Lord Glasgow gets a Brazilian: graffiti as a restoration procedure for historic buildings
Alberto Goyena (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro / University of Aberdeen)
Paper short abstract:
Though frequently considered as merely brutal, the task of destroying or vandalizing a national “heritage” is here explored in its material and symbolic complexity. This paper brings considerations of an anthropological research conducted on the grounds of a Scottish medieval castle, considering its most recent and polemic interventions.
Paper long abstract:
In 2007, a Scottish aristocrat commissioned four Brazilian street artists to spray graffiti on the walls of his private residence: a listed medieval castle. The polemic result has given rise to aesthetic and legal discomfort among local heritage institutes, as well as triggered debates regarding restoration procedures, meanings and purposes of ancient castles in contemporary Great Britain. On the one hand, this paper looks at the controversies involving the act of graffiting a protected architectural structure. Although often regarded as “vandalism”, the intervention is here studied through what it can tell us about the definitions and expectations deposited on buildings that ought to represent a certain memory and authenticity. On the other hand, the paper deals more specifically with the actual images depicted on the castle’s façade. The presence, in the Scottish west coast countryside, of Amerindian mythical characters and northeastern oneiric figures among other elements of Brazilian urban art provides an opportunity to question some established relations between the national heritage and a castle’s particular biography.
Ruined bodies and aging buildings: architecture, oblivion, decay