Critique of Graffiti - Urbanario School

CRITIQUE OF GRAFFITI

29 November – 19 December 2021
Online course
Teacher: Javier Abarca

This course offers a rare critical analysis of key aspects of contemporary graffiti, largely unexplored but fundamental for understanding the practice in depth.

The course examines graffiti as exploration and mythology of the city – its most overlooked side and, at the same time, the most significative. It clarifies its often overvalued political dimension.

It studies the essential changes in its practice caused by the specialised media and market. And it observes various graphic styles and lifestyles characteristic of its diverse scene.

The program features a Q&A session with a guest artist and other extras.

Teacher

The course is designed and taught by Javier Abarca, one of the leading thinkers in the field, with over 15 years of experience teaching about graffiti internationally at university level.

Methodology

Lectures are freely streamable, and live events are scheduled on alternate weekends.

Permanent access

You retain access to all lectures and recordings of live events after the course ends. You can consider this an investment on 19 hours of exclusive content you can watch anytime.

Taught in English.

THE COURSE INCLUDES:

Fee: 120€

VAT for Europeans not included

Book here:

Enroll in our FULL PROGRAM ON GRAFFITI with a 20% discount​

Fee: 290€

VAT for Europeans not included

Book here:

METHODOLOGY

Video-lectures you can stream freely

Six hours of dynamic, immersive and carefully illustrated content, featuring exclusive and unpublished images.

Live events

Extra content, screening sessions, participatory case-study sessions, Q&A and discussion, meeting with guest artist.

Live on Zoom, freely streamable afterwards.

5 December, Sunday: Live lecture.
18 December, Saturday: Live lecture.
19 December, Sunday: Guest artist.

All events 5–8pm (Madrid time).

Thematic chats on Telegram

Share and discuss information with other graffiti enthusiasts from around the world. The teacher feeds the chats with daily content.

Permanent access

You retain access to lectures and recordings of live events after the course ends.

One-to-one mentoring sessions

Booked separately.

ABOUT THE TEACHER

Javier Abarca

Javier Abarca (Madrid 1973) is one of the leading thinkers in the field of graffiti and street art. A key artist in the first generation of Spanish graffiti, he taught a pioneering 4-month course on these topics at the Complutense University of Madrid between 2006 and 2015. He works internationally as an educator, researcher and author.

After teaching widely for 15 years, Abarca founded the Urbanario School, an online academy for advanced education about graffiti, street art and related topics. Since 2008 he has run the website Urbanario, the essential source for graffiti and street art research in Spanish language. He is also the founder and director of the groundbreaking events Unlock Book Fair and Tag Conference.

VIDEO-LECTURES

Lecture 1/3

Graffiti is Not ‘Art’: Psychogeography and Third Landscape

For the graffiti writer, painting and tagging is only one part of his activity. Other, less visible parts are as relevant, if not more so. Aspects such as exploration, the relation of the body with architecture, or the collective building of a mythology of the city.
Graffiti has little to do with official ‘Art’. It is a game, much closer to skateboarding, parkour or urbex than it is to painting.

This lecture makes use of the ideas of the Situationists and of Guilles Clement to shed light on this hidden side of graffiti.

Lecture 2/3

Politics and Commercialisation in the Graffiti Scene

Contemporary graffiti is often considered inherently political, even revolutionary. However, it poses no real threat to the system, with which it actually shares essential aspects. It should be no surprise how easily it is assimilated.

More crucial is the internal commercialisation of graffiti, brought on by the specialised media (magazines, videos and the internet) and the specialised market (spraycans, etc). This process has caused fundamental shifts in the ethics, methodologies and perception of graffiti.

Lecture 3/3

Styles, lifestyles and attitudes: scenes within graffiti

The graffiti scene is wide and diverse. It has given way to very different styles, from the technical excesses of ‘3D style’ to the ironic drifts of ‘anti-style’. This lecture studies these and other examples in an analysis of graffiti as a device to express emotions and attitudes.

Graffiti accommodates very diverse lifestyles as well. This lecture observes several characteristic types of graffiti writer. From American types such as the train-hopping gutter punk or the street-bombing socialite, to European types such as the system-hunting interrailer, the intellectualised anti-styler or the agressive subway writer.

