Vandals and the City

With a foreword by urban geographer Dr. Oliver Zanetti Vandals and the City was published and launched at the Urban Spree Gallery, Berlin and The Photographers’ Gallery, London in 2016.

Featured in the Guardian and Huck Magazine in 2016. 

Acquired by Tate Britain for its library collection in 2016, Museum of London collection in 2017 and the Martin Parr Foundation collection in 2019.

By and for whom are cities made? In London, the answer is made visible by an urban horizon clustered with skyscrapers. The city is a servant to neoliberalism, where the financial sector and an exploding residential property market dominate the landscape. The vandals documented here undertake an alternative making of urban space, leaving their mark on the bare walls found in the city’s interstices.

As a subject matter they’re far from uncontroversial. For many, the writing of graffiti is regarded as an antisocial act of defacement, contravening both legal and moral spatial codes. This is reflected in the collection’s title and the work itself, where contrast and framing conceal the location and the identities of the writers documented. But through their recalcitrance, the writers invite us to rethink the nature of the urban order.

Contemporary staples like pop ups or the sharing economy were once envisaged as routes to the democratisation of urban space, widening possibilities for public participation. Yet, in fact, such moves have served to further entrench existing urban and economic disempowerment. Habituated to seeing the effects of their work, a glimpse of writers at work is far less common.

In witnessing their resolve in the practice of their craft, we are invited to consider the various radical ways we might all intervene to create inclusive and genuinely participatory urban public spaces.

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