Life under lockdown: how have graffitists, street artists and communities artistically responded to life during the coronavirus pandemic?
Emma Bryning is a PhD student in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. Her research focuses on the contemporary significance of graffiti at historic sites, in collaboration between the University of York and English Heritage. She is also a Heritage & Community Impact Manager at the Monastery Manchester and has previously worked in museums and heritage sites predominantly across the North West of England.
The desire to physically leave one’s mark on the world around us has been around for thousands of years: from pre-historic cave drawings to contemporary street artists. The universality of mark-making means that such practices can be found across the globe and across historic periods, yet, the marks themselves are inherently reflective of a particular moment in space and time. Mark-makers have a unique opportunity to respond to life around them using physical and artistic gestures to tell their story.
Our understanding of the distinction between public and private spaces has intensified due to the coronavirus pandemic, with many countries on lockdown and citizens told to stay at home. In spite of this, across the globe, graffiti and street artists continue to take to the streets expressing themselves publicly. They share messages of solidarity, their gratitude to medical workers, spread awareness and express their anger and frustration - telling very public stories of life during a pandemic. Non-artists have responded too, with chalk markings and pictures seen in windows and on pavements across the globe. The increasing prevalence of the internet has meant that such marks and stories are both local and global in their reach.