The connection between Banksy, animated GIFs, and business might not be immediately obvious – other than their popularity in the early 2010′s. One seems intensely contextual and linked to the actual world, while the second is portable and a product of recent internet culture.
Street art prodigy RJ Rushmore, however, has spent time in the communities that spawned both. Viral Art is his new free eBook, and it compiles two and a half years of research into a common history. Full of fascinating stories from the early graffiti era as well as great new internet artists to discover, Rushmore’s collection spans stories across a multitude of media: photography, fine art, ‘zines, films, and more. The salient connections he sees between street art and what he terms “viral art” on the web, though, are more important to him than the differences, and they provide a useful map for many on how to get a concept circulating across diverse audiences, whether your product is a friend’s zine or an award-winning ad for a major company.
Rushmore, who is the editor of the street art blog Vandalog, conceptualizes the internet as fostering public art in a similar way to the streets because he argues that both are public spaces. A new population of amateur photographers and their sharing tools, such as Flickr, has created a loose online community that puts more art in front of users’ eyes than ever before at little cost and high saturation. In particular, he sees Buzzfeed founder Jonah Peretti’s ‘Bored at Work Network’ as a crucial sharing and pioneering audience that finds art and edification where others might not expect. And far from declaring street art a casualty of the web, Rushmore highlights several examples of street artists’ responses to the web’s effect on viewers’ presence and responses.
These discussions are particularly relevant to our ongoing investigation of the power of online vs. offline events in the world of retail. Though the online world increasingly seems to back everything in business, offline events still grab attention in inimitable ways that, like street art, never occur the same way twice.