Monday, February 7, 2011


I’ve been interested in Swoon, a street artist out of New York, for several years.  I think I’d seen one or two of her wheat paste cutout prints around Brooklyn, but I didn’t register her work until I saw a couple pieces photographed by Corie of Callalillie during her walks all over the city.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

What compels me about street art is the intrinsic link between tagging and branding. A tag is a brand: you’re literally labeling a public space with your name. Often, the name is also the art itself, and this creates an interesting interplay between name, brand, art, and space. Tagging is lo-fi, democratic, and usually illegal, since you traditionally have to pay to get space.

Photo credit: Kelly Knight

Graffiti is incredible when done well.  And it’s pretty anti-consumer, which flies against what branding is typically about—getting a brand name or product spread as far and wide as possible in the interest  of consumer awareness, which then translates into sales.

Tagging is all about merit and notoriety: there is no sale associated with getting your name out there.  Since your tag is your art, you’re judged purely on its aesthetics.  Where it's similar is that it's also judged on frequency, since becoming known is all about how much exposure you have.

Swoon started out as a street artist trying to get her name out there, but as she says in this video, her art matured into something more.  It became collaborative.  Her wheat paste cutouts incorporated everyday street people and landscapes.  They became personal, more hidden, more interactive.  They were created not to broadcast the name "Swoon", but to contribute to and become part of the street landscape. 

Instead of the statement-based traditional tag, Swoon’s art became part of a conversation.

What would happen if consumer brands found a way to become part of the conversation I wonder?  What would happen then?

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