Recent global events, including the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings, Occupy movements and anti-austerity protests across Europe have renewed scholarly and public interest in collective action, protest strategies and activist subcultures. We know that social movements do not just contest and politicise culture, they create it too. However, scholars working within international politics and social movement studies have been relatively inattentive to the manifold political mediations of graffiti, muralism, street performance and other street art forms.
Against this backdrop, this book explores the evolving political role of street art in Latin America during the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. It examines the use, appropriation and reconfiguration of public spaces and political opportunities through street art forms, drawing on empirical work undertaken in Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina. Bringing together a range of insights from social movement studies, aesthetics and anthropology, the book highlights some of the difficulties in theorising and understanding the complex interplay between art and political practice. It seeks to explore 'what art can do' in protest, and in so doing, aims to provide a useful point of reference for students and scholars interested in political communication, culture and resistance.
It will be of interest to students and scholars working in politics, international relations, political and cultural geography, Latin American studies, art, sociology and anthropology.
"Political street art, the locus of Ryan’s inquiry, remains a deliberately open conceptual term, ‘a loose category for interventions whose creative and material use of the street is in some way tied to their political meaning’, (p. 5) allowing her to draw together examples ranging from campaign posters and political murals to slogan writing and street performances. Relying on original interviews and archival research, the book follows a geographical structure, working through three sets of case studies located within the national contexts of Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina, each chapter interrogating the capacity of political street art to performatively ‘mediate within, challenge and even alter the political status quo’ (p. 141). Political Street Art is an exceptionally rich resource that will benefit new generations of researchers in street art and graffiti studies while also offering critical incursions into social movement theory and regional studies. Likewise, Ryan’s considerations of the aesthetic object in public space as an agent of political change will be of interest to scholars of visual culture: ‘Art is not for the illuminated, art is to illuminate. Signed: The street’." - Julia Tulke, University of Rochester, USA
2 From ‘excommunication’ to political expression: conceptualising political street art in Latin America
3 ‘Tupinaquim o Tupinãodá?’: rethinking street art in Brazil
4 Pintadas and performances: street art, identity and resistance in Bolivia
5 Argentine street art: expression, crisis and change
At a time when the literature on democratic politics is dominated by theories of ‘anti-politics’ and the analysis of political disaffection Holly Eva Ryan’s Political Street Art provides a refreshingly perceptive and powerfully astute account of the political role of street art. Although focused on Latin America the insights it provides in relation to the role of art as dynamic form of political expression offer clear lessons for the social and political sciences all over the world. Political Street Art reveals not only why art matters but more importantly ‘what art can do’ in terms of facilitating resistance and cultivating social change.
Matthew Flinders, Professor of Politics, University of Sheffield, UK and Chair of the Political Studies Association of the United Kingdom
Drawing on a wide range of historical and contemporary examples from Latin America, Political Street Art convincingly shows how art can illuminate and usurp power just as much as it can entrench it. An innovative and important contribution to our understanding of aesthetic politics.
Roland Bleiker, Professor of International Relations, University of Queensland, Australia
Bridging insights from multiple disciplines and drawing from extensive primary research, this richly illustrated volume revolutionizes our understanding of how art and protest can help transform the world. This book is essential reading for anyone wishing better to understand the dynamics of contentious politics.
Thomas Davies, Senior Lecturer in International Politics at City, University of London, UK
Images increasingly define how we make sense of ourselves and the world around us yet remain under-explored in global politics. In this excellent book, Ryan provides an engaging analysis of political street art in Latin America as a category in which modern politics is refuted, contested and created. Exciting and contemporary, a must read for those interested in art, Latin America and global politics.
Sophie Harman, Reader at Queen Mary University of London, UK