I recently saw the Banksy/street art documentary ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’ and something that was mentioned about documenting street art got me thinking. By nature, the idea of street art is that it’s temporary – it exists until it gets removed or painted over or whatever – but there’s also the issue of observation and documentation. Observing is obvious, but the documenting process is also an integral part of its existence as artwork. It’s like that cliché: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it…
As a photographer I understand the inclination to capture and document art, including street art. What I enjoy most as an observer of street art, in particular, is the surprise and delight of finding these artworks in the most random of places. Documenting them is secondary. I used to chuckle to myself every morning when I would drive past the Banksy Rat on a building on Melrose Ave. that says: I’m out of bed and dressed – what more do you want?
This joy of discovery reminds me of the first time I found and saw the work of the French artist, Space Invader.
I was in Paris about 5 years ago doing some work for an upcoming show/project. Walking through the streets I saw what looked like objects from the space invader game on buildings and other places. Then it became kind of a game for me to see where I could spot them. I should have taken more photos but I was busy trying to focus on my own work. At the time I didn’t realize Space Invader was becoming a world phenomenon. I soon found I no longer had to travel to Paris because his work was showing up in Los Angeles, London and other cities. Sadly now his artworks are being removed by people that probably only see the value in monetary terms, eliminating the experience (and joy) of discovery and observation for the rest of us. Take the photos…leave the art.