to see which direction people go in to express their counter cultural ideas.

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  3. I agree with Chackal in that illegality is paradigmatic of street art. Merritt disagrees, and claims that the basics of street art is its illicitness. However, for art to even be considered “street art”, it must be illegal. If it were legal, then it would just be “art”. The illegality part of street art is what defines it. It’s the foundation. My problem with Chackal’s response to Merritt is his argument for the aesthetic effects illegality has on the art itself. He claims that some street art’s illicitness requires illegality, which adds to the aesthetics of the piece as a whole, “because certain works would never be sanctioned”. I would argue that all street art’s illicitness requires illegality. I referenced above that the illegality of street art is the foundation of street art. In other words, street art is never sanctioned, because that’s what makes it what it is. Instead of working directly on billboards and advertisements on the sides of roads, the Poster Boy group could just as easily recreate the ads at home and change them to their liking, keeping the exact same illicit elements they would have included on the art in the streets. That way, they would not have to embrace illegal means of creating their pieces. However, if they did this, their work would no longer be called street art. It would just be art. Furthermore, I do not think that illegality adds aesthetically to street art, because street art must be conducted illegally. The illicitness of the art is what can vary, and what makes certain street artist’s artwork stand out the most. Sure, the ways in which street artists use illegality to their advantage can add to the illicit effects of the piece of work. But I would argue that the aesthetic power of the work is commanded by the artist’s use of illicitness, and illegality is just the medium in which it can be performed.

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  4. To speak to the idea of illegality and illicitness being rather intertwined and convoluted, I would advance the idea and agree with Chackal that that illicitness is obviously an integral and necessary making street art, but I would argue that illegality is not a necessary condition of street art. However, I believe that constructing street art illegally, i.e. the painting of the face on the highway sign, does add and speaks to the meaning of the art, both the intended meaning of the artist and the meaning that the onlookers give to it. While I agree with Chackal that the illegality and illicitness of street art often to hand in hand, I would argue that illicitness is fundamental in street art while the paradigmatic of street art is one that is made in an illegal manner. However, even if a piece of street art is illegal should only be a part of how to assess the paradigmatic form of street art. While breaking the law deliberately does have a form of social commentary, I think that the evaluation of street art should and ought to be evaluated on the social commentary that they art conveys, whatever that may be. As Chackal points out in his paper, he believes that illegality plays an important role in street art (Chackal 361), however, where I differ is on the importance of illegality when evaluating street art. I proport that street art should be evaluated based on the magnitude of the social commentary that street art is meant to comment on. For example, the yarn art on the pipe in this article may have some deeper meaning behind it, if one extrapolates on it, but the altered picture of the soldier cast a far larger shadow and speaks to a major problem in American society, its militaristic tendencies, and the repercussions of those tendencies.

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  5. Pingback: About me – Tony Chackal

  6. Street art is a form of art to me and I appreciate it unless it has something to do with gang affiliations. Unlike Georgia, I see the value in the street art and see the potential that some people have and I think that they may to do this because they feel they will not be able to get into an art school ad further their careers. They could also do this for a past time and think that this art will be aesthetically pleasing to the audience which it is to me. Most of the time, I am wondering how did the person get up there and create such a work of art? It is amazing to me that these people are so gifted that they can created beautiful pieces of work but majority of the people will only see it as defacement and want the people to be locked up just for showing their artistic abilities. This reminds me of a Netflix series called “The Get Down,” in the series there is a young man, played by Jaden Smith, who enjoys tagging subway trains. His artwork symbolizes a story that he has created in his head and wants the world to know about. He was gifted but we find out that he had been incarcerated several times because his art was only see as defacing public property. This is my point, people who create street art are not solely doing it because it is illegal and they want to be bad but because they want to share their story on a platform that will allow plenty of people to see. Defacement of public property is not the worst thing that these people could be doing so I see it as a great way for them to express themselves without harming anyone, except authorities and others, too bad.

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  7. Per Hegel, art exists through and is enhanced by the intention of the artist. In this regard, I must agree with Chackal in his comment on the works of Poster Boy, Billboard Liberation Front, and Clet Abraham: that “some illicitness of materiality and meaning arise from illegality.” Unlike works that are commissioned and sanctioned, illegal works alone can be placed anywhere reachable by the artist. The artist’s intention can certainly be reflected in the position of a work of street art, whether the location is one that is dangerous, or one in which the owner of the property would deny authorization. The ways in which an artist makes use of the street’s material resources is expanded when allowing for the possibilities of illegal works. Not only does illegality increase the range of illicitness of materiality, it can create new opportunities for an artist to embed different meanings within a work. Illegality implies ephemerality – whether through defacement by another artist, or removal by authority. Because an artist knows that a work of street art is transient, their intention could change. It is not created to exist forever, but instead to offer a temporary idea or pleasure.

    Illicitness involves “the violation of dominant customs or norms,” and often goes hand in hand with illegality. I tend to agree with Chackal in that illegality supersedes illicitness in being most fundamental to street art. Something that offends or violates a norm at one period in time is not guaranteed to do the same at another. For street art to rely primarily on illicitness would allow a work to fluctuate in and out of the realms of definition. In addition, this definition of illicitness allows for different cultures (this time existing in the same period) to disagree on what is and what is not street art.

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  8. Chackal’s aesthetic philosophy with regards to street art focuses much of its attention on technique and contextual features of a piece of art rather than the more important, traditional qualities of art such as content and form. His lopsided emphasis begs the question of whether a mediocrely composed picture of noxiously gaseous cow dung would be of a higher aesthetic quality than a Picasso if it was dangerously displayed on Tyson’s skyscraper bill-board, with materiality and immateriality, illegally at risk of ephemerality, with anonymity and intention, and audaciously illicitly due to the company’s status as a CO2 pollution behemoth. The non-aesthetic features play too much of a role in the determination of the ultimate aesthetic quality of a piece of art work. With that said, I can imagine that in some cases the illegal and/or illicit nature of the setting is supportive to the communication of the content of the work of art and can help increase the aesthetic quality of it. For instance the defacement of an advertisement on Madison avenue in an attempt to subvert materialism and consumerism would surely add a premium to the quality of the work. It is true that street art has the paradigmatic traits of illegality and illicitness but these are non-aesthetic features. It can augment aesthetic quality as content relates to form but the artistic skill in terms of formalism i.e. colors, texture, lines, etc. and the overall political and social message are greater determinants to the overall aesthetic quality of the work. I would rather look at a beautiful piece of sanctioned street art safely made than an ugly piece made illegally and illicitly, and whether I would appreciate the same image in sanctioned or illegal space depends on whether the form improved the communication of the content.

