For starters, I would like to highly recommend looking for graffiti and street art in your own city as opposed to just looking at pictures I’ve referenced here. Although the internet is a resourceful tool in gathering information, it will not reflect the same amount of inspiration incurred when viewing artwork firsthand.
For my research project I plan to show the points at which the discourse communities of graffiti artists (from the post-modern art movement) and street artists (from the post post-modern art movement) intermediate as well as diverge from each other. I would like to explore how the development and spread of graffiti eventually evolved into the movement of street art. Both of these forms of outsider art belong to disseminative groups using public space as their main medium for communication. What is especially unique about these discourse communities is that they are both associated with the coined phrase of “culture jamming.” “Culture jamming is a tactic used by many anti-consumerist social movements to disrupt or subvert media culture and its mainstream cultural institutions, including corporate advertising” (Wikipedia). Ironically, public recognition of these discourse communities; whether admired or admonished, have been shared on a global level due to technological advancements making them mainstream and almost mundane. “The old point that capitalism subsumes everything – even that which is precisely meant to be anti or non-capitalistic – has been exemplified recently by corporations jamming the culture jammers by co-opting the jammers strategies” (Jurgenson). Will the visual rhetoric that helped form these subvert groups be what will eliminate them from society or will they develop into an altogether new discourse community?
The importance of studying what is deemed “low brow” art etc. is of fundamental importance because public art and how it is viewed often shares sociological concepts of that time period in that particular space. “If public art is to be subject to critical inquiry, interpretation and discourse in academia and beyond, and if it is to be understood better, we also need to understand what informs it, and that is public space. Perhaps this entails learning/creating the language(s) of public space, just as conceptual art has a language that audiences have come to know and explore. Public space is informed by social activity” (Hackemann).
The importance of studying Discourse communities according to Gee, is that literacy and “intercultural literacy” is all about comparing and contrasting Discourses so as to develop a meta-language and meta-thinking about Discourses in society. He examines that Discourse groups sometimes are outgrown which I believe is the case with the modern graffiti movement. If a Discourse group is outgrown it does not mean that it no longer exists. It sometimes means that it is transposed into a secondary Discourse group such as post graffiti street art. The invention of new Discourses can bond us to groups outside of our original Discourse group and this is exciting because of the expanding nature of identity of self as well as national and global community as well. “Therefore, I believe that the space within which we can imagine and implement new Discourses is a crucial one for the human spirit.” (Gee).