"Darling Look! It's a Banksy!" Viewers’ Engagement with Street Art and Graffiti

Hansen, Susan and Flynn, Danny (2014) "Darling Look! It's a Banksy!" Viewers’ Engagement with Street Art and Graffiti. In: The Aesthetic Energy of the City, 24-26 September 2014, Lodz, Poland.


This paper examines viewers’ affective encounters with street art and graffiti, with attention to the critical framework provided by Rancière (2004), whose work suggests a method for investigating our aesthetic practices of participation (or exclusion) and looking (or not looking). Viewers’ material engagements with street art and graffiti represent a disruption of the expectable order that demonstrates that what we see, according to our usual division of the sensible, could be otherwise – thus revealing the contingency of our perceptual and conceptual order. Our examination of the visual dialogue on just one city wall highlights the temporal, site-specific and participatory elements of graffiti and street art as a form of communication, or visual dialogue. We demonstrate that viewers are not passive recipients of the artist’s intentions, but are instead competent social actors capable of understanding, appreciating, and actively and materially engaging with street art and graffiti.

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