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  9. The madison avenue example pays homage to Tony’s yarn bomb example of Olek’s Charging Bull to explain the importance of the materiality of the particular street, which in Olek’s case is Wall Street in her attempt to subvert and criticize masculinity’s unstable tendencies in its contribution to the Great Recession. (Chackal, 369)

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  10. At first I was skeptical of a few aspects of Chackal’s piece: the necessity of incorporating the literal street into the artwork and the illegality requirement. I suppose I agreed more with Riggle, in this way. However, as I read on, and contemplated the subject, I find that I quite agree with his points.
    The fact that street art must be “in and of the street” seems like too harsh a limit at first, but when I tried to think of an example of street art that was not, I could not. A person may compose a work of art out of nature from a nearby place, but if he or she moves that artwork to place it on the street, it loses the effective commentary that it might have made on its environment. It becomes, not street art, but “art in the street.” Likewise, a piece made in a studio and placed on the sidewalk would not be considered street art by nearly any means. The association between the art and the street would be broken due to the independence of the two parts.
    On the topic of illegality, I have my doubts. Wouldn’t it still be considered street art if the artist got permission from the authorities, but no one else knew of this permission? This is well discussed in the critique as well, although I would like to see Chackal address this more completely than in his original responses. Passersby and casual observers would probably assume it is street art, with all its conditions of illegality, ephemerality, and so on, but it the art would not technically have these qualities. Can it be considered street art if it only perceived as street art? The critic says the people would likely revise their assessments if they knew, but does this matter? The norms of art and street art are changing, as he says, and must be discussed further.
    Likewise, if street art in a public place were to be left in peace by the authorities for several years, wouldn’t this diminish some of the qualities of illegality and ephemerality?
    I do, however, agree that if it were generally known that the art was sanctioned, this would certainly disqualify it from the title of street art – say if the community set up a wall for locals to paint and repaint freely. It would reek of the influence of censorship and at least of self-censorship, even if artists were expressing their true opinions.

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  11. Chackal’s depiction of street art as paradigmatic illegal is convincing, but I think that saying it is also paradigmatic illicit simply because it is also illegal is less convincing. Yes, anything illegal is in some respect illicit, but in many cases it is only the context of street art that is illicit, and not the content. For example, often street art will be a words or phrase promoting love or equality, or a thought provoking mural such as Banksy’s works. The content itself in these situations is not illicit, and is only illicit when both examining the work and the context. Chackal says that the context of street art is just as much of the work as the art itself, but even when we view street art in this way only there can be many aspects of the work with art not illicit while only the illegal aspect of it is illicit. If the words “love not hate” were painted on the side of a building on a street where there is a particularly high rate of murders, then there are many more aspects of this work of art that are not illicit. Chackal does say that a work being illicit often means that it is not just illegal or criminal or promoting wrongdoing persay but more so unordinary for the social climate the work is in. However, other kinds of art that make a social statement or are unordinary are not normally called illicit. Examples of this would include politically charged songs, unconventional poetry or art, and any sort of work of art this does not follow the norm. A large part of art is its ever changing nature and often a criticism of society, so it would be interesting to see Chackal further define illicitness and compare illicitness in street art with that in other forms of art.

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  12. Street art, by my viewpoint, must be illegal in nature in order for it to be classified under this name. I feel that you almost contradict yourself in this clarification because you state that, “…and most artists use a pseudonym even if spectators come to know their actual names,” this act of working under a falsified name gives street art it’s legs and maintains that the artists works must be illegal or else they would want to take full credit for their work. The grime-y, the dirt under the finger nails, the ‘underbelly’ of society, Banksy himself listening to a police scanner in order to assure he is not apprehended, this is what makes street art so majestic to the view that see it as true art; the inner illegality of it is what makes it what it is.
    I must also clarify what I believe makes street art, street art; I believe that a simple ‘tag’ or standard graffiti is not street art. I believe that in order for it to be clarified as ‘art’ there must be a sociocultural meaning behind the work, as you state. If this were not the case then my degenerate acquaintances from high school would be considered artists simply because they tagged, ‘nasty’: (his pseudonym) or expletive government on a building, and that is not the point. I know that you do not see this as art either; I just feel that this needs to be clarified with more gusto because then simple vandals are on a level playing field with Blu and the great activists which is comparing a stick figure drawing that I did in the third grade to Dali’s ‘The persistence of Memory’ and that is embarrassing for everyone involved.

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  13. As Chackal did, I also agreed with Riggle’s definition of street art. Riggle says that street art must have two requirements, which are the material and immaterial requirements, and that the material requirement implies two commitments: ephemerality and anonymity. Chackal addresses that Riggle excludes the physical senses of the material requirement, and I disagree with Riggle on this account of the material requirement of street-art (359). What makes a piece of work street-art, in my opinion, is the dependency on the street itself. Now, the word “street” isn’t limited to the literal street, but what I mean when I say street are places like trains, doorways, statues, etc. As for the immaterial requirement, I agree with Riggle when he says what makes a piece street art is also that “the material use of the street is internal to its meaning” (246). With the material requirement for street art, to say that it depends on the sociocultural sense and not the physical sense is too vague of a definition. So street art has to depend on the street itself. With the immaterial requirement, the meaning of the street is another point that I feel should be explored. What is the meaning of street? Sure, it could be seen as the physical, sociocultural aspects of a given environment, but it must also weave in the perception by society as a whole; to “live on the streets” is often associated with lower class or even homelessness. The implications of this may be further explored or is already obvious, but I just thought that this point was relevant to what street art means. Overall, I found Chackal much more consistent and convincing in his arguments than Riggle. For example, Riggle’s use of mere graffiti, although it may meet the two requirements and the two commitments, seems like it is less important than artistic graffiti.

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  14. Though the illegality of an action generally constrains, Chackal shows that the illegality condition with regard to Street Art can be liberating. He observes that the sanctioning of street art “is often a lengthy and complicated process” (363). For example, in order to receive permission from a property owner or city, a street artist must typically undergo a lengthy legal process, which may ultimately serve to limit and censor the artist’s original vision. By taking the illegal route, an artist may paint wherever he or she wants and whenever he or she wants, allowing for a wide spectrum of artistic autonomy.

    Chackal goes on to enforce illegality’s importance in Street Art by emphasizing a distinction on which he believes Riggle was lax. He says, “while Riggle says illegality is typical, I say it is prototypical” (363). In other words, the illegality condition is ideal and true to Street Art’s roots. Chackal gives many reasons why the illegality condition is essential to Street Art. It has played a vital role in the formation of the street artist’s craft, i.e. more efficient ways, such as stenciling and wheat paste, were developed to avoid arrest. Further, he says the illegality of street art “adds aesthetic power to a work and changes what it means or how it is perceived” (363).

    I think the emphasis Chackal places on the illegality condition of Street Art is substantive. Counterculture and Street Art share a reciprocal relationship, where each in turn is promoted and activated through the other. As Chackal points out, Street Art historically stems from the margins of society, outside of the mainstream. Where the illegality condition is absent, Street Art must be sanctioned. When art becomes sanctioned, it ceases being the voice of the unheard.

