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Street Art in Florence: New Approach to the Public Space
Maria Khimulya, NYU 15
La Pietra Dialogues
November 29, 2013

Exhibited in the public space, street art communicates directly to a city’s inhabitants, which means that it has a large potential for affecting the public consciousness and raising awareness of the issues relevant to the urban context in which it is created. For obvious reasons, in Florence the local community and institutions place a strong emphasis on keeping the historical urban space intact, which largely confines street art to the periphery of the city, reducing its exposure. Yet in recent years several artistic practices have emerged in the city, featuring original approaches to creating work in public space that is less affected by these limitations. Among them are Clet Abraham’s alterations of road signs and the performances and installations of the No Dump collective, which have become some of the most vital forms of artistic discourse on the issues relevant to the life of the city.

Over the last three years, Clet has pasted mischievous stick figures on hundreds of road signs, transforming these commonplace objects into images that carry subversive messages about authority, culture, and politics. Laconic and irreverent, they encourage those who see them to critically assess the visual space. As creative interventions in the urban environment, these works simultaneously alter and reflect on their surroundings, furthering the discourse inherent in street art practice on the right to and the use of public visual space. Widely present in the historic center of Florence, Clet’s works can be also found in other European cities, including Paris, Amsterdam, and London.

Formed in 2010, No Dump, a group of eight architects, graphic designers, and artists, has created numerous installations and carried out performances in the public spaces of Florence. Most of their work is of an impermanent nature and tends to address social, environmental, and cultural issues specific to Italy and to Florence. This local focus is underpinned by broader conceptual layering that poses questions about authorship, collective action, and the dichotomy between the visual and conceptual components of the artwork. No Dump carefully documents and then publicizes their projects, accompanying them with a brief explanation of the context and objectives of the work. Without limiting the array of possible interpretations, this tendency to explain their work underlines the importance that No Dump places on clear communication and the accessibility of their art. Their creative practice places them at the intersection between street art, public art, and social activism.

 
 
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