CALENDAR

December 5, Sunday
Live lecture

5–8pm (Madrid time)
Live on Zoom, streamable afterwards

Introduction to the course
Extra content
Screenings
Q&A and discussion

December 18, Saturday
Live lecture

5–8pm (Madrid time)
Live on Zoom, streamable afterwards

Participatory case-study session
Screenings
Q&A and discussion

December 19, Sunday
Guest artist
(TBC)
5–8pm (Madrid time)
Live on Zoom, streamable afterwards

DETAILED VIEW OF THE CONTENT

Video-lectures

Freely streamable
6 hours

The lectures are immersive and entertaining and lay out complex issues in simple terms, providing an accessible window to this often obscure field. They allow both specialists and newcomers to delve into an in-depth study of the intricacies of graffiti and overlapping practices as they interrelate with society.

Javier Abarca’s lectures are the product of a whole life of research, networking and reflection, and have been worked on and improved for over 15 years. He has shared them with hundreds of students of every background, both in academic and independent settings.

The lectures are profusely illustrated with high-quality images and videos, including exclusive and unpublished material.

You can stream the lectures anytime, and you retain access to them after the course ends.

Live lectures

5 and 18 December
5–8pm (Madrid time)
Live on Zoom, streamable afterwards

Our live lectures are a space for discussion with the teacher and the rest of the students. Javier Abarca is known for his influential ideas, uniquely revealing critical approaches, and privileged access to obscure topics. Live lectures provide opportunity for questions, reflection and debate with one of the leading thinkers in the field of graffiti.

Bring your questions and comments from watching the video-lectures, or simply listen if you prefer. Our students come from different countries and backgrounds, and live events always bring about interesting conversations.

Live lectures are recorded and streamable, and you retain access to them after the course ends.

Extra content

In our live lectures the teacher shares additional documentation and reflections about the course’s topics. Our video-lectures are long and packed with content, but there is more to share in the teacher’s archive, and presenting it live creates opportunities for discussion.

Screening sessions

Our live lectures feature HD screenings of rare and obscure films. Screenings are commented and used as springboard for discussion about the course’s topics.

Participatory case-study sessions

By examining particular art pieces or projects students put their learnings from the video-lectures into practice, and gain new tools to better understand and enjoy graffiti.

Both teacher and students bring examples of their interest to be discussed and put in context during the session. The teacher guides the discussion and provides with any necessary ideas and documentation.

Akay - Urbanario School

Guest artist: Akay (SE)

19 December, Sunday
5–8pm (Madrid time)

Live on Zoom, streamable afterwards
Guest TBC
 

In our meetings with guests, students get privileged access inside the processes and motivations of some of the scene’s most forward-thinking and reflective artists.

The meeting itself is two hour long. The whole event includes 30 minutes before and after the meeting for the teacher and students to prepare and discuss.

Meetings with artists are recorded and streamable, and you retain access to them after the course ends.

Daily content

The teacher shares and comments new content daily at our Telegram chats – photos, videos and texts, often rare. This extra content complements the video-lectures and guides students through the course’s topics, opening possible threads of discussion that can be continued face-to-face at our live events.

Discussion chats

Our thematic Telegram chats are a great space for our students to share information and discuss specialised topics with other graffiti and street art enthusiasts from around the world.

Video-archive of past guests

Freely streamable
Four hours of exclusive content

Eltono (FR)
MOMO (US)

Certificate

You can get a certificate of attendance after completing your course.

One-to-one mentoring sessions

If you are working on a project related to graffiti or street art as a scholar, manager, curator or artist, you can meet with the teacher for personal mentoring sessions on Zoom. Booked separately.

Why study at the Urbanario School

A unique opportunity

The Urbanario School offers an unprecedented opportunity to access advanced education in the fields of graffiti and street art. It provides students, academics, and professionals with suitable intellectual foundations for working in projects related to these fields.

Both in-depth and accessible

Lectures are immersive and entertaining and lay out complex issues in simple terms, providing an accessible window to this often obscure field. They allow both specialists and newcomers to delve into an in-depth study of the intricacies of graffiti, street art and overlapping practices as they interrelate with society.

Learn with a leading thinker

The school is also a showcase for the influential ideas developed by Javier Abarca in his texts and lectures. Abarca is known for his uniquely revealing critical approaches, as well as for his privileged access to obscure topics. The live lectures present ample opportunity for questions, reflection and debate.

Talk with select guest artists

Our live Q&A sessions with guests provide students with unique views inside the processes and motivations of some of the most forward-thinking and reflective actors in the scene.

Benefit from our flexible methodology

The methodology of the school adapts easily to your needs. Lectures are freely streamable. Live events take place on alternate weekends. All content is recorded and streamable, and you retain access to everything after your course ends.