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  15. I think I would also agree the Chackal, and want to discuss the importance of illegality in the history and impact of street art. I think that the use of the street, some outside form to express some idea or whatever generally is impactful not only from the message from being portrayed, but also with the brazenness of displaying and altering a normal street into something potentially extraordinary. I think just like Chackal that the illegality gives off an additional meaning behind the piece that isn’t as special as sanctioned art (Chackal 369). Now this history of historic street art as well as the impact of it being illegal throughout the decades gives additional homage to the predecessors of these street artists that is integral to street art in my own opinion. Now whether or not illegality is required to be street art, I’m leaning more to a not necessarily in that case. I agree with Chackal that street art does not require it to be illegal (Chackal 369) but like I mentioned before, it adds a total different dimension of danger and riskiness. The autonomy of the street artist is something that I would hold as important as well which possibly sanctioned art would lack in seeing as it is more of a ‘job’ than expressing one’s own artistic interests. I would reference the 70’s in New York where graffiti and street art ran rampant all around the city of New York which was a real issue of the people of that time. I would say it is nice to almost pay homage to the trendsetters of street art by displaying what they want where they decide is a good spot even with potential consequences. I think a little of street art style and excitement would be lost without the potential consequence of illegality in the mix.

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  16. As someone who has never read about or considered the philosophy of street art before, I found Chackal’s writing, as well as that of Riggle’s whom he comments on, to be very eye-opening. I believe studying cultural trends and non-mainstream artistic outlets to be particularly important to view as academically legitimate. Reading these two works reminded me a lot of a recent article I read about hip-hop feminism, which essentially discusses the legitimacy and necessity of understanding non-academic expression of feminism and female empowerment. I found that in these philosophical writings a similar theme was present – that art outside of museum walls is legitimate and deserves discussion and theorizing.
    The rules and regulations discussed about street art are, of course, very different from those one might discuss in your average art history classroom. With this recent medium comes a new set of rules. I found the focus on ephemerality by both Chackal and Riggle to be particularly interesting. As Chackal says, “The first commitment is to ephemerality: the artist accepts that works may be short-lived if they are removed, destroyed, painted over, or appropriated into another work” (Chackal, 360). The idea that an artist must commit himself to the impermanence of his work is quite fascinating and so completely different from the goal of artists historically.
    I am currently studying high renaissance art and architecture, and in this time when artists were rising from very low social standing to the status of intellectuals, recognition and permanence were essential. However, art evolved immensely in the twentieth century. With artists like Warhol and Cage came new definitions of what art can do. It became less about literal, mainly religious, symbolism and more about social commentary and emotional expression. And with that evolution of art came an evolution of the artist, or vice versa. It’s a real chicken or egg scenario. By the ‘70s art had found a new niche in revolution, protest, and thus illegality and with that a necessary anonymity. However, as Chackal explains in reference to Alison Young, “…positing illegality as a necessary condition is problematic because works seen as paradigmatic are sometimes legal” (Chackal, 361). However, it does seem like the commitment to impermanence was borne from this condition of illegality present in street art’s beginnings.

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  17. I was, at first, inclined to agree with the idea advanced by Merritt that privileging illegality to illicitness seems to unnecessarily exclude paradigmatic instances of non-U.S. street art. That is not to say that sanctioned illicit street art cannot be called street art merely because it is not illegal. What I am saying is that I am not sure that I see what illegality adds to an artwork that is already illicit. I understand how illegality adds to the non-aesthetic form of an artwork that is not illicit in content, but I don’t think an artwork that contravenes cultural norm or custom is rendered ineffective in meaning by its being lawfully created. However, I think Chackal wins the day. I especially like the premise that illegality entails a degree of illicitness because disobeying the law directly conflicts basic social and cultural expectation that people will obey the law. I also like that Chackal stresses materiality as a necessary condition (Chackal 360). He mentions Blu’s animation Muto as a prime example of the kind of artwork that loses is identity as street art because the film version no longer depends on its parts being on the street for meaning Chackal(361). I would like to add to this point that the animation could just have easily have been done in a flip book, which no one would consider street art. The point is that the canvas doesn’t matter for the meaning of the artwork. This is where I find Chackal’s definition of street art to be more robust than that of Riggle.

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  18. In reading these pieces, I have to agree with Chackal that both illicitness and illegality are essential to the nature of street art. However, instead of those two being separate entities that just so happen to be parts of the nature of street art, I contend that the illicitness arises from the illegality of the act.
    If one looks at any given piece of street art, it is usually intrusive in some way, shape or form. This could be through an intrusive placement, like the piece above, peek-a-borf, bright and vibrant colors, or on-the-nose political or social commentary(see, any number of Banksy pieces, Not Coming Home piece featured in the article, and so on…).
    Street art is typically short lived, “In using the street, artists willingly subject their work to all of its many threats- it might be [short lived]…”(Riggle, 245), and in doing so, it must be loud. It must grab attention and get as many people to observe it before it gets taken down. And in defacing buildings and public areas with these loud, obvious works of art, a certain illicitness arises in the boldness of the action, a certain audacity required to break the law, or at the very least to go against cultural norms, and put up these attention grabbing works of art in spite of that.
    More often than not, this illicitness arises regardless of the content of the work itself. Consider what Chackal said, when referring to the Banksy piece, Monopoly, “This piece gained meaning from the geosocial location of where it was placed…and from the cultural moment of when it was placed… It is illicit to that specific site as a geographical and sociocultural location…”(Chackal, 363). In fact, when you consider what illicitness traditionally describes, scenes of violence, sex, drug use, and so on… most pieces are illicit for their placement, generally that they are inserted into the public sphere illegally, and specifically wherever they are located.

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  19. Riggle and Chackal both provide ideas about the definition and appreciation of street art, and I agree with Chackal’s argument about illegality. Chackal asserts that “illegality enables and warrants different ways of producing and appreciating street art” (Chackal 369). With Chackal’s ideas on the subject of illegality, a few points stand out to me as very strong responses to Riggle’s approach to the idea. Chackal argues that a “distinctive performative aspect of street art [is] enabled by the illegality condition”, the same condition that also “shapes the production and materiality of artworks” (Chackal 366, 360). While street art took on the condition of illegality out of necessity at the time the genre originated, the illegal nature of street art has come to shape the qualities that constitute street art in general. Chackal argues that the qualities of risk, danger, and audacity that accompany and help define street art are connected to illegality. Also, because illegality has created the genre that appears in the streets today, our appreciation of the art has changed, shaped by the condition of illegality, to view the art “as a process rather than merely a product”, which I believe is unique to art, especially art found in a typical museum (Chackal 366). Riggle fails to fully address and reconcile the issue of illegality, and I think that Chackal’s argument about illegality, as well as the requirement of street art being in the streets, strengthens his ideas greatly and provides the audience with a cohesive argument. Without the clarifications, distinctions, and elaborations that Chackal offers, Riggle’s ideas lack the strength for a reader to fully accept Riggle’s argument. Comparing the two, Chackal maintains most of Riggle’s ideas, but gives them the legitimacy and sense of confidence that arises when a writer preemptively handles a reader’s concerns.

