Buffing and Buffering: Street Art’s Accelerating Archaeologies

The digital recordings of the Graffiti Archaeologists! session from September’s EAA Glasgow conference have just been published and I thought I would re-post the recording of the paper I presented with a ‘virtual’ Lachland Macdowall here. This was the paper, entitled Buffing and Buffering: Street Art’s Accelerating Archaeologies, which  we presented using Instagram in an attempt to further emphasis the remediation and multi-directional digital afterlives of street art and graffiti. It seems fitting that those processes of remediation continue and further layers of digital and technological intertextuality accumulate around our cases following the uploading of our presentation to YouTube. Below you can view a digital recording of a no-longer live  Instagram feed including screen-shots, failed gifs and mobile phone photographs, as projected to our audience in Glasgow, accompanied for part of the time, by an audio file provided by Lachlan that was made in Melbourne and emailed to me given that he couldn’t attend in person. Too many layers and connections of media? Perhaps.

I’ve included the session and paper abstract below for good measure. Many thanks to Doug Rocks-Macqueen for his filming and editing efforts (sadly he couldn’t do much to make me look a less goofy!). Once again a big thanks to the organisers of the session who are also listed below. You can also find the recordings of the other papers, from what turned out to be an excellent session, on his blog and the EAA website (along with many others from the conference). These include papers by Laura McAtackney, Erin Osborne-Martin, Andrew Hoaen, Niels Andreasen, Ursula Frederick, Alex Hale and Annie-Leigh Campbell, Cara Jones and Caroline Pudney, and two pecha kucha talks from Caroline Sturdy Colls and Russell Palmer – so if you are into graffiti, street art, heritage and archaeology there is plenty for you to get your teeth into!

Graffiti Archaeologists! Session Abstract

Graffiti Archaeologists!Recent years have seen increased interest in the archaeological study of graffiti. From Roman Pompeii to 21st century London, Archaeologists, we argue, are bringing fresh historical and methodological insights to a topic once restricted to studies of criminality. This session will bring together work that explores the spaces and places of acts of inscription, whether ancient or modern, urban or rural, dissenting or conformist. What can an archaeological approach tell us about graffiti? Do archaeologists offer a unique perspective to its study, preservation, and appreciation? To what extent can graffiti reveal the social norms and or exceptionalism of the societies and cultures that created it? Do modern understandings of graffiti fit with earlier forms of inscriptive practice? Should graffiti be viewed as purely an urban phenomenon, as suggested by earlier studies of graffiti? Should graffiti be considered heritage? What are the dangers of opening up graffiti to broader definitions of inscriptive practice? We welcome papers that examine graffiti with an archaeological perspective in mind: how to research, how to record, how to understand, how to engage with these (at times) subversive, (at times) disruptive and (at times) mundane forms of human expression? This session will also take delegates out into the city of Glasgow and its environs, to explore graffiti.

Organised by Dr.Alex Hale, RCAHMS/University of Glasgow. Dr.Jeff Sanders, Dig It 2015. Dr.Jeff Oliver, University of Aberdeen. Dr.Laura McAtackney, IRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow. Dr.Cameron McAuliffe, University of Western Sydney.

Buffing and Buffering: (Graffiti and) Street Art’s Accelerating Archaeologies Paper Abstract

In previous decades the heritage value of street art was rarely acknowledged (MacDowall 2006), today its recognition is nearly as commonplace as its acceptance as a legitimate and popular form of art. The consequences of street art’s transition into the worlds of art and heritage are complex, but include its effects on the authenticity of subcultural graffiti traditions (Merrill 2015) and its rapid spread through digital platforms to create a ‘wild’ archive (MacDowall 2005). These trends have implications for the role that heritage practitioners (including archaeologists) and public arts organisations should play in safeguarding and curating such subcultural expressions and particularly those that use anti-establishment tactics and engage directly with audiences in everyday spaces. In Berlin in December 2014, Italian street artist Blu took the unprecedented decision to permit the buffing of his own iconic mural as a symbolic gesture against the eviction of nearby squats and the general gentrification of the city. The sequential photographs of the mural’s obliteration quickly went viral and spread through various social media platforms. Meanwhile, other street artists, including those in Melbourne, have started to erase their creations as soon as they digitally distribute them through similar social media platforms, like Instagram, in order to cater for audiences who want to see walls refreshed without buffering delays. This paper considers street art’s accelerating temporalities and archaeologies and by implication the type of graffiti archaeology and the kinds of graffiti archaeologist that may be needed in the near future.

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