Resist like Lisbon|Street Art & Classism

Just like sex, art can provoke “magical” responses in the human mind.

Adam Turl

It moves us. It speaks softly or loudly. It can be everlasting. Art is a way of life for some of us; those true artists who are willing to endure loneliness, investigate the intangibles, live courageously. Because of its power, art is incredibly political. Isn’t funny how so many artists hail from the poor or working middle class and yet their works’ value is judged solely by the elite class? Isn’t funny, when these same working-class artists “make it” their works are placed in cold corridors on the 25th floor with maximum security, behind glass windows, in venues that only allow the working class in on 6 “free days” out of the year, otherwise these fine arts are reserved for the consumption of the elite, high middle class.

This is why the radical act of street art is crucial to our collective liberation. The intellectual conversation cannot stop at the political act of street art, we must continue to organize, evolve thought, ask the right questions, mobilize and apply the correct amount of pressure. However, there is a particular type of power when anyone walking the gritty streets of Compton, Southside Chicago, Brooklyn can find a beautiful piece that encourages them or conveys a pain they can resonate with. Street art is for everyone and about everything. This idea of creating and sharing art out in public spaces connects us, humanizes us, reiterates the notion that we are not alone. That sentiment alone can be the spark of several small revolutions.

“Working-class people aren’t some tiny minority of our society to be managed and transformed; we are most of this country.”

Javaad Alipoor

My unabashed appreciation for street artists (e.g. painters, musicians, dancers), is not to say that artists shouldn’t be paid for their miraculous works. Turl writes, “…the “starving artist” cliché is not just a cliché, especially in the United States, with its barbaric lack of a welfare state and pervasive anti-intellectualism. Artists in the U.S. are treated and seen as largely expendable.”

Which brings me to the highlight of this piece, there are other places in this world that value art and bring it the people. Herein lies the some street art that has left a lasting impact on me whilst in Lisboa, Portugal.

Lisboa has this vibrant, spunky energy that is absolutely contagious. You walk outside and immediately feel that you could stumble upon life-changing inspiration at any moment. The people also embody this honest sense of empowerment and clarity. There are bad ass humanists all around and you get a idea that many are devoted to living well and demanding better from their government. There’s something special going on in Lisbon and whether you’re enjoying a painting, curated art gallery, or street performances, you’re sure to walk away drenched with culture, vibrancy and hope.

  • Anna Laurni | Challenge yourself to see if you can find how many of her pieces are around Lisbon. You can find her art plastered on walls, alongside large buildings, in the nooks of a bookstore, in the back of an alley. We counted 16. Can you find more?
  • Utopia | Oliveiros Junior has a way with the brushstrokes. In his works, he is able to convey the mystery, playfulness, intrigue of feminine creatures. The electric colors captivate anyone who can appreciate striking beauty. Take your time when admiring his pieces which can be found all over Portugal, Brazil, Spain and other countries. It has layers to it.
  • Political messages | I was tripping over myself with excitement to see political, not-so pretty messages that encourage the working class to organize and fight back. As a Black woman born in the United States, I am well aware of the weight and impact of building a country by hand only to be given nothing in return. Not even dignity. I am sharply cognizant of how encouraging and unifying it can feel to see a piece like this as a hat tilt to the inner spirit of the revolutionaries awaiting their time to rise up again. Check out the incredible, necessary, radical work done by the feminist party in Portugal. If your feminism ain’t intersectional, it ain’t feminism.

This is just a percentage of a fraction of the vibrant, relevant, wondrous artistic works available to anyone in Lisbon. There were countless street musicians that swept me off of my feet. There were dazzling dancers that reminded me that rhythm and blues, boom and clack are universal languages. If you ever get a chance to go to Lisbon, I implore you- keep your senses peeled for the delectable art available for the average person. Let it inspire you to commit radical acts of compassion, truth, beauty in your own life. Be an artist. And if you must perform for the 1%, may you at very least figure a way to shock the rich – épater le bourgeois! #PowertothePeople

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