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  20. To begin with, I find the differences in the definition of street art between Riggle and Chackal very interesting. Riggle argues that being physically on the street is not a necessary requirement for a piece to be considered “street art”, while Chackal argues that a piece must be physically on the street in order to be considered “street art” (Chackal, 360). At first, I couldn’t think of any examples of art that did not physically incorporate the street, but still would be considered street art by Riggle. The answer to this lies in the emphasis on the word “physical”. The examples that Riggle provides is photographs of street art displayed in a museum (Riggle, 248). Although not directly on the street in it’s photographed form, Riggle would still consider this street art, where Chackal would not. Chackal argues that the work must be physically present in the street because “that is where the physical artistic resource is… and it’s how the street contributes to the work’s meaning” (Chackal, 360-361). Chackal would argue that works like this would be considered to be some sort of “meta-street artwork”, relating to the overall topic of street art, but would not be considered street art, as the lack of physicality in the street space indicated that the artwork lacks ephemerality (Chackal 361). I personally agree more with Chackal’s definition of street art. To me, the whole experience (from an audience’s perspective) of street art requires one to physically be in the presence of the art (thus be on the street) in order to fully receive the intentions/message that the artist is trying to convey. This meaning is somewhat lost when the physicality of the art is relocated from the street to somewhere else.

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  21. It seems to me that Chackal and Merritt largely agree on the nature of street art. The main point of disagreement is whether there should be a distinction between illegality and illicitness in giving a piece of “street art” merit in its class. Both critics acknowledge that the illegality of street art impacts its production process, spontaneity, transient nature, its profoundness in reception, and thus its cultural impact. The divergence seems to be concerning whether illegality and the art’s presence on the street alone constitute as street art. Merritt wonders “if illicitness is more central to street art than illegality.” She points out that one of the main underlying components of street art is cultural brazenness or the audacity to defy social norms. This quality, she argues, is not present by default in the illegality of street art because it requires something more culturally symbolic than a mere aesthetic attempt in the art medium of the unsanctioned “street.” Chackal’s rebuttal: “Much of original New York graffiti was not terribly illicit in content— in either depiction or representation.” Tony, I think would agree that good street art needs to entail both illegality and illicitness, but counters Merritt’s point by saying that the roots of the street art movement are in fact in mere illegal graffiti, which generally didn’t carry the cultural weight of a truly illicit Banksy piece.
    To me, the pinnacle of street art is just that. A piece made in defiance of cultural norms, made in secret, anonymously and in the face of great danger. The piece should wake all those who stumble upon it out of their mundane, everyday consciousness. Good street art doesn’t have to be political, though. A simple note “I love you” inscribed into the concrete, or a humorously depicted cartoon can be enough to bring the viewer out of the ordinary and into a secret world of appreciating the human condition. The most profound and successful pieces of street art will not only change your life, but society as well. The beauty in this is that the street artist will never know who (if anyone) they’ve touched through their art, much less how that impact transcended into the future culture of our civilization.

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  22. I tend to find Chackal’s arguments about the role of illegality in street art largely convincing. For starters, his article makes obvious improvements upon Riggle’s initial discussion of the topic, beginning with a better definition of what street art actually is. With limiting street art to artwork actually in the street (Chackal, 359), the description becomes more clear than Riggle’s who was willing to include digital representations of street art like Blu’s Muto in his definition (361). Further, Chackal makes a convincing point in noting that he excludes pieces such as this from the ranks of street art simply because they are not viewable in the street, not because they lack a sense of illegality or risk. He finds illegality to be a feature rather than a requirement of street art, claiming that while illegality has been the “norm” of street art, sanctioned street art is still street art (362-363). Despite it not being necessary to constitute true street art, illegality is important in leading to other traditional features of street art like intentionality, ephemerality, and anonymity. If art is against a city’s laws, the odds are increased that the artwork will only exists temporarily, that the artist will try to remain unknown, and that the piece is produced with careful purpose (364-365). Beyond leading to additional features of street art, Chackal argues that illegality can give the artwork more value, as the viewer will better appreciate the danger and risk the artists undertook to create their art. Climbing tall billboards and scaling gutters illegally commands more respect than comfortably producing sanctioned art in a place designated by the city (365-366). With this explanation, I accept Chackal’s conclusion that while street art does not have to be illegal to be considered true street art, the illegality of it “enables and warrants” news ways to value and appreciate the work (369). He succeeds in taking Riggle’s article and expanding the discussion of a little explored about field of artwork.

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  23. The discussion of street art and what qualifies a work as street art or not is very interesting to me. Prior to reading these pieces, I would have taken the approach the supreme court takes when discussing obscenity, I know it when I see it. But the qualifiers placed on street art do make sense for the most part. Some of these qualifiers however feel like they exclude works that to me feel like street art. For instance, Chackal establishes the necessary requirement that street art be “in and of the street” (360). While this makes sense because of the very nature of street art being associated with the street, it excludes some things that although they are not in and of the street, I would still consider to be in the genre of street art. The location requirement, in the street, seems to suggest that a similar work in a remote area, say spray painted onto the wall of a cave instead of a building, would not be street art. In order to qualify as street art, Chackal would need to have a very broad definition of the word street.
    I do agree with Chackal’s argument that illegality contributes to the aesthetic value of street art (362) , but also with the statement that there is an important difference between illegality and illicitness. In my hometown of Chattanooga Tennessee there is a well-known mural of donuts on the side of a bakery, that the city claims is technically illegal because the bakery does not have a permit for that advertisement. Although this bears many qualifications of street art, it is in and of the street, it is illegal etc., it is certainly not illicit. The idea of street art being used to attract business to a bakery seems to go against much of what street art seems like it should be.

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  24. I appreciated arguments from Nicholas Riggle and Tony Chackal, but I tended to disagree less with Chackal.

    Riggle’s argument that street artists tend to have to commit themselves to ephemerality because it could be “stolen, defaced, destroyed, moved, altered, or appropriated,” which connects to his material use of the street requirement (245) – as well as his argument that that street artists generally must commit themselves to anonymity (due to the illegality and etcetera of the genre) were intriguing to me. Riggle lost me, however, when he started dropping hints of elitism that he was seemingly trying to escape from in the mainstream art-world. I cannot understand how he can determine what is “mere graffiti and artistic graffiti” (251) if something that is mere matches and meets both of his requirement. Who is he to say that graffiti is a “mere” tag or proclamation is not street art. For him to make that argument acceptable or even convincing, he would need to chance or add to his requirements list. Not only would an example of street art have to meet the material and (generally) the immaterial requirements, but it would also have to meet a creativity or artistic requirement. Then we are back to the same problem one encounters in the mainstream art-world. Who determines what is creative or artistic about street art? What are the criteria? Should a community allow street art only if it meets an artistic or creative requirement? Can a “mere” tag or proclamation not be or say something important? So. Many. Questions. Are. Raised. Because of his throwing of elitism into this paper. But those are not even the important ones. If he was to adapt his argument to include the artistic or creative requirement – the people who the street art was intended for would soon again be left out of the equation as outsiders step in to judge what is or is not street art.

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  25. I enjoyed the points raised by Riggle, Chackal, and Merritt. The combination of these perspectives I think brings together a more holistic picture of what street art is and how it relates to society as a whole. Riggle’s work established some foundational ideas upon which Chackal has built in both agreement and disagreement. I definitely agree with the sentiment that street art must be in the street (Chackal 360). Being in and of the street both physically and socioculturally is an important part of what street art means and communicates to society.

