Street Line Critics: Investigating the possibility of ‘moments’ outside the spectacle
Looking out the window, nothing appears out of place, surprising or extraordinary. Watching people on their way to work, to school, chatting on the street. It is an ordinary day. And yet, one could begin to wonder, what constitutes an ordinary day? Why have all these things become naturalized and part of the routine? Why is it that, more often than not, we no longer ask questions, and, for better or for worse, just accept things the way they are?
Perhaps this is what the word ‘spectacle’ means? A series of unending events that are not questioned, where everything is categorized and has its prescribed niche. The spectacle, a phenomenon, which according to Guy Debord is “a vast inaccessible reality that can never be questioned”. Debord continues to describe the spectacle as, “an economy developing for itself”, a continuous stream of images and objects to separate us from the world as it is, and become unified with the world as it appears, where everything is objectified, and everything is marketable. A world where having comes before living.
In this ‘world of having’ we are constantly bombarded by advertising. Walking through the city, messages reach at us from every possible angle, attempting to persuade us to buy into something, be part of something, follow the mass mediated ideal, the morals and values it promotes becoming our norms. What is being sold is not so much a product, but an image. According to George Gerbiner in Dill’s How Fantasy becomes Reality, “Most of what we know, or think we know, we have never personally experienced. We live in a world erected by stories.” Dill argues that we are biologically conditioned to believe exactly what we see, so despite consciously dismissing much of what we see in the media as folly or mere entertainment we unconsciously accept it as fact.
It could thus be argued that we walk in a simulacrum of the city, an illusion based on what we should see rather than what is actually there, each spot fitting neatly into the ideals established through the media, whether this be a pleasant shopping street, a family friendly place to feed the swans or the neighbourhoods better off avoided. Considering our view of places in the city, how many of our ideas about them have been influenced by stories we encountered in the media, rather than our own lived experiences, making up our minds in certain cases without ever having actually been there?
Throughout the history of street art, a lot of emphasis has been placed on the disruption of the controlled, idealistic city image. It is an action to challenge, the authorized image and use of urban landscapes and make what has become invisible, visible again. Essentially it questions regimes of visibility. Challenging the fake image of advertising with a real human image, questioning the accepted ideals within that urban landscape and creating awareness of underlying ‘invisible’ issues and perspectives, creating opportunities for critique, dialogue and defiance of imposed norms.
In this way street art very much tunes into the detournément and subversion described by Debord and the Situationists and attempts to put into practice Henri Lefebvre’s ‘Theory of Moments’.
Henri Lefebvre refers to the ‘moment’ as “the attempt to achieve the total realization of a possibility”. The realization of that totality singling out a meaning and creating it. The moment appears as transitory and uncertain, and in its uncertainness questions those things which before would have appeared undoubtedly real.
It is precisely this notion of the possibility and subversion of the accepted city image which the ‘Street Line Critics’ project aims to create. It opens up a space, within an art context in which it becomes possible to challenge an homogenised view of these public places.
‘Street Line Critics’, offers an opportunity for somebody to share their view, opinion, insight, observation, memory or experience of a place, directly with the audience of that place.
Contributions are written on the street as impermanent monuments to the everyday with the aim to use the possibility of the moment to show another perspective of that place. A perspective communicated not by a highly constructed advertising message, but by a citizen, in or of that place. A message which does not aim to persuade or get anything in return, but one that shares, interrupting and questioning established notions of that place. Using the immediate environment, as a context for the message.
It makes visible the daily experiences present in everyday life, deconstructing and reconstructing meanings of those public places.
In so doing the project also questions the notion of public space, taking public space not just as a place in which one can physically exist but also a place in which ones thoughts, experiences, memories or opinions can publicly manifest.
Through the temporary nature of the chalk pieces the project aims to create a moment of possibility, around long enough to incite reaction but not so long as to be absorbed or stated like the new truth. It is a meandering, ephemeral perspective.
It exists to create an opportunity for dialogue with and about the city, with a well-established online presence serving as an extended forum for these dialogues. Expressing and sharing urban experience and in so doing mapping out every day lived experiences and relations among visitors and inhabitants of Limerick’s public places.
– Lotte Bender
- Critique of Everyday Life: Vol.2: Foundations for a Sociology of the Everyday, Henri Lefebvre, Verso, 2002.
- How Fantasy Becomes Reality: Seeing Through Media Influence, Karen E. Dill, Oxford University Press, 2009
- The Handbook of Visual Culture, ed. Barry Sandywell and Ian Heywood, London & New York: Berg, 2012: (pp.235-278.) – Martin Irvine, ‘The Work on the Street: Art and Visual Culture’
- The Society of the Spectacle, Guy Debord, Soul Bay Express Ltd, 2009
 Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, p.26.
 Ibid pp. 27-31.
 George Gerbiner , How Fantasy becomes Reality, p.88.
 Karen E. Dill, How Fantasy becomes Reality, pp. 150-151.
 Martin Irvine, ‘The Work on the Street: Art and Visual Culture’, The Handbook of Visual Culture, pp. 237, 238, 239.
 Henri Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life: Vol.2, p. 348.