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Why I'm Filling NYC With Street Art That Grows Why I'm Filling NYC With Street Art That Grows

Why I'm Filling NYC With Street Art That Grows

by Edina Tokodi

April 6, 2013

Over ten years ago, I began bringing a little life to empty places on the streets of New York City. The built environment has always drawn a clear dividing line between itself and its counterpart, the natural environment. My public street art projects actively engage in the helping erase those lines. Using the city as a canvas to recreate otherwise anonymous spaces and working with plants or other natural and ephemeral materials accentuates the energy of the work (and the city) itself.

For my street art installations the reaction of pedestrians is also very important—how do people receive the works? Do they feel compelled to stop and look? Leave them untouched, take care of them or vandalize them? This juxtaposition brings to mind the comparison to graffiti, but by utilizing conceptual eco-relevant materials, these artwork installations become infused with social meaning. Green guerrilla tactics bring a sense of earth, art, environment, and the unexpected to the city viewer.

It is with this “urban greenery” that I intend to reflect on the cycle of life, advocating sustainable living and artful participation in the metamorphosis of an urban visual culture.

I'm also exploring the diversity and intricate connections between nature and the inorganic world created by man. Often sheathed in steel, glass, pavement and stone, the installations provide an unavoidable contrast to their surroundings. My installations, animated and playful, call to mind a more familiar, environmentally-friendly state breaking down cold urban norms.

Since public art has social functions, I think it’s important to let the art play a prominent role in public spaces, because the clear relation between the people and their environment is one of the most tangible signs of a mentally healthy state. I would like my art pieces to become “instruments” and catalysts in this process, not in the applied but integrated way of everyday life. 

My actions contain the critical view of our attitude towards living in and with nature as well as my passion for it.

Transferring my public sculptural installations from street to gallery highlights the notion that fine art, no longer limited to the white box, can embrace a new art-viewing opportunities, while underscoring a widely held understanding that street art is no longer limited to outdoor spaces. My site-specific installations are inspired by Japanese Zen gardens and informed by the space’s environs, whether organic or man-made.

This post is part of the GOOD community's 50 Building Blocks of Citizenship—weekly steps to being an active, engaged global citizen. This week: Plant a Guerrilla Garden. Follow along and join the conversation at good.is/citizenship and on Twitter at #goodcitizen.

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