    In the discussion of illegality versus illicitness, I understand Merritt’s point of looking at the two critically. I believe what contributes to street art’s meaning more summarily than illegality and illicitness is the concept of risk. Chackal mentions it briefly when discussing de jure and de facto illegality and how those contribute to high or low levels of risk for the artist (Chackal 362). A high level of either illicitness or illegality will produce a high level of risk, which supervenes the two former concepts because high illegality and low illicitness can still produce a high level of risk and vice versa. This risk consists of the risk of social and legal consequence and the risk associated with ephemerality and the loss of the work. Risk also forces intentionality under the assumption that we are rational beings. Artists will intentionally choose what places and spaces of the street are worth the risk associated with making art in those places and spaces. For instance, if one creates a painting under a bridge next to an infrequently used path, there is little risk associated with this action and would thus be considered less of street art than a painting on the front of a popular and well kept public library from my perspective.

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  26. The ephemerality of street art and the distance that the artist must allow between himself in the work is paradigmatic of the form, which is something both Riggle and Chackal agree upon. “In using the street, artists willingly subject their work to all of its many threats- it might be [short lived]…”(Riggle, 245) and “The first commitment is to ephemerality: the artist accepts that works may be short-lived if they are removed, destroyed, painted over, or appropriated into another work” (Chackal, 360). This ephemerality shapes the genre in significant ways, often making it ‘louder’ and less subtle than other forms (Riggle 245).
    This commitment is undoubtedly related to the illicit nature of street art. Because the “street” is representative both of the social space that does not ‘belong’ to the artist and of space which is not typically designated for art, art which is produced for the street is at the mercy of the public. It is undoubtedly short lived, and it is generally frowned upon culturally. The question then, of whether not only illicitness but also illegality is a necessary condition of street art becomes the ultimate point of contention.
    For Chackal, the illegality is important. Illegality shapes the performative aspect of the art in a way which cannot be captured otherwise (Chackal 366). In fact, some might argue that the illicitness of the act arises from illegality. This is not a necessary conclusion, however, and I think it is clear that street art can be illicit by merely opposing social norms even if illegality is not a factor. In addition, as Chackal notes, making the illegality of the art essential for the genre excludes certain paradigmatic examples (Chackal 261). Therefore, I think Chackal’s careful distinction that illegality is a relevant, but not essential factor of the aesthetic value of street art is a good one.

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  27. The entire topic of street art has really intrigued me over the past few days of discussion. I think the primary reason for this is that in the past, I saw some types of street art as art but I saw other forms of street art to be completely unnecessary and offensive. After reading the pieces by Riggle and Chackal, I have started to see street art in a different light, as an act of expression by each individual artist.

    One place where I agreed with Chackal way more than I agreed with Riggle was in the discussion of whether or not street art has to occur on the street (Chackal 360). While I can understand wanting to consider art in a museum that has the same style as street art, I still believe that this cannot be considered street art because it is not using the street as a medium which seems to violate the immaterial condition because the street contributes to the meaning of the work of art.

    One aspect of Chackal’s argument that I really appreciated was his in-depth consideration of risk level when discussing illegality. It seems that a lot of laws that exist are rarely enforced leading to things that are “illegal” being de facto permitted (Chackal 362). With the particular example that Chackal gives on page 362, I feel as if a distinction that can be made is that one type of street art (in a neighborhood that appreciates it) contributes to society while the other type of street art (art that is placed on a public statue) does not necessarily contribute positively to society and almost infringes on the artist who originally created the statue. I really appreciated the distinction that Chackal drew between illegality and illicitness, which I had not previously understood clearly. This contributed greatly to my understanding of street art.

    Finally, I really appreciated Chackal’s description of how illegality can greatly contribute to the meaning of street art and resultantly, many artists choose to continue to illegally produce street art even when there are legal routes. I agree that this makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider that very few artists who operate through other mediums would want their art regulated by a central authority, which has the ability to diminish their autonomy (Chackal 369).

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  28. The conversation in this piece over street art is something that I had never thought of before reading this article. While Riggle, Chackal, and Merritt all raised interesting points throughout the piece, there were some points that stood out more than others. One of those points to me was raised by Chackal stating that for art to be considered street art, something in its own sub-category of art, it must quite literally be in the street (Chackal 360). This is very important to mention for while others may argue that street art is a style or holds certain qualities, which it may still, it is imperative that street art be in the street. What would happen if a band released a live album that had all of the qualities of a concert performance, but was recorded in a studio like all of their other albums? Could this still be considered a live album? I think not.

    I think the second most important part of this article deals with the value of street art and its relation to legality and appreciation. So, does street art gain value by being created in unsanctioned areas? Is this something that is required in order to be deemed street art? Initially, I would have said no to both of these questions. I have seen street art in my home town that has been beautiful and drawn great crowds yet was sanctioned by the city. However, after reading further I do seem to agree with Chackal’s point that while it is not a requirement of street art to be created in an illegal place, I do see that this illegality can add value and interest to the subject (369). I am not sure how to quantify this feeling, but I believe that many would agree that seeing moving street art in an unsanctioned area can create a different emotion than sanctioned art. I thought of murals protesting something happening in the world today in an impoverished neighborhood such as African-Americans being murdered by the police. While someone posting an original painting depicting the same acts might draw some attention, the mural may move the audience in new ways. For this reason, I do believe in the value of the illicit nature of some street art.

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  29. Merritt definitely agreed with most of Chackal’s major points in his discussion of street art. However, I found the discussion of illegality versus illicitness to be very compelling and it is a dimension of street art that I myself have not considered much. Illegality has gone hand in hand with street art since the beginning of the movement and adds a significant feeling of danger, risk and expression in its boldest form. Merritt makes an interesting point in bringing up our assumption of illegality when viewing a street art piece. Merritt says we “presume illegality” if it is not obvious to us and this can radically affect our view of the work, regardless if it was sanctioned or not. Illegality is the more obvious component of street art, while illicitness seems to be intertwined and more subtle. The content of street art may not be illicit, while its existence in the first place is illegal, like Merritt’s example of “Moonshine Kingdom.”

    Chackal’s argument, contrary to that of Riggle, that street art has to be in the street, more specifically “material space or a sociocultural space,” was very compelling. Although the style of art may borrow from street artists, if it doesn’t exist in that space it loses a lot of umph. A piece sitting in a museum was authorized to be there and doesn’t have the “counter culture” meaning behind it. Chackal also says that using the street or materials that are already available in the setting is a crucial part of what makes something “street art.” I found myself agreeing with both Merritt and Chackal and ended up with a higher appreciation for street art. It seems to be one of the purest forms of expression in art and artists’ ability to take an existing piece of the street and make audacious and bold statements is inspiring.

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  30. Street art as a whole is something that I have had very little knowledge and put very little consideration into prior to reading Riggle and Chackal’s ideas on the subject. Because of my lack of background on the subject all ideas I read seemed relatively valid and more well-informed than what I could possibly theorize on my own.

