STREET ART WALK WITH THE PARTICIPANTS OF THE 5TH CYCLE
Participants of the current, 5th generation of the “Creative Mentorship” program had the opportunity to get to know Belgrade from a slightly different angle. In cooperation with the organization Street Art Walk Belgrade, they walked through Block 45 in New Belgrade, and got to know the rich street art and story behind it.
Curated by Ljiljana Radošević, we learned a lot about street art, its history and types. What is “throw up”, what is “outline”, what is a “tag”, what is a “piece”, and what is a “silver piece”, what is characteristic of the Belgrade style of graffiti? Why do graffiti artists often change their aliases? What is the difference between murals and graffiti, and what is the thin line that separates street art as such from graffiti? These are just some of the things that Ljiljana introduced us to, putting each of the works in a special social context, because, as she says, society and the climate in society are the main factors in the emergence of graffiti.
Did you know that the graffiti in Block 45 was created out of a desire to make otherwise uniform buildings colorful and beautiful? The hip-hop culture that came to us through the media during the eighties, consisted of several main activities, of which breakdance and graffiti attracted the most attention in Serbia. The first graffiti was created during the 80s, on the Sava Quay next to Block 45. The founder of the graffiti culture in our country is considered to be Miša Jens. The real expansion of graffiti in this area came during the 90s. Ljiljana especially points out that this happened due to the need for a more colorful and beautiful environment, and not out of the desire to damage the property or to harm any of the neighbors in any sense; graffiti is the result of a pure need for a better environment in times of crisis and daily bad news in Serbia and the region.
When it comes to graffiti artists – many of them are versatile creatives, often active in other artistic fields: they are engaged in some kind of design (graphic, game design, etc.), architecture, or music. They often do two or more jobs to enable themselves to create graffiti. All this tells us that the ingrained opinion that graffiti is necessarily a sign of vandalism is wrong.
Although it may not seem like it at first glance, the graffiti in the block is arranged according to plan and an agreement on where they can be drawn and where not. From Liljana’s story, we learn that Hope, the oldest graffiti artist in the area, is a kind of authority for other graffiti artists in the block, and as Ljiljana says, “the block curator”.
Also, not every wall is an ideal base for graffiti, so it can happen that they are washed, faded or damaged in some other way due to various external influences to which they are exposed.
The specificity of the culture of Block 45 is that the graffiti had a special significance here from the very beginning, and the artists who drew them deserved special respect. Although longevity is not a feature of such works of art, due to exposure to external influences, different weather conditions and eventually the possibility of being painted over or covered with a new work, graffities in block 45 survive for several years or even decades, thanks to the community that considers them as their local cultural heritage and is ready to protect them.
In addition to Block 45, wall art can also be found on the facades of Dorćol, Savamala and Vračar, each of them having a developed, unique, and recognizable style of street art. As our guide says: “When you pass by graffiti, you always remember that every one of them has a reason for being in that exact place and why it is the way it is.”
Sometimes, it happens that graffiti that has existed for a very long time, (counting the time according to the lifespan of one graffiti every graffiti that lasted longer than two weeks is considered as “old”), is painted over and thus removed forever. However, for the creators of street art, this can be a new challenge and a white canvas waiting to carry some new, symbolic, print.
Our walk, symbolically, ended in front of a whitewashed wall where, just a few days before our walk, there was graffiti with which Ljiljana wanted to complete the story of street art in this block. We can say that the end marks a new beginning, as we hope, and that the very end of this year’s cycle can be a good opportunity for some new chapters and further improvement and growth.
Foto: Luka Ivanović (Pneuma Films)