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Public Art, Graffiti and the Right to the City

Key Information

Module code
ISSU0094
Taught during
Session Two
Module leader
Dr Sabina Andron
Pre-requisites
None. Standard UCL Summer entry criteria apply.
Assessment method
Photography project (25%), Essay (75%)
Download syllabus (PDF)

Module overview

This module is an introduction to creativity and crime in cities, with a focus on graffiti, street art and other types of public surface communications. Throughout the three weeks, the module will introduce concepts and methods that enable us to understand contemporary urban environments, as they are shaped through architecture, creativity and the maintenance of order. We will examine different visual languages from graffiti to public art and hostile architecture, to understand who uses and produces the city, and who urban spaces belong to.

The module will start with an overview of contemporary urban theories and introduce an international history of graffiti and street art, to examine how these practices produce conversations about publicness and privacy, art and crime, transgression and the law. Students will be taken on journeys across the city and will debate the role of graffiti in claiming and shaping public spaces, within a context of a rapidly developing and increasingly exclusionary London.

Learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module, students will:

  • Develop a comprehensive understanding of contemporary wall writing phenomena, from graffiti to street art and muralism, and acquire an adequate language to evaluate their social, political and artistic standing
  • Operate with concepts such as regeneration, order, visibility, creative urbanism, law and spatial ownership, the right to the city and spatial justice
  • Articulate a critical discourse about neoliberal urbanism and public creativity, which are key frameworks in the development of any spatial practice (suitable for architects, designers, planners, sociologists, geographers, artists, activists, cultural theorists etc)
  • Form a politicised and radical engagement with issues around contemporary urbanism and urban art, to contribute to the production of more diverse and inclusive cities
  • Acquire transferable methodological skills around the production and interpretation of space, and familiarise themselves with London as a complex neoliberal urban environment

Module prerequisites

This is a level one module (equivalent to first year undergraduate). No prior subject knowledge is required to study this module but students are expected to have a keen interest in the subject area.

Module hours

Classes (usually three or four hours per day) take place on the Bloomsbury campus from Monday to Friday any time between 9am and 6pm.

Assessment

  • Photography project (25%)
  • 2,000 word essay (75%)

Module leader

Dr Sabina Andron is a London-based architectural historian and urban scholar. Her research interests focus on the right to the city, urban surface inscriptions and materialities, crime and transgression, and urban semiotics. She completed her PhD in 2018 at the Bartlett School of Architecture, with a thesis titled “Graffiti, Street Art and the Right to the Surface: For a Semiotic, Cultural and Legal Approach to Urban Surfaces and Inscriptions”.

Sabina currently lectures across London, at the Bartlett, the University of East London, and Ravensbourne University. Her work includes modules on the history of London architecture, the history of the home and interior design, neoliberal urbanism and city cultures, and graffiti, spatial justice and the image of the city. She was a UCL Grand Challenges grantee and organiser of the international Graffiti Sessions conference in 2014, and a British Council fellow at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2016. She is co-convenor, with Susan Hansen, of the Art on the Streets symposium.

Application information

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