Image source: Taken by the instructor
This course aims to provide a multidisciplinary reading of contemporary urban environments through political expressions such as graffiti, street art and other types of wall writing. The course will examine the role of these practices in the context of Indian cities, and will contribute to the development of a critical capacity to read contemporary urban cultures.
Wall surfaces play an important role in producing urban cultures around the world. Villages and small towns usually have textual messages on walls, advertising political parties, government policies, and quacks. In denser urban areas, wall messages are commerce and art-driven, as part of government strategies of beautification and development.
These surface messages are sites of local identities, where dialogues about belonging, visibility and publicness are carried out in public. They have been researched internationally through urban studies, public space semiotics, visual culture, legal geography and media studies, which we will draw from in our course to explore, record and analyse such examples from various Indian cities.
The course will start with an overview of contemporary urban theories and introduce an international history of wall writing, graffiti and street art, to examine how these practices produce conversations about publicness and privacy, art and crime, transgression and the law. The course will be taught online through a series of synchronous lectures and seminars, and a range of asynchronous activities which students will undertake independently. We will present methods of urban exploration and recording of wall inscriptions, and students will go on journeys across their cities, to debate the roles of public walls in claiming and shaping public spaces in India and beyond.