    In the case of Riggle’s perspective, I found the way he perceives street art as a combination of both “material” and “immaterial” requirements convincing. Chackal ascertains a similar idea when he states that for something to be qualified as street art it must be “in and of the street” (360). I believe that the problem with both Riggle and Chackal’s definition of street art lies in the fundamental problem of what defines the “street.” Yet from my understanding, both would most likely assert that the “street” encompasses much more than simply the street in itself, but rather the larger idea of open public space.

    Chackal’s piece brings into consideration the importance of the legal standing of street art. Riggle mentions an idea at play with Chackal’s discussion of illegality when he discusses in his work the ephemerality of street art that the artist must commit to. The street art itself is subject to many external factors, due to what Riggle qualifies as the material requirement (245). Chackal makes the argument in his work that it is not required for street art to be illegal, but the legal status of a work of street art may contribute to its value or meaning. I do think this is true, particularly in the sense of an artwork’s ephemerality. If a work of street art is illegal, there is an intrinsic ephemerality for it could be removed at any moment, and legally should never have been there in the first place. I believe that the ephemerality of street art enables the power of its message, and Chackal’s work for me solidifies this idea by exploring the effects of legality in street art.

    – James Lim

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  31. The two arguments presented by Chackal bring very interesting things to mind about the nature of street art and what intrinsic qualities this genre has that seem to inspire reaction from so many, whether negative or positive. I have mixed feelings about his argument of illegality being a necessary condition for this form but agree completely that it only makes logical sense to have a real material requirement, less loosely defined than Riggle’s, to better understand what this genre is and what it is not.
    I agree with Chackal that illegality is what keeps street art from being merely art that is open to anyone (Chackal, 361), and it makes me consider what about the specific illegality of this art is so attractive to people to begin with. One of the overwhelmingly prevalent characteristics of modern society is that of the conflict between public and private property. The people of the street vs. the people who own the street. Even the street it self which may be considered public property but is not public in any practical sense except for its accessibility, as it can only be altered and regulated by the few with power, people whom would rarely be considered of the street. This seems to be why the expression of art on these highly restricted, public places, inspires additional feeling that commissioned work otherwise wouldn’t. It is a taking back of the street that people may feel that it is unjustly out of their control. This is why the extent to which people challenge this relationship, or what Chackal refers to as the works Audacity, plays a big part in how much the work impacts its audience (Chackal, 366). Still I don’t necessarily feel that it is simply the illegality of the art but the context that makes the illegality feel justified, that inspires this passion. For example, I think that defacement of natural settings, state parks etc., although illegal and in an entirely public space, and even if done with the same artistic skill as great street art, I think would not inspire the same feelings because peoples relationship to that environment is so different than to the urban city.

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  32. There is no risk in art displayed in museums. Contradiction to the ephemerality commitment if it is displayed in a place where it is preserved. We are told to be careful of what we post on the internet because it “never goes away”; hence, Riggle’s Blu example (online video) is antithetical to his ephemerality commitment. I agree with Chackal’s requirements for the immaterial and the material conditions. The immaterial condition, the meaning of the art because of it’s context is contingent upon it’s material condition. That is, Chackal’s definition of “street” is more narrow than Riggle’s (Chackal, 361). I also agree that if street art is commissioned, and thereby legal, it still aims to mimic the illegal nature of street art as it began. The legality distinction that Chackal makes is integral to the meaning of the work itself; what makes it street art is that it (at least) toys a fine line with legality, whether de jure or de facto. I think it is interesting that he points out the relationship between “risk”, “exposure”, and “range of penalties” as these are motivating factors for street artists (Chackal, 362). Chackal, here expanded where Riggle did not. I think that Chackal’s discussion of this was made possible by his emphasis that street art must be in the street. In other words, the illegality of something ensures Riggle’s ephemerality commitment. Further, the illegality component that Chackal discusses adds to the anonymity commitment that Riggle discusses. If an artist does something illegal, they are not going to put their real name on the piece, else they risk exposure of themselves that compromises their works’ messages. Hence, I think Chackal has a more comprehensive theory of discerning street art from public art and museum art.

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  33. I agree with Chackal’s point that a necessary condition for street art must be that the artwork is physically located in the street (Chackal 2). I believe that it is the incorporation of the street and city-scape as an artistic material that makes street art fundamentally different from “mainstream” museum art. Artists creating a work to go in a museum of gallery are able to shape all of their materials to fit their artistic vision. A typical procedure for an artist of this nature would be to envision what they want the work to look like and represent, acquire the necessary materials, then manipulate the materials until their artistic vision is realized. On the other hand, street artists must work with what is already present in the street. Rather than knocking down part of a wall to create a work demonstrating destruction, a street artist might paint part of the wall black so that it appears to no longer exist, and create false jagged edges with different shading and painting techniques. The point is that street artists may add to what already exists, but they do not have true freedom of resource manipulation to create their vision.
    This change in artistic process in order to incorporate the street also has an effect on the meaning of the work (Chackal 3). If you were to take a painting or a sculpture out of a gallery, the painting or sculpture would still retain the same meaning that it previously had in the gallery. However, Chackal argues that a work of street art would not retain the same meaning or have any meaning at all if it were no longer located in the street. I agree with this point, especially because of the different artistic processes that go in to each type of work, as I have outlined above. If you create a work of art with the intention to preserve the original form of an object or place, you will end up with a significantly different result than if you took that same artistic vision and gave the artist absolute freedom over the materials. The painted wall that I mentioned earlier would not be painted to appear destroyed, but the artist might choose to actually knock down a replica of the wall, or sculpt a broken wall from scratch. Different works that come from such different beginnings and expectations could not be authentically compared to one another, so you cannot call a work street art if it is not adhering to the “rules” of the street.

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  34. Prior to reading this piece I could not imagine why street art must not be created within the context of a street in order to be considered “street art” but I agree with the material and immaterial justifications presented by Chackal. Chackal presents the idea that street art “must be in the street because that is where the physical artistic resource is (materiality requirement) and it is an essential way of how the street contributes to a work’s meaning (immateriality requirement)” (Chackal 360). I think that considering the physical, external place a piece of street art was painted on is not unconventional like I (and presumably others) had initially thought. Afterall, one would not call a print-made piece “print-made” if it didn’t involve printmaking. Furthermore, one would not categorize music as “classical” if it was not created using classical instruments. I feel these are relevant examples because they highlight how non-content based elements can cogently define an artwork’s genre and that therefore saying “street art should be made in the street” is not too foreign of an artistic concept fundamentally when considering other widely-accepted external qualifications of art.
    I also agree that legality is a very important factor when considering a piece of street art but I do not think that whether or not it was done illegally negates the piece’s identity as street art. This is primarily because of natural inconsistencies of law in that some street art is “legal” while some is “illegal”. The legality also typically depends factors such as the street the work was painted on or whether or not the work was commissioned than the piece’s actual content or skill.
    However, I agree that the illegality of art can change the context that the work was created within in that it can affect a work’s production process non-aesthetically (Chackal 369). These non-aesthetic contexts like external elements of danger, ephemerality, and anonymity are very influential to the production process as mentioned and shouldn’t be discredited. Comparatively, Riggle implied that an element of illegality in street art is “typical” and not crucial (Riggle 244). I agree more with Chackal on this for a number of reasons. Primarily because ethics are non-aesthetic and so it is nearly impossible to discern which street art was made legally versus which was made illegally simply by looking at it. Secondly because street art that has a component of illegality to it should not be considered “more true” or “more typical” than other street art but rather it should be considered different. I think that this plurality could exist and it would be strange to have something such as the legal context a work was created in decide that work’s validity.
    Riggle frames this same sentiment when he discusses how he believes that street art and graffiti are both art, but conceptually different (Riggle 253). It seems strange that he did not make this same exception for the art within both categories and that he is extremely particular about what art could be categorized as “street art” or “graffiti art”. I do not believe that he is justified in being exclusive about what should be thought of as street art or as graffiti and so that is the point where I mostly disagree with him.

