YouTube/iamOTHER

How the recession and rage against the system are fueling street art.

The streets and walls and signposts of Oakland, California, are the canvas for a recent boom in street art. A new short film from i am OTHER looks at one Oakland graffiti artist's efforts to inject social commentary into the physical landscape and explores how social actions in the city are inspiring this boom.

The artist, who paints faces and writes "GATS" (graffiti against the system), says that his work is aimed at creating an outlet for the underrepresented people and ideas in the city.

"I can't think of a way that is a more direct way to speak to people than writing it on a wall," he says.

A collaborator, Roberto Miguel, argues that artists need to make the streets a conversation. "Which means that we have to be writing the things that we believe on everything. We have to take it to the same place that the ads are, which is fucking everywhere."

This is the first of the three-part series:

This rhetoric may sound familiar, but it's also evolved at a unique time in Oakland. The police shooting of Oscar Grant in 2009 and the violence surrounding the Occupy Oakland gatherings outside City Hall last year have inspired a broader culture of protest and social action in the city.

The film also touches on the downturn in the economy as playing into the surge of street art in the city. One of the people interviewed in the film, Estria Miyashiro suggests that graffiti and mural art in the city has blossomed because the city itself doesn't have the resources to go out and paint over, or buff, the art that has emerged. He also suggests that the city's seen an influx of artists, some of whom are moving out of more expensive places like San Francisco.

The dual conditions of social unrest and economic turmoil don't only exist in Oakland. But they help explain why the city's street art scene has taken off as it has.

Top image courtesy YouTube/

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. The facade of a casino in Atlantic City.
    Photos

    Photographing the Trumpian Urbanism of Atlantic City

    Brian Rose’s new book uses the deeply troubled New Jersey city as a window into how a developer-turned-president operates.

  2. Life

    Who’s Really Buying Property in San Francisco?

    A lot of software developers, according to an unprecedented new analysis.

  3. Equity

    The Hidden Horror of Hudson Yards Is How It Was Financed

    Manhattan’s new luxury mega-project was partially bankrolled by an investor visa program called EB-5, which was meant to help poverty-stricken areas.

  4. a rendering of the moon village with a view of Earth
    Design

    Designing the First Full-Time Human Habitat on the Moon

    SOM, in partnership with the ESA and MIT, wants to accommodate research and maybe even tourism on the moon.

  5. A new map of neighborhood change in U.S. metros shows where displacement is the main problem, and where economic decline persists.
    Equity

    From Gentrification to Decline: How Neighborhoods Really Change

    A new report and accompanying map finds extreme gentrification in a few cities, but the dominant trend—particularly in the suburbs—is the concentration of low-income population.