There was a point when art changed the world, from photographers like Dorothea Lange, whose 1939 photograph of The Migrant Mother helped end a depression or Van Gogh’s starry night, which highlighted that a person’s troubled mind can be used in their art. But, in a modern world that is dominated by the internet, a platform that gives anyone with a keyboard a voice, will there be an artist that will change the world we currently live in? Someone who asks the right questions and even if they did, would we listen? There’s one platform that still possesses the possibility to change the world for the better, street art.
Artists like the mysterious Vhils or the talented Stik have surfaced in parts of the world, creating political works of art. During a trip to the Banksy museum in Amsterdam I realised my suspicions were correct, street art is one of the few mediums that can grab our attention long enough to highlight the turbulent times we live in.
Banksy is a British-born street artist and although his true identity remains a mystery to the public, his comments on social disorder are loud and clear, causing many of us to question the everyday lives we lead, which will hopefully lead to a social revolution.
Some of his more memorable pieces of art include Ronald McDonald and Mickey Mouse holding the hands of a young girl who was photographed during the 70s during a napalm attack in Vietnam. The piece highlights consumerist companies need to keep people blind to the travesties happening in the rest of the world. Another of his more controversial pieces include the anarchist clearly throwing flowers, rather than a Molotov. This piece was inspired by the 1960s campus and street riots, a sign that violent conflicts could have a peaceful resolution.
Street art has been around longer than people realise. Pieces of artwork date back to the second world war, with the memorable slogan ‘Kilroy was here’ next to a long nosed cartoon man peering over a wall. American service men drew the doodle on barracks and other places they were stationed. But, most modern street art came from New York City’s graffiti boom, where political activists and known gangs graffitied the area. Since then the art form has spiralled with many artists using urban areas as a platform for political and social ideas.
Maybe it’s unfair to look at our overly indulged lives and say that things need to change, especially as others in the world don’t have as much. But, as much as I try to pretend that this western world is a good place to be, there are many flaws that go unnoticed. We’re completely tethered to our mobile phones and the art of reading is dying. Maybe we should stop listening to keyboard activists and start turning to the mysterious world of street art, in the words of Banksy ‘ if graffiti changed anything – it would be illegal.’