I drive the same route everyday to and from work. One day I started noticing graffittis in the streets of Cebu. It was subtle at first as I rushed through my daily grind and then it became more urgent and pressing this past year until it could no longer be contained in my daily subconscious. Colors and shapes started impressing on me, wanting to be noticed until they couldn’t anymore be ignored, and finally exploding in the virtual pages of this blog.
These three inverted blue creatures grace the facade of this otherwise boring building. I have been passing this street for a year and never noticed it until I was driving on the other side and had more distance between us. I realized there were three light blue creatures hanging upside-down grinning devilishly to whomever noticed them. Much like in Life. When you are too attached to a situation, you feel confused and out of whack until you put some distance and see the whole picture, gaining a better perspective of the situation.
I wonder who the artists are? It’s not known for sure because the ‘signatures’ they leave are mostly initials, abbreviations or aliases. Only one thing is certain. They belong to a secret, close-knit band of street artists known only to its members.
The more closely you study the style, the more you notice that this is one and the same artist. I know these three street art whose main theme is a ghostly white or blue figure bursting with heads were made by the same artist.
This is a great example of an unsanctioned street art painted over a commissioned and sponsored environmentally-themed wall mural somewhere in Gorordo Avenue. Some people say it is vandalism while some say it is unsanctioned art expressed outside conventional art venues like in the streets.
Art is special in its own right but it becomes more special when people become part of the tableau. For after all, what is Art without the people that appreciate, hate and give it meaning? When Art and people come together in the streets, Art ceases to be just a thing to be looked at. It becomes a living Art.
As I searched for these renegade art in the streets of Cebu, my sister who happens to be my companion and driver said to me “Wow, I would never have noticed them If you had not pointed them out to me. And the more you showed them to me, the more I started seeing them with their loud colors and sometimes subversive subjects.”
Just what is street art? When is street art graffiti and when is it vandalism on the walls? The key word is unsanctioned art. Like anything illegal and forbidden like sex in paradise, it becomes sweeter despite the punishment of being banished from heaven. What is it about anything illicit and unlawful? The mere curtailment of such actions makes it worth doing for some individuals despite the danger of being caught and punished.
As for me, I chased these street art knowing at any time, they could be erased and painted over the next month, week or the next day. I chased and took photos of these unsanctioned, sometimes subversive disappearing street art because my spirit felt nourished by their colors and shapes. I also liked it because somehow it gave me an idea of the pulse of the people and the city.
Until I saw a restaurant vandalised. It made me think did this restaurant close because of the vandalism and unrest in its neighbourhood or did the restaurant close first and then vandalism set in after?
Was it still street art or was it already vandalism? Suddenly I stopped in my tracks and thought about it. When does street art stop being art and start being vandalism? Or are they one and the same? Personally, discernment in answering this question comes fast when you own a property whether that be a house, a building or just a gate. When you wake up in the morning and find that someone had painted unsanctioned art on your gate or gate wall with utter disrespect of your property, I would say it is vandalism. When I see these street art in public walls in the streets, remote streets, dull corrugated gates, walls and abandoned buildings, somehow it lifts my spirits.
But that’s just me. What about you? What do you think? Is it street art or is it vandalism? Or are they one and the same? Write a line or two in the comments section. I would love to hear what you think.