THE SPRAY CAN IS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD: STREET ART AS A MEDIUM FOR POLITICAL DISCOURSE IN THE POST-SOVIET REGION
Zimberg, Alexis M.
Hilton, Alison L
In authoritarian states, opposition movements and members of civil society lack unrestricted and uncensored access to the mainstream media and subsequently to the public sphere. As a result, those wishing to express their political sentiment or influence public discourse are forced to seek out alternative avenues of expression. An anonymous and untraceable art, graffiti freely criticizes everything that the mainstream media does not and perhaps cannot. Graffiti reclaims the corporate-dominated public space as a place for sharing banned information, promoting ignored causes, discussing society's ills, and even mobilizing the public for a certain aim. An art of satirical discourse, graffiti anonymously communicates the frank narrative of a city, uninhibited by official censors. This research project analyzes contemporary graffiti not only as a popular public aesthetic, but also as a mouthpiece of political sentiment. This paper explores the use of graffiti and street art within the post-Soviet region and post-Communist Europe. In particular it explores and compares the street narrative of politicized or authoritarian Minsk, Budapest, Saint Petersburg, and Moscow, four cities where graffiti and street art offer a voice to the voiceless and a medium for the politically suffocated. This is the first formal comparative study of how graffiti is used as a political tool in the post-Soviet region.