Street Art is not about legal murals.
There are a number of misconceptions by persons unfamiliar with history or the organic unregulated illegal and unrestricted practices of urban intervention regarding this. Anyone who has thoughtfully and carefully followed what artists have been doing without permission in public and abandoned spaces over the last few decades will know that mural festivals and other legal and/or commercial mural initiatives are just that. They are not displaying examples of Street Art.
The commodification of the original freewheeling practices of Street Artists and its visual vernacular in commercial campaigns, coupled with the proliferation of mural festivals that subtly or explicitly neuter the activist element that critiques politics and society, is regrettable – although predictable.
Like the one we feature here today, Street Artists don’t treat abandoned places simply as galleries to sell sneakers or prints; with murals slapped thoughtlessly check to jowl as selfie-backdrops and vehicles for “urban” brand logos. Here one can gain appreciation of the works as they are situated amidst the ruins; a self-granted residency or laboratory where your art placed in a new context alters everything around it.
Luckily, photographers who don’t mind working and who still long for the days of illegal urban art exploration and discovery continue the hunt for those oases that lie off-the-beaten-path.
“Ruin porn” is such a pithy simplification of this desire to document our forgotten places, to reconnect with and review our history, our lore, our systems of values. We prefer the term “urban exploration” for conquests such as these. Here artists find a new home and inspiration from the beauty of decay, taking residency in the ruins of what may have been splendor.
Photographer and BSA contributor Lluis Olive recently visited one such oasis called La Puda, an abandoned mineral bath resort at the foot of the Montserrat Mountains near Barcelona, Spain. Build in 1870 it closed its doors in 1958, and in the intervening six decades the building has suffered from floods, thieves, fern and fauna.
Despite the western classical markings of strength an power like colonnades, entablature, and soaring arches, presently the place is in various states of ruin due to abandonment. Here Mr. Olive gives us a small photo essay of the work of one artist, SM172. These unsigned works remind us that not everyone is in it for the “fame” because we had to ask around to find who the author is. Luckily we have the smartest readers!