If art that is also vandalism is destructive then Artivism is meant to be something more constructive in the balance – even a polar opposite. For those of us who prefer to see the world holistically, the graffiti / Street Art continuum globally has always held wildly opposing instincts and missions simultaneously, neither specifically negating the other and none to be overlooked.
The term Artivism has been around about 20 years, some saying it gained currency with artists helping the Zapatistas in Chiapas in the 90s. In the Street Art world, we’ve been witnessing its used by those artists and organizations who would like to distinguish the intent of the artist as something with a social/political goodness at its core.
It’s a generally positive trend, although one has to be as critical of it as any; because our marketing-soaked modern consciousness knows that terms like these can quickly be adopted/adapted to whitewash/greenwash so many initiatives. In practice, artists have espoused politics in their street murals and less-official works for decades before we began branding it
The Pangeaseed initiative has been encouraging artists to put their best flipper forward for a few years when organizing painting festivals that center on aquatic themes, and notorious Berlin-based vandals 1UP Crew have actually taken the plunge in a spectacular way here in Nusa Penida, a small island off the gorgeously scenic Bali.
“It took us a while to figure out what we can do, but we did it,” says a 1UP spokesperson about the cage they designed and built beneath the blue. “The world’s first underwater 3D installation that we hope will serve as an artificial coral reef to help regenerate corals and marine life.” It also is a giant “1Up” tag, although this one is down.
Perhaps all this communing with nature is slowly turning the attitudes of notorious vandals. “Please take care of your environment!,” they say without a trace of irony, “One United Power! One Love!” As usual, we discover that the graffiti/Street Art conversation is not always conveniently black and white.
Sometimes it is green, or aqua.
Special thanks to: Pangeaseed Foundation and Seawalls Festival Bali team.
Photos by @martincolognoli & @trax51