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22 June 2013 Stoke Ethnography

 

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Making use of a dry afternoon I grabbed the camera, kids and car and looked for graffiti in the stoke area of stoke-on-trent. Unlike the first trip to Hanley, this time I was initially shocked at how little graffiti there was; this is the town after all that has had the S out of Stoke sprayed out in white paint to say Toke.. a reflection on the pot smoking reputation of the towns youth (rightly or wrongly!).

The few big pieces that were noticeable were found around London Road and looked pretty new. Chatting To a local helped figure out the origin of these pieces, they were for the London Road Festival that had been put on by Stoke on Trent City Council. You can find out more about this here >> Fringe Fest

Noting that these pieces were ‘official’ and designed (similar to the piece beside Mings Chinese Hanley) the search continued for unofficial pieces, tags, throw ups etc.. But for quite a while there was nothing! Behind the shops showed freshly painted walls and evidence of graffiti cleaning. The conclusion I made here was that there probably had been more but as the London Road Festival/ Fringe Fest had occurred two weeks ago there seemed to be evidence that any unofficial graffiti had been removed and walls painted in a bid to clean up the area for it. Parks, car parks and industrial zones were also very very clean (unlike what we had found in Hanley).

So it was time to find more out of the way and secluded areas, we located the walk way beside the river trent and this was where we started to find not only graffiti but also some stencilled culture jamming (actions speak louder than verbs with men beating pudsey the bear, children in needs mascot, was a good example). It was here that we also that we spotted the cycle and footpath sign that had stickers placed over the heads of the adult and child.

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Moving further towards the train station the next stop was some arches under the train tracks, this was where some of the best examples of graffiti pieces were found, the ones nearer the road, but still obscured were older. The further under the arches and more difficult to get to the more complex and obviously newer the pieces were. Under the last arch and next to the trent was the most congested. This suggests a specific audience for the graffiti – there is no way you would see these pieces accidentally, you would have to be another artist, the original artist or viewing a photo taken by them, or someone like me – actively looking for it!

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 The location of the pieces was also interesting as they were in the riskiest places to paint, for one piece the artist would have had to jump the width of the trent to get over there as there was no other access. I suggest that this is part of the painting, its not just about what is painted but the risk for the artist; either from the law, by painting in a public place, so could be seen and prosecuted. Or in this case the area was so remote detection was not impossible but unlikely, so therefore other risks were taken to display daring in conjunction with the piece itself.. or maybe just to add to the thrill of completing a deviant act?

Some of the last pieces we found were around the same area but on a flat roof above an industrial unit, from my above considerations this would have been prime location to paint; in plain sight with risk of detection, at a height so risks personal injury and requires physical ability, and is on private property.

As the afternoon drew to a close we ended today’s session by the train station, tomorrow we will return to the station and survey the area from the station and beyond. it is also Ntrprnrs 5th Birthday Graffiti Jam tomorrow (23/6/13@ 10am start) so may head up there for an hour later on and see how people are getting on, although the weather forecast is not playing fair so we will just have to see!

 

 

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