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Graffiti, street art and the right to the surface: for a semiotic, cultural and legal approach to urban surfaces and inscriptions

Andron, Sabina; (2018) Graffiti, street art and the right to the surface: for a semiotic, cultural and legal approach to urban surfaces and inscriptions. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The vertical surfaces of cities are archives of urban identities, and contested terrains of occupation and visibility. They provide a location for numerous signs, markings and inscriptions, whose visual, material and territorial dynamic is under permanent negotiation. This thesis takes as its subject this dynamic between urban surfaces and inscriptions, to understand their spatial politics and their impact on urban cultures. The thesis focuses particularly on graffiti and street art as forms of surface inscriptions, and analyses their cultural, legal and spatial development from New York in the 1970s to contemporary London. The thesis provides a critical reading of the nomenclature of these practices and their institutional appropriations by local administrations, the art market and urban branding strategies. Graffiti and street art are discussed in relation to neoliberal urban governance agendas, between criminalisation, eradication, and commodification as part of the creative cities paradigm. Methodologically, the thesis engages with close readings of urban surfaces, as well as the discourses that manage them. I propose surface semiotics as an original method to interpret inscriptions in-situ, which I use as a form of analytical visual method throughout the thesis. Approaches from art sociology, visual culture and legal geography are also used to address concepts such as the image of the city, urban property regimes, and issues of access and control of urban spaces. This thesis is a contribution to urban studies, street art and graffiti studies, and a foundational step towards establishing a field of surface studies. Based on a close analysis of city surfaces and inscriptions, the main argument of this project is that urban surfaces are spaces of collective political production and agency, and are key sites for the exploration of urgent notions such as the right to the city and the urban commons.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Graffiti, street art and the right to the surface: for a semiotic, cultural and legal approach to urban surfaces and inscriptions
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2018. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request. - Third party copyright material has been removed from this e-thesis.
Keywords: graffiti, street art, urban surfaces, the right to the city, urban semiotics, urban inscriptions, urban commons, surface semiotics, surface studies, London graffiti, London street art
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > The Bartlett School of Architecture
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10064450
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