Urban Space, Art and Social Movements
Art’s practical place in reconstituting the urban space, as one of the defining elements of urban culture, renders a twofold role. The role of art in the neoliberal urban planning shows that art is an integral part of current capitalist processes that are turning the neoliberal art subject in a source of capital—both as a resource for tourism and a real estate investment. However, recent research has found that arts and art establishments are not as significant in gentrification processes as before (Grodach, Fostor, Murdoch 2018). Indeed, art has been both a product of and a response to the unequal distribution of resources and visibility in the city through the processes of new urban planning. For example, a growing resistance against neoliberal urbanism in Europe (Colomb & Novy 2016) demonstrates the relationship of artist communities and neighborhood organizations and challenges the prescriptive approaches to art’s role in neoliberal aestheticization.
Art’s presence in the urban space is dynamic and interactive that communicates the complex forms of globalization, cultural hybridity, and plurality in contemporary daily life—where we experience politics. The new forms of agencies and strategies of urban creativity in the form of graffiti, wall paintings, yarn bombing, stickers, urban gardening, street performances, tactical art, creative campaigns and theatrical actions—among others—demand an active spectatorship (Whybrow, 2011) and have a growing power to renegotiate space for new forms of political participation.
Social mobilization in the neoliberal cities constitutes a common theme in texts inspired by Henri Lefebvre’s colossal work on production and reproduction of urban space (Lefebvre, 1968) and David Harvey’s book Rebel Cities (Harvey, 2012). Urban creativity has a broad scope of interests from a clear “right to the city” perspective with its ecological, spatial, and ideological agenda to the struggles of civil rights, and individual and collective freedoms. While this aspect has opened the research into recognizing street art as a genre for “political democratization” (Bengtsen 2014), the growing significance of art in social and spatial justice movements has been neglected by both social movement theory and art theory. Thus, the analysis of art and urban social movements is still academically insufficient, although street art is well-recognized to have had an essential part during the Egyptian (Abaza 2016), Tunisian (LeVine 2015) and Syrian (Crooke 2018) revolution, Spanish Indignados (Ramírez Blanco 2018), Greek Aganaktismenoi movement (Tsilimpoudini 2016) and the Gezi Uprising (Tunali 2018).