In Vacuums of Law We Find: Outsider Poiesis in Street Art and Graffiti

Duncan Chappell and Saskia Hufnagel, Art Crime Handbook (Palgrave MacMillan, 2019)

20 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2017 Last revised: 10 Apr 2019

Date Written: 2017

Abstract

This piece seeks to demonstrate the striating role of property within street art and graffiti, creating a threshold where criminal and intellectual property meet to both outlaw and protect street art at the same time. Street art reveals a legal vacuum for poiesis, protest and property on the threshold of aesthetic and juridical legitimacy and illegitimacy, illustrating where law means all and nothing at once. Legal sanction is argued as affecting the aesthetics of street art, where criminalisation protects the rights of property owners over the creative rights of artists, reasserting the exclusionary nature of law, intertwined with reasserting the ‘outsider’ nature of their art. This is argued as not coincidental, but that notions of aesthetics are not only prioritised by the art ‘establishment’, but also supported by law, to the detriment of other forms of aesthetics such as street art and graffiti. As such, street art and graffiti reveals the elixir of property in both the art and legal establishments, coming to pass as a result of violent histories of expropriation through art property and real property. Ultimately, street art and graffiti is argued as a protest against the legal-aesthetic hegemony, the analysis of criminal, real and intellectual property meeting points telling us more about the congenital role of art in law and vice versa than solely explaining the legalities of random acts of illicit expression.

Keywords: Street Art; Graffiti; Property Law; Criminal Law; Intellectual Property; Outsider Art; Aesthetics

Suggested Citation

Finchett-Maddock, Lucy C, In Vacuums of Law We Find: Outsider Poiesis in Street Art and Graffiti (2017). Duncan Chappell and Saskia Hufnagel, Art Crime Handbook (Palgrave MacMillan, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3066309

Lucy C Finchett-Maddock (Contact Author)

Sussex School of Legal Studies ( email )

University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QN
United Kingdom

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