Here’s a real delight – a new book by Riika Kuittinen on street craft as a global art movement. It covers guerrilla gardening, yarnbombing, light graffiti, street sculpture and so on. Packed with uplifting inventiveness – like this example from the work of Mark Jenkins - it sends a very clear message about creativity in the public realm and the resilience of a democratic approach to art.
‘Street craft is interwoven with the unexpected, offering a prism through which the everyday environment can be perceived differently.’
These artworks are usually un-commissioned, seldom legal, ‘donated’ to the public on the streets, generally removed without trace once they have been documented for display on the world wide web. They are often playful, sometimes challenging, occasionally provocative. They offer what Kuittinen calls an ‘intimacy of experience’ while reflecting the ordinary universal context of the street.
Of course, the book is not riddled with examples of bad street craft, and yet such examples doubtless exist. But the ephemerality is the defense here: if we come across mediocrity on a local pavement, we’re not likely to be stuck with it – unlike so much municipally-funded public art.
So is this is an art movement (Kuittinen describes it as a 'fluid genre') that can resist the assimilators? Needless to say, wealthy people and trendy commercial enterprises want to own some of it (we think of Banksy’s stencils appearing at auction), completely missing the point. Am I being over-optimistic to suppose that street craft at its best will remain just out-of-reach of global capitalism and the high art industry?