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  35. In comparing Riggle to Chackal, the difference seems to lie not deeply within argument, but rather in the discernment of not only what is street art but what constitutes good street art. Riggle sets up conditions for the classification of street art, including the incorporation of the street for its physicality but also its meaning, and ephemerality is another conidition (245). This rules out many depictions of tagging used for an author’s own vanity that fail to convey a deeper meaning. The commitments made by Riggle lean towards an acceptance of street art with a broad depiction protects more than Chackal allows for. Chackal’s commitments of illegality and a strict incorporation of the street (not just the origination in the street) in addition to ephemerality and anonymity make street art more impactful. While leaving the endurance of a work of art subject to the acceptance of the street (meaning property owners, city officials, and other artists) lends to the credibility of lasting street art, illegality contributes with more depth to the counter culture that street art embraces. Additionally, Chackal gives deeper valuation of illicitness. The relationship between audacity, authenticity to the artists’ beliefs, illicitness, and illegality eludes to a deeper resonance of the meaning of street art allowing for an interpretation of what qualifies as good street art (366-367). Riggle provides strong conditions and commitments for discerning whether a piece should be considered street art, but through Chackal a valuation of the work develops many of Riggle’s ideas further than his initial explanation.

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  36. While I find myself agreeing with Chackal’s more strict definition of what is street art, I do not entirely agree with his viewpoint on the illegal nature of some street art’s artworks to be paradigmatic or prescriptive of the entire field of street art. Nicholas Riggle offered two requirements for a piece of artwork to be “street art.” The first is the material requirement which states that a piece of street art needs to use the physical street (or in some cases, the social space surrounding the literal street) as a medium. The second requirement is called the immaterial requirement, which Riggle states that an artist must also use the street to give some sort of meaning to their art. (Riggle 245-246) Riggle does not consistently adhere to his definition of street art since he allows several notable exceptions such as Muto’s book that features photographs and location maps depicting where his artwork is and how it looks. While this artwork is not in the street, Riggle still argues that it is still technically street art. (Riggle 245) This seems to cheat the ephemeral nature of most street artworks, a quality that Riggle himself highlights. This is where I like to agree with Chackal’s more strict defintion of street art, which is that street art MUST be in the physical street (or surrounding socio-cultural area) in order to be considered true street art (Chackal 359). I disagree however, with Chackal’s viewpoint that the illegal nature of many street art pieces are paradigmatic of street art’s nature. I believe that Riggle is more correct in saying that the illegality of street art is a “typical” feature, not a prescriptive quality. Many commissioned, sanctioned, or legal street artworks have as much intrinsic value as illegal pieces. While sanctioned street art pieces do not carry the same non-aesthetic qualities as illegal pieces (danger, risk, audacity, illicitness, etc.), they are still able to provide some sort of social commentary or meta-commentary in what they depict/don’t depict. For example, many cities such as Glendale, CA or Bellevue, WA have allowed street artists to decorate their power boxes. These power boxes are large bulky boxes that populate many areas of the city and are often regarded as an eye-sore to many of the city’s residents. By allowing artists to decorate these boxes, they become a new form of canvases for the artists. This form of artwork adheres to many of the aforementioned qualities of street art posited by Riggle (including the material and immaterial requirements and the quality of ephemerality), so why are they not considered to be “true” pieces of street art? I posit that, so long as an artwork adheres to the material and immaterial requirements, ephemerality, and isn’t capitalistic, it can be considered street art.

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  37. I’d propose that illegality is central to the form of street art whereas illicitness is central to the content of street art. This view doesn’t offer form nor content as more important and it seems to resolve most of Merritt and Chackal’s differences. Chackal argues that “street art is paradigmatically illegal” (360). This illegality seems to operate from and influence the form of street. It implicates the kinds of materials used and street art’s ephemeral nature. On the other hand, illicitness “involves the violation of dominant customs or norms” (Merritt). A work of art is illicit in form seemingly only when it is illegal since the laws governing public spaces are dominant norms. Chackal argues that “illegality and illicitness are often mutually constituted, entwined, and inextricable.” I agree in the sense that this is often the case. I’ve discussed above how art can possibly derive illicitness from illegality. Chackal gives the example of New York graffiti that tended to not be illicit in content, but derived illicitness from illegality. However, it seems possible that art can be illicit in form, but not content. Merritt’s example of “Moonshine Kingdom” is a work that was illegal in form, but not illicit in content. Chackal’s response to this counter-example was that the artist was not working on the presumption of illegality. However, I think this proves that there is some sort of grey area where form does not implicate content because this work’s illegality didn’t contribute any aesthetic illicitness.

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  38. Due to the non-inclusive politics of fine art, street art has distinguished itself whilst disparaging the art culture that discriminates based on socioeconomic grounds. Accordingly, names and terminologies like “street art” are formed organically, usually without the cognizant input from those involved. I submit the term street art is used firstly, because street art is a form of art – an artificial expression which has the ability to transcend one from their daily mundane experience – and secondly because street art is of the street. If we were defining artwork displayed on shoes, it would be classified as shoe art.

    However, the English word “street” not only describes the physical space, but also the ideals and sensibilities inherent in the neighborhood’s residents, to which I have, correctly or not, come to equate with the sociocultural street as aforementioned by Riggle (2010) and Chackal (2016). There exists a dual denotation; “street” is not merely a descriptive adjective, but a limiting, classifying adjective as well. “Street” is effectively pulling double-duty.

    My inference of the sociocultural street suggests a place belonging to no one, if not everyone – where everyone is welcome – a common area – but importantly, occupied by laymen. The street is a realm all of its own. One can have credentials in the street – street cred – but because it’s a layman’s land, one must forgo all non-street credentials; they simply don’t carry any weight in the street. This distinction illustrates my interpretation of the sociocultural street and the disconnect between street art and the fine arts.

    The resourcefulness of street artists in their choosing of medium has led to the artistic incorporation of endless objects from, and of, the street – the sociocultural and the physical, respectively. I submit these are the requirements for the consideration of street art:

    1) The artwork is made using one or both – objects from the sociocultural and of the physical streets.
    2) The sociocultural street is integral to the viewer’s interpretation.
    3) The artwork is created and viewed in the physical street.

