“Anybody can do it”: Aesthetic empowerment, urban citizenship, and the naturalization of Indonesian graffiti and street art

Lee, D.

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Lee, D. (2013). "Anybody can do it”: Aesthetic empowerment, urban citizenship, and the naturalization of Indonesian graffiti and street art. City & Society, 25(3), 304–327. https://doi-org.ezproxy.gc.cuny.edu/10.1111/ciso.12024

Citizenship , Graffiti , Indonesia , Media , Street Art

Based on ethnographic fieldwork in the cities of Jakarta and Yogyakarta, this paper investigates the recent surge in the production and circulation of street art through technology and media in post-New Order Indonesia. The global style of street art communicates how public space and the street have become emblematic of changing discourses of individual rights, urban aesthetics, and the practice of citizenship in urban Indonesia. While the history of Western graffiti as a form of defacement and resistance continues to exert a powerful hold on the imagination of Indonesian street artists, I argue that the vernacular meaning of street art and graffiti refuses an easy bifurcation of public and private spaces, while blurring the lines between commercial and cultural urban interventions.

Main finding
The author discusses how street art had come to engender discourse on individual rights, urban aesthetics, and practices of citizenship arguing that graffiti art was not the result of urban conflict, but rather of deregulations since the ended dictatorship whereby street art had emerged as a form of self-identity for those disenchanted with mass demonstrations and social initiatives. The surge in street art, since Indonesia's transition from authoritarianism to democracy, encompassed politically engaged young artists (marked by middle class status and education), yet the author describes them as "post-political" meaning their engagement is new and disorderly. While responding to the new terms of citizenship under globalization, these artists utilized stylistic, political, and commodity forms, under the new neoliberal conditions, and strengthened the notion of individual sovereignty.

Description of method used in the article
Fieldwork included interviews and participant observation.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Performance/Cultural Expression
Field Observations
Physical types
Geographic locations