As artists are in motion and Urban Art is on-the-global-move, cultural identity is being transported and transferred to foreign streets by visiting artists. Artistic lines and boundaries are being explored, and the native territories of local artists are perceived by some to be under threat. On a recent visit to Montreal, a graffiti artist OMEN and friend that attended art school with me met me for coffee. In our discussion he expressed that he was upset (mild interpretation) about international artists descending on his city. He felt that native artists who had put the years and time into the street movement were being overlooked. As many barriers and boundaries are crossed in public art, there is a question of 'Who has the right to express themselves here?' Take the famous Banksy piece as an example. Did he have the 'right' to make artwork on the walls of the West Bank?
UK artist DFACE also commented about the cultural differences he sees in the Street Art movement:
"As a whole I think there is more of a social or political comment that is being made in Europe or at least in the UK. I'm not saying that artist in the States don't have social or political agendas. I just think that in the UK that is something that is more evident. There are those in the States however who are getting a message across without question." -- interview by Manuel Bello, Fecal Face Dot Com.
Los Angeles-based artist MEARONE recently was making a mural in the UK and faced a lot of scrutiny about his piece. He recently shared his thoughts and experiences with me that I wanted to share as it informs the subject of cultural boundaries, understanding and acceptance in Street Art:
I came to paint a mural that depicted the elite banker cartel known as the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Morgans, the ruling class elite few, the Wizards of Oz. They would be playing a board game of monopoly on the backs of the working class. The symbol of the Free Mason Pyramid rises behind this group and behind that is a polluted world of coal burning and nuclear reactors. I started noticing that the people were giving me some strange looks. Suddenly a car pulled up and some dudes got out, some kids from across the street walk up and everybody is asking me, "Why am I painting the sign of the Illuminati in their neighborhood?" & "Do I believe in Satan?"
I was feeling some serious heat and anger.
I said I was creating this piece to inspire critical thought and spark conversation. I heard "f***** American" said, and "f*** the Illuminati!" They said my mural wouldn't last till the morning and I should just quit now. I continued to express my intent but they were not trying to hear me.
I felt that I was all alone, but I continued to paint when another larger group approached with older men & women telling me to cross it out and this is a symbol that has haunted their people down for over a 1000 years. So much passion and they were very versed with the taboo subject of a secret government banking cartel and they didn't quite get me. I explained my mural & how these elite few were living easy lives on the backs of the working class, I wasn't in promotion of these thieves. They said then write something on the wall to convince us that you mean what you say. I walked over and wrote, "The New World Order is the enemy of Humanity!" They started talking and I couldn't understand. A few walked away, a few said OK, and some stayed and talked with me about our money system and how they see us Americans. It wasn't directed to me as much as is was shared. I had no Idea this was going to be such an intense experience from the get go and still running. The next day I painted the bankers in with the playing board and I noticed people were becoming more curious. Some of the people from the day before were saying hello a few said good job. My third day I got the working class holding up the game board painted in and people were smiling and saying how much they were enjoying its evolution. They were getting it! This was empowering and gave me fuel to work out the meticulous details.
This whole adventure was very draining but suddenly my energy was back. Come the fourth day there was a street fest going on and people were engaging with me with total knowledge of the subject matter in my mural. Older white men to young Muslim children were talking to me, explaining how we Americans spend beyond our means and how we don't know what our military does around the world. Our money is worth nearly 50 percent of their Pound$. For America to fall all the world has to do is nothing and an economic war can be waged and won. A lengthy conversation of post 9/11 America and foreign policy. My mind was blown, this experience transformed my whole understanding of the game. I finished my mural and drank a beer, smoked a joint, and conversed with the people, my dream to paint a mural that would rally people together and inspire conversation of things that matter, was just realized and it was a bit humbling and emotional. I feel as if I can never see the world the same again, I came into London and was treated as a third world citizen and given my first world privileges back only to be confronted by the same culture and people the UK and America are waring against. I feel very close to all the people I met at the Shoreditch District and Brick Lane, these people shared there lives and thoughts with me unfiltered.
We are all earth people. -- MEARONE, 2012