    I agree with Riggle when he claims artwork is street art if, and only if, its material use of the street is internal to its meaning; but, advance my conditions along with Chackal when he posits street art consists of the physical and the sociocultural street. For artwork that is putatively street art, but created for display indoors, or created for display in the street but not suggestive of the sociocultural street, or created for display in the street but not created with, or on, material objects of either the physical or sociocultural street, I postulate is not street art.

    The really good, compelling street art reaches higher (sometimes literally) and transcends our awareness because of its stark contrast with what the mind expects to encounter – or because of its unique subject matter – or because of its causing of us to pause in meditation of the use of negative space. It’s of all of these, but perhaps most importantly the use of negative space, in which the removal of street art, and the prospect of containing it, creates a distinct schism among those who contemplate the metaphysics of street art.

    When does an accepted work of street art cease to be street art?

    It appears that any other form of art does not lose its genre designation because it is removed from its original physical placement, or from within an enclosure or environment where the artist intended it to be viewed.

    Does destruction of meaning and purpose of a work of street art render the individual pieces something other than what they were as a whole, street art? Some street art, simply art made in the street, could be removed without significantly impacting its meaning, quite simply because there isn’t any meaning.

    The typical scope of street art goes beyond what the artist physically manipulates, but actually includes all structures, organic and not, within the vicinity. Therefore, any attempt to remove and contain street art, without the containment of the streetscape writ large, is futile. Street art is created by the manipulation of a finite space, but incorporates its meaning from its place in the infinite. To tear down a wall with artwork which derives its meaning and appreciation from being on a particular building … on a particular corner … in a particular neighborhood … within a particular city … and so on, and to place it in a museum, will undoubtedly change its meaning and form. The meaning and form, and hence the means for one to appreciate the artwork in its fully intended glory, are severely compromised if not destroyed; but, does the attempted removal and containment of street art render its essence something other than what it formerly was?

    If ISIS were to bomb the Vatican, would one suggest a piece of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling fresco was no longer a Renaissance fresco? Of course not; but still, deciding to no longer call it a ceiling fresco would not change what the artist created. Whether it was a portion of the chapel still standing after being bombed, or a piece of Michelangelo’s fresco in someone’s hand, it’s still the Sistine Chapel ceiling – nothing has altered the artwork’s meaning or relevance to people. And, it’s not because of several billion photographs documenting the history of the said fresco. It’s because of one’s personal experience with the Sistine Chapel ceiling, or their interconnectedness with humanity’s consciousness, which holds the Sistine Chapel ceiling in regard such that it’s existence transcends time. Just as one could theoretically hold a piece of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, one could hold a piece of street art in their hands or in a museum (“piece” being the operative word, meaning – any real number greater than zero and less than one, representing a proportion of the whole).

    If an ISIS fighter were to hold that same piece of Michelangelo’s ceiling fresco in his or her hand, it would be nothing more than rubble with colored plaster, because Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel did not exist in the ISIS fighter’s consciousness. Ultimately, the metaphysical truth of an object must reside in the evaluating consciousness.

    If Pisano’s bronze doors on the Florence baptistery were removed from their hinges and frame, and placed on top of some crude table legs so as to make the doors into a tabletop, would they cease to be a pair of bronze doors? I suggest no, on the grounds they could always be replaced to serve their original function as doors. They would be temporary tabletops – but made of bronze doors. However, if the doors were disfigured or changed in the process, as would the street art invariably be changed, one could say, “I cut Pisano’s bronze doors in half and made tabletops,” – but they would still be Pisano’s bronze doors, although they would require some craftsmanship in order to have them re-purposed as doors again.

    But what if re-creation of the original artwork were not possible? Suppose the doors were melted down into a spittoon. There would no longer be any resemblance to a pair of doors; and, one would have a spittoon made from Pisano’s bronze doors. However, this is not what happens if a piece of authentic street art is removed and contained. For whoever removes it for viewing at another location takes care not to alter whatever is being moved. By the nature of street art, however, the street (i.e. a particular street, in a particular neighborhood) cannot, of course, be moved along with the pieces that comprise the artwork. Inevitably, a great portion of the artwork is left behind; the artwork’s meaning is severely compromised; and, one merely has possession of a piece of street art.

    Marcel Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q., his embellishment of the Mona Lisa, provides additional analogous elucidation of my argument. If the moustache had been on a transparency and placed over the postcard of Da Vinci’s painting, so as to facilitate the removal and replacement of the moustache onto a blank, white canvas, it is preposterous to think Duchamp’s moustache would have the same meaning. Would a solitary moustache be capable of offending the bourgeoisie? The brilliance of Duchamp’s creation was not solely in his choice of moustache style, or his choice of line or color. Rather, the brilliance of this particular work from Duchamp was his marriage of the two – the masculine moustache and Da Vinci’s exalted Mona Lisa. Only the two viewed together as one have Duchamp’s desired effect – akin to blasphemy in fine art circles.

    Similarly, the reassignment of street art from its original three-dimensional urban streetscape to a museum will not retain all of the artwork’s qualities that made it alluring and gave it meaning, but will retain enough to be identified by the street art aesthetes. A constituent of a work of street art that enabled the transcendence of thought and resides in the human consciousness is, and will always be, street art.

    Operating under the fair assumption that a removal and attempted containment of street art did result in the physical transportation of everything the artist manipulated within the streetscape, the only other possible category for the reassessment of the work’s essence is a piece of previous street art. This would only be an acceptable alternative if considered by someone who was either incapable of aesthetic evaluation or entirely unfamiliar with street art – two identities perpetually absent from such a conversation.

    In conclusion, I submit the removal of street art from the street acutely damages the artwork’s meaning. However, what was once a constituent of street art will always, unless rendered unrecognizable, continue to be street art. While it is certainly possible to have a piece of street art with diminished meaning, however undesirable, it is still street art.

    If street artist X creates a piece titled The Downtrodden, and someone attempts to remove this work of art from the street and contain it in a museum, however critically successful or unsuccessful, the museum has compromised the street art on display. Whether the museum effectively removed all the objects manipulated by artist X, or just a few, the more correct claim by the museum would be to have a piece of The Downtrodden on display. Unless totally transformed – meaning there is no connection to the original by way of the artist’s choice of intended sensory perception (e.g. visual, aural, tactile, etc.) – it remains street art, due to the elevated status into time immemorial.

    Lastly, good art attempts to break the rules, not for anarchy’s sake, but because these artistic rules can become tyrannical. And, in order to create an original idea expressed by the artist to be interpreted by the viewer, this is necessary. We want to see something new, be made to feel differently than before, and even if it’s confusing and confounding in its newness, this is appealing.
    Street art is just now being conceived, relative to traditional painting and other lasting mediums. The possibilities are still being imagined. Perhaps this is a good reason to step back, hold off on the formation of strict ontological distinctions, and give this fledgling art some time to grow.

    A word on illegality and illicitness:
    If there exists two identical artworks – one legal and one illegal, with both works done on property of anonymous ownership – and this affects one’s appreciation of the artwork, is this suggestive of a political ideology, or discontent with the prevailing politics … or is it just a deviant psychological manifestation? Surely not everyone would gravitate to the illegal/illicit street art. So, with the artworks being the same, while the people are not, what causes this difference? Taste? Taste for the illegal?

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