The art of deconstructing is the art of revealing. It calls for the dismantling of given structures, in order to understand their underlining logic, functions, and purposes. The deconstruction of the city space takes place in the form of various urban interruptions, a concept addressed extensively in the volume Cities Interrupted. Visual Culture and Urban Space, edited by Shirley Jordan and Christoph Lindner.
Interruption is an act of intervention through visual art: photography, film, performance, architecture, urban design, and mixed media, that breaks and subverts the existing urban structure, unfolding the original construction and the forces operating on the global city's contemporary space. Interruption aims to deconstruct old beliefs and it suggests a new critical approach to the inhabited space.
As a metropolis where the forces and rules of globalisation operate at their best, and where urban speed and homogenisation of space are apparent, London is a relevant example of an urban area predisposed to frequent interruptions. Like any other global city, London is a place where time flows increasingly faster, seemingly detached from individual and collective forms of humanity, and less space is available to be managed outside the business interests of developers.
This is challenged by the phenomenon of interruption, which often resembles a rebellious act of regaining control, legitimate or not, over public spaces. Starting, for instance, from streets where the walls of the city are not used for billboards and advertising, but become a canvas for graffiti artists, who largely express their dissent on themes like police corruption, CCTV surveillance, and consumerism, a few of the nearly ubiquitous elements of contemporary urban landscapes and experiences.
Through this form of appropriation, the artists claim a new understanding of the space of the street, not subjected to the logic of accumulation, centralised power, and advertising, but open to be inscribed with a logic of opposition and creative controversy. Street art becomes a weapon against the dehumanising uniformity and speed of urban life, prompting city dwellers to stop and look, to take time for thinking, and make the effort to remember and reference particular works.
Shoreditch, in East London, considered once an area of poverty and industrial relics, has become an open art gallery for graffiti artists: the famous “Designated Graffiti Area” by Banksy, the portrait sculpture by Gregos, the abandoned car by D*Face, the lettering of Ben Eine, and the 30-foot bird by the Belgian artist Roa. These artists have inspired many others to carry on the work on murals with new ideas, new concepts, always looking at society with witty eyes.
Banksy's mural “I Don't Believe in Global Warming," where the words written in red seem to sink inside the canal, is an open question on the problematic of environment. This work of interruption exposes the complex attitudes that underline environmental politics, and calls to individuals to interrogate their own role and responsibility in caring for the environment, well beyond the walls of their city.
Acts of deconstruction imply an ongoing process of questioning the world, piece by piece, scrutinising the use of time and space, and eventually exposing wrongdoing and aiming for truth. Urban interruptions are essential to this attitude of civic engagement and critical thinking, inasmuch as they consider the city space a fertile ground for the creative exploration of our space and of ourselves.
Words: Veronica Mafolino
Copy edited by Elena Stanciu