Accepted paper:

The Invisible Performance / The Invisible Masterpiece: Visibility and Concealment in Independent Public Art


Rafael Schacter (University College London)

Paper short abstract:

Most commonly seen as an aesthetic infatuated with self-promotion, this paper will examine the "invisible masterpieces" of Independent Public Art, the furtive artworks not only whose performance is concealed (as in nearly all examples of this illicit art) but so too the final artefact itself.

Paper long abstract:

Independent Public Art (read graffiti and street-art), is most commonly seen as a site of egotistical self-promotion, a form of "territorial pissing" habitually translated as "[insert name] was here". Yet a distinct group of practitioners within this sphere can in fact be seen to be operating in almost the exact opposite direction, producing artworks which are almost entirely concealed to the public at large, unknown to all but the most ardent of advocates. While secrecy is made publicly visible in almost all cases of Independent Public Art then - the necessary privacy of the illicit performance made communal through its public status in the heart of the city (a factor which of course contributes to their charged status, their nature as artefactual residues of a prohibited act) - it is the suppression and withholding of information that I seek to explore in this paper, the motives for, and ramifications of, these highly clandestine artworks. It is hence the dual furtiveness of these works which will here be discussed, the invisibility of both the performance and the artwork itself, an intentional containment of fame which I will suggest is linked to perceptions of commitment and authenticity, to a purity of motive deemed sullied by visibility.

panel G50
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