‘This is Not Street Art’ is a visual narrative providing insight into contemporary art culture of public spaces and art interventions in India. With the festivals and projects of St+art India as a reference point, the narrative explores the interactions between art, its audience and the space it occupies.
Historically, India has always had a rich tradition of visual arts engaging with walls and public space— traditions of Madhubani and Gond both originated from painting mud walls of houses, while a rangoli provides a way for communities to share common public spaces and celebrate together using art. Yet, cut to modern day, and visuals in public space are mostly relegated to advertising, political propaganda, religious messaging and the occasional ‘Sapna, I still love you’ smeared untidily across an underpass wall.
Street art as a global sub-culture is one of the most powerful contemporary art movements of our generation. The art world is unapproachable for the common man. In a gallery, the intention is to go and see art. However, in public spaces the art comes to you. It takes you by surprise and the impact is greater when you are not prepared. In 2014, many artists came together in New Delhi and started working on the first St+art festival. Thereafter, St+art India Foundation began adding colour and creativity to the barren walls and districts of the prominent cities all over the country.
After having intensively worked in this space for the past few years, St+art was ready to share their experience and learnings about street art and Indian visual culture through the medium of a book. In India, people take to streets on all occasions, be it a celebration, food, shopping, or daily chores. The day-life of a bustling Indian street pictures the traffic of office goers, long queues for public transports, and loud calls of tireless shop owners aspiring to entice the passersby. Then there are those who have no home but the street to rely upon for shelter, food, and living. The streets of India are unlike others— they showcase genuine stories of many who live and strive on these streets. Therefore, the art that adorns these spaces and streets is not merely ‘street art’ but weaves into the visual atmosphere of people’s day-to-day lives.
This is Not Street Art presents public art projects as case studies, complete with anecdotes, personal accounts, artist interviews, community testimonials and larger-than-life murals. The research, design and documentation of this project served as my graduation project during my time at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. Graduation project document available on request.