Guerrilla liberation

2010-10-15 12:21

Guerrilla Garden is an ­exhibition currently ­running at Bean Bag ­Bohemia. It complements an ongoing participative art and long-term gardening project that aims to demystify the culture of graffiti and encourage urban ­beautification.

The exhibition features a selection of works by Justin Govender, Kevin Ngwenya, Tyran Roy and ­Siposetho Matangangana that are informed and inspired by graffiti.

Alongside the artworks are archive photographs of Durban graffiti projects by students from the Durban University of Technology School of Photography. The exhibition runs until the end of October.

Project co-ordinator Tamlyn Martin, an artist, curator and lecturer at the Centre for Fine Art Animation and Design, explains that the concept is about combining a formal exhibition with a series of public workshop sessions that ­allow for participation, skills transference and a chance for art ­makers to connect.

“We decided to consider the guerrilla gardening concept as a way of beautifying neglected public areas and to combine it with an exhibition of graffiti-styled art and some graffiti-themed public workshops,” says Martin.

“We are kicking off the season with a collaborative exhibition that pays homage to Durban’s vibrant graffiti culture. The exhibition showcases paintings by four emerging painters, all students at the Centre for Fine Art Animation and Design, in collaboration with students from the School of ­Photography.

“The show combines graffiti painting with fine art photographic documentation. We celebrate our d-urban rejuvenation guerillas for taking lost, neglected city spaces and planting their powerful statements of resistance, rejuvenation and public ownership.

“As part of the season we will ­also be hosting four graffiti workshops teaching the techniques of graffiti painting. We are also planning a park rejuvenation project that will bring a neglected urban park back to life using sustainable veg gardening and heaps of community love,” she says.

The season is motivated by a ­vision to elevate graffiti from society’s underbelly to a more respected art form, creating space for it to operate within civic boundaries and to play a meaningful role in urban rejuvenation.

“Our goal is to demystify the ­underpinnings of graffiti culture so that people understand that it is not ominous,” explains Martin.

Martin quotes international case studies where businesses and property owners who traditionally have fallen prey to graffiti and illegal tagging have identified graffiti ­artists and engaged with them – commissioning them to ensure that graffiti on their buildings is of a high standard and allowing walls to become a respected ­graffiti site.

Their philosophy is that to engage with graffiti artists as a community will mean less random tagging.

There are examples in London, Berlin and New York of symbiotic proactive relationships between the authorities and the artists ­resulting in high-quality graffiti art adorning buildings in a carefully managed negotiated relationship.

There are examples of this in Durban where city officials are working together with artists in urban rejuvenation projects.

Martin and her team support this approach and are investing energy into educating and training potential graffiti artists so that graffiti becomes of a high standard, and is used in controlled and managed situations.

As part of the process, the ­organising team has been commissioned to create a graffiti wall at Origin (the old Winston Hotel) to showcase graffiti styles and ­techniques.

The workshops explore font styles and scripts, as well as the history and social context of ­graffiti and spray painting techniques.

The season will end with a graffiti safari – a guided tour of some of the key graffiti sites in and around Durban.

It is hoped that the project will lead to further urban rejuvenation initiatives, including urban ­community gardening and ­vegetable growing.

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