Post-Soviet Graffiti: Free Speech in Authoritarian States
Available: April 2024© 2024
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 240 Pages
Illustrations: 95 b&w illustrations
Dimensions: 6.00 x 9.00
240 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 1.00 in, 95 b&w illustrations
Not Yet Published
For more than a decade, Alexis Lerner combed the alleyways, underpasses, and public squares of cities once under communist rule, from Berlin in the west to Vladivostok in the east, recording thousands of cases of critical and satirical political street art and cataloging these artworks linguistically and thematically across space and time. Complemented by first-hand interviews with leading artists, activists, and politicians from across the region, Post-Soviet Graffiti provides theoretical reflection on public space as a site for political action, a semiotic reading of signs and symbols, and street art as a form of text.
The book answers the question of how we conceptualize avenues of dissent under authoritarian rule by showing how contemporary graffiti functions not only as a popular public aesthetic, but also as a mouthpiece of political sentiment, especially within the post-Soviet region and post-communist Europe. A purposefully anonymous and accessible artform, graffiti is an effective tool for circumventing censorship and expressing political views. This is especially true for marginalized populations and for those living in otherwise closed and censored states.
Post-Soviet Graffiti reveals that graffiti does not exist in a vacuum; rather, it can be read as a narrative about a place, the people who live there, and the things that matter to them.
List of Tables
Preface and Acknowledgments
On Naming Creators
On Naming Cities
On Graffiti vs. Street Art
Part I: An Oral History of Post-Soviet Graffiti
1. The Origins of Soviet and Post-Soviet Public Art
2. External Interference
3. Artistic Political Backlash
Part II: Fundamental Questions about Post-Soviet Graffiti
4. Why the Public Space Is Conducive to Political Graffiti
5. Signs and Symbols as a Form of Political Expression
6. Street Art as Text
Part III: Interpreting Graffiti
7. The Political
8. The Social
9. Who Controls Discourse?
Conclusion: The Future of Political Graffiti