Past Events

Street Art: An Image of the People?

Research Seminar – Julian Stallabrass

  • 9 June 2021
  • 6:00 – 7:30 pm
  • This series of Research Seminars will be delivered by our Senior Fellows who were awarded in 2019 to talk on the research they have conducted as part of their fellowship.

At a time of resurgent populism, the issue of how and if ‘the people’ can be represented has become an urgent one. While at various points in history, the people seemed to congeal into firm visual appearance in painting, prints, posters, photography and film, their current visual form often seems wavering and uncertain. One place to look for them is street art, which often claims to speak on behalf of ‘the people’, and to embody values that are (or at least have been) demotic and anti-elitist.

In recent actively insurgent situations, the people do seem to step forward into a coherent visibility, and as a result street art becomes actively dangerous, and authorities ban it and punish its artists; in the neoliberal street, by contrast, the situation is more paradoxical, as artists oscillate between populist sentiment (which encompasses class antagonism) and individualist self-advertisement. Using the concepts of entropy and Sianne Ngai’s zany, these tensions will be explored, to ask if the people can only appear reactively, and only summon the mere spectre of the collective.

About the speaker

  • Man standing over lectern.

    Julian Stallabrass is a writer, photographer, curator, broadcaster and lecturer. He is Professor in art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art, and is the author of Killing for Show: Photography, War and the Media in Vietnam and Iraq, Rowman and Littlefield, 2020; A Very Short Introduction to Contemporary Art, updated edition, Oxford University Press 2020; Internet Art: The Online Clash Between Culture and Commerce, Tate Publishing, London 2003; Paris Pictured, Royal Academy of Arts, London 2002; and High Art Lite: British Art in the 1990s, Verso, London 1999. He is also the editor of Documentary, in the MIT/ Whitechapel Documents of Contemporary Art series; and Memory of Fire: Images of War and the War of Images, Photoworks, Brighton 2013. He has made online TV programmes about aspects of modern and contemporary art for Tariq Ali TV in the series ‘Rear Window’.