Amsterdam Urban Art

Volume 8, Issue 84; 27 May 2005; last modified 08 Oct 2010

Have something important to say? Just stick it !!!!

Amsterdam exhibited a form of urban art that captivated me. I've seen occasional evidence of it in other photoblogs, so I have no reason to believe that it's unique to Amsterdam. It's probably present in any urban area, but I don't live in one of those.

It consists of a staggering variety of stickers—in Amsterdam, most often on drain pipes and utility boxes of various sorts. Most are, if not quite unobtrusively located, at least placed on otherwise ugly corners of the urban landscape. I don't know what the locals think, but it doesn't look exactly like vandalism to me, they aren't stuck on shop windows or plastered across bridge railings and the like.

Some of the stickers are clearly advertising. Some are less clearly advertising. Some are social commentary. A few appear to be part of a larger theme that I suppose is recognized and understood by the community that places them. But most of them are just…art.

I snapped lots and lots (and lots) of them. You can see most of them, and a few examples of traditional spray paint vandalism, on Flickr in Amsterdam Urban Art, May 2005.

Most, but not quite all, are “workplace safe”, though they are not all in good taste. None are are defamatory or culturally insensitive, as far as I can tell.


Good stuff. Thanks!

But where's the "spray paint vandalism"? (I don't consider painting vandalism, generally)

BTW, the common term is "street art", AFAIK that's what people would google for if they were to search for the kind of art you photographed.

—Posted by Tobi on 03 Jun 2005 @ 05:39 UTC #

Thanks, Tobi. I expect your mention of the term "street art" is enough to get it into Google in the right places. And I've just repeated it for good measure. I'll remember that in the future.

With respect to painting and vandalism, I think "No Medals No Prizes", "Einstein's Circus", "RSC!" and the collection of "HWH"'s might all be considered vandalism. I suppose the stickers might too, maybe it's just a matter of perspective. Slap a sticker on the telephone junction box on my house and I might think that was kind of cool. Spray paint my vinal siding and you can be damn sure I'll think it was vandalism.

—Posted by Norman Walsh on 03 Jun 2005 @ 06:33 UTC #

You're criminalizing works of art (and the respective artists) based on your taste?

Tags are an important part of graffiti culture, AKA spraycan art. Some are simple, some are complex.

"Vandalism" means "willful or malicious destruction or defacement of public or private property" according to IMHO, drawing or painting on public property is not a crime, but should be covered by the right to freedom of expression.

I can't see why the works you listed would be vandalism (especially if you don't view the other works as vandalism). Because you don't like the HWH animal?

I simply don't think "vandalism" is a concept that helps much when talking about graphical expression. The day there are no more murders, no more child abuse, no more drug related deaths, no more corruption, etc, we could start worrying about street artwork that some people don't like. Or we could instead accept that if we want to enjoy (and photograph and publish) thousands of works of art while walking through urban areas we will also see some we like less. (If we don't put the street artists into jail they will probably continue to take care of the stuff no one wants to see, eg hate propaganda such as nazi symbols.)

This is turning into a real discussion, if we want to continue we might want to switch to private email.

P.S. Perhaps you could find street artists or graffiti writers who'd be happy to make your vinyl siding more colourful? :)

—Posted by Tobi on 06 Jun 2005 @ 09:00 UTC #

Whoa! I was very careful to use words like "might" and "maybe" because I don't purport to know what constitutes malicious behavior and what constitutes art in any general sense. It certainly has nothing to do with my personal taste; I chose the images I did because they were both relatively larger and more conspicuous and because they were done with spray paint.

(And, fwiw, I quite like the HWH animal and I thought Einstein's Circus was quite clever. In fact, I like them all.)

Perhaps vandalism was too strong a word. Certainly, I wasn't trying to suggest that taggers should be rounded up and shipped off to jail. I'll defined your right to freedom of expression even if I don't like the particular expressions you make. I still don't want my house spray painted, let's just say that plain, unadorned vinal siding is the expression I want to make.

—Posted by Norman Walsh on 07 Jun 2005 @ 07:39 UTC #

Thanks for the discussion!

I look forward to the next street art photos. If you ever come to Berlin I could offer to show you around; great street art, great cake.

—Posted by Tobi on 09 Jun 2005 @ 09:25 UTC #

Possibly of interest: Graffiti Taxonomy

—Posted by Norman Walsh on 15 Jun 2005 @ 03:38 UTC #

Interesting project, thanks for the link!

—Posted by Tobi on 20 Jun 2005 @ 11:54 UTC #

Facts and background,from 300 years of development of graffiti-research,facts,names,dates,sources etc. on 11 500 pages,300 chapters

—Posted by Axel Thiel on 20 Jun 2005 @ 06:50 UTC #

Nice read, see many photos from the same artist btw. I won't get myself in th e vandalism discussion. 'cause I like it, but I do have an opion on were not to spray/stick

Anywayz nice read

—Posted by keitai on 12 Jul 2005 @ 05:29 UTC #

All the rad street art and sights I saw...2 days on a bike in Amsterdam

—Posted by Land of Pop on 23 Dec 2010 @ 04:34 UTC #