Tag Archives: Jens Besser

Urinals, Public Space & Murals

Trains, Travels & Murals

This month marks a hundred years since the artist Marcel Duchamp submitted his now famous artwork, Fountain, to an international exhibition in New York. Influenced by Dadaism his submission was simply a urinal he’d bought in a local shop. Duchamp’s surrealist questioning of institutional definitions of art has had a defining impact on modern art. Now, rather then creating something, a contemporary artist will add the label ‘art’ (and therefore implicit meaning) to anything they choose. Duchamp’s legacy has left a large portion of the public completely baffled when they enter a contemporary art gallery. Alongside its increasing commodification and institutionalisation this pretentiousness has also crept into urban art. This is what leads Pietro Rivasi, writing at the start of Trains, Travels & Murals, to declare that “we are living in the dark, medieval times of urban art.”

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New Wave Muralism

Muralismo Morte is the second book by Jens Besser I’ve reviewed. In this book the content is made up of photographs interrupted by short pieces of writing linking them together. Rather than examining the more theoretical side of muralism they discuss some history, first-hand experiences, or the ideas behind the work of the artists. The photographs show different styles and techniques, covering a broad range of surfaces and situations, which are brought together under the term of ‘new muralism’. The introduction to the book describes the evolution of a new generation of muralists whose abstract work departed from the writing and letterforms of graffiti to focus on the characters that were no longer “the icing on the cake of a burner.” This is the new muralism that is represented here. To avoid producing yet another anthology of street-art the author has attempted to show lesser known painters with the main focus on illegal productions.

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The Philosophy of Muralism

I recently got sent a copy of a book called Time for Murals. The book was published after a conference, organised by the artist Jens Besser, that took place a couple of years ago on the subject of the “contemporary phenomenon” that are urban murals. Now murals aren’t my usual area of interest but in my home town of London there are a few cool murals dating from the late seventies and eighties that I really like. The sort of murals that I see going up nowadays all seem to be large scale pieces of street-art rather than the community focused and often politicised murals that came before. Anyway as Besser points out in the book “a narrow interpretation may result in nerdiness”. So, as not to be classed a graff-nerd, it’s probably healthy to delve into another type of urban art that isn’t usually graffiti and doesn’t have to be street-art. Each chapter in the book is written by different artists and organisers discussing the place of murals in the city and within the urban art scene, descriptions of mural festivals, community initiatives, a bit of mural history and finally an interview.

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