I saw a quote awhile ago about the internet: “I possess a device, in my pocket, that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and get in arguments with strangers.” From Twitter spats to Buzzfeed lists on our Facebook walls, this is kind of true, but the first part of the quote, the “accessing the entirety of information known to man” part is what makes the internet so exciting. Thankfully, Red Bull has decided to put that idea to good use for street art.
Described as “Google meets graffiti,” the Red Bull Street Art View is like a Google Maps of street art, showcasing, collecting, and cataloguing the best street art from around the world. Basically it asks users to upload pics of their local street art into a Google Maps-style database for people to easily explore street art around the corner and around the world. It proves that street art is not only pervasive, but it’s a global phenomenon, and its enthusiasts are all over the world.
The database is searchable by location and artist, so if you want to see where Banksy’s graffiti was in New York, you can find every known piece with a quick search. Or, if you want to see the extent of Os Gêmeos’ impact and prevalence in São Paulo, then you can search for them on their home turf. Plus there’s the added benefit of archiving these pieces. Since street art is continually erased, either by governmental departments or individual property owners, the Street Art Map keeps a digital archive of a city and artist’s work. It’s like a portfolio, both for an artist and city, that anyone can access at any time.
One of the most interesting parts of the map is looking at how different style have impacted different parts of the world, which areas seem to breed unique visionaries and others that are still under specific artists’ shadows. And the mood of any given city can be captured in just a few pictures. In Halifax, for example, a beautiful large painting of a bridge is right next to a scrawl supporting civil labourers. For a classically blue collar town with a long artistic history, these two pieces side-by-side make sense, and speak to the city’s history and values.
So what the street art map shows us is not only individual pieces, but another way of looking at a city, it’s history, and how and what it finds appropriate for expression. It helps document pieces in the eternal erasing of beautiful street art, keeping digital records of different pieces, but it lets us walk through the city with its underground arts scene at the forefront. And it also shows that the relationship between artist and corporation isn’t necessarily employer-employee, but companies can take an active step in preserving and encouraging an art form that’s everywhere but also transient, recording and celebrating the ways street artists make art that can beautify and challenge.