Join our community of graffiti and street art enthusiasts

Our students come from different countries and backgrounds, and our live events always bring about interesting conversations. Our Telegram chats are unique sources for information and debate. In them, students, ex-students and artists friends of Urbanario mingle, and there is always new content to learn and discuss about.

Quotes about the teacher

Rafael Schacter (UK)Professor, critic and curator | University College London
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Javier Abarca is an inspirational thinker, theorist, and teacher. He understands graffiti from the position both of a practitioner embedded in the subculture, and of an educator able to translate this visual and cultural world into the space of the classroom and the street. Javier’s teaching and mentoring will benefit all those who he comes into contact with; artists, students, and art professionals alike.
Pedro Soares (PT)Professor | Founder and director, Lisbon Street Art and Urban Creativity Conference | Universidade de Lisboa
Read More
With an intense and thought-provoking character, Javier Abarca is guarantee of the sharpest and more unconstrained thoughts about graffiti. This free-thinker is simultaneously a pioneer of the most underground side of graffiti and the author of the first Spanish-language PhD-level thesis about graffiti and street art
Pietro Rivasi (IT)Critic and curator | Creator of Icone Festival, founded in 2002
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Javier Abarca is the kind of researcher graffiti culture needs: he has a strong background in the scene, curiosity and an extraordinary storytelling capacity. An impressive, top-level divulgator.
Carlo McCormick (US)Author, critic and curator
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With his head in the rigors of academia and his feet on the streets, Javier Abarca is one of the most compelling and erudite guides to urban aesthetic and practice out there. His intelligence and remarkable understanding are secondary only to the exceptional generosity by which he shares his great learning with others.
Robert Kaltenhäuser (DE)Critic and curator | Museum für Visuelle Dissidenz
Read More
In addition to his virtually unparalleled achievements for independent research and networking in the field of Urban Art, Javier Abarca has been one of the standout forward thinking curators and critics in and on the genre ever since he raised his substantive voice.
Lachlan Macdowall (AU)Professor and author | University of Melbourne | Director, MIECAT Institute | Author of «Instafame, Graffiti and Street Art in the Instagram Era»
Read More
Javier Abarca is one the foremost scholars of graffiti, street art and urban creativity. As a practitioner, theorist, author, publisher and adventurer, Javier brings decades of experience, an encyclopaedic knowledge of urban creativity in all its forms and a restless curiosity to his craft.
Richard Brook (UK)Professor and author | Manchester School of Architecture, Art and Design
Read More
Javier Abarca is one of the world's leading thinkers on graffiti and art in the urban environment. He has tirelessly promoted critical approaches that help to understand the value and values of ephemeral art movements of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. His work is crucial in discourses around public space, spatial justice and rights to the city.
David Demougeot (FR)Director, Bien Urbain festival
Read More
For many years Javier Abarca has studied independent public art as a complex subject, dealing with topics such as art history, societal changes, underground cultures and media dissemination. Avoiding clichés and snobbery, he manages to deliver his precise and relevant thoughts in a fluent and reachable way, naming the issues as no one else.
Dumar NovYork (US)Author of «What do One Million JA Tags Signify?»
Read More
Javier Abarca has proven himself to be a leading expert in the field of Graffiti Studies as well as a detail-oriented producer of graffiti related events. His Unlock Book Fair is a pioneering happening which always brings fascinating perspectives and avant-garde approaches to interpreting the writing on the wall.
Andrea Caputo (IT)Publisher and architect | Editor of «All City Writers»
Read More
Javier Abarca has not just witnessed the Graffiti Writing movement as one of the pioneers of the Spanish and Madrilenian scenes. Through the past decades, he has built a long-time investigation on the development of Graffiti Writing style, techniques and behaviors though countless international contributions.
Ulrich Blanché (DE)Professor and author | University of Heildelberg | Author of «Banksy, Urban Art in a Material World»
Read More
Javier Abarca is one of the most important graffiti and street art researchers worldwide. His groundbreaking texts on topics such as the punk side of graffiti, Brazil stencil pioneer Alex Vallauri, or the significance of the human scale in illegal street art, have been especially important for my own research.
Peter Bengtsen (DK)Lund University | Author of «The Street Art World»
Read More
As the person behind the Unlock Book Fair and the Tag Conference, Javier Abarca is a central figure in the community of researchers focused on graffiti and street art. He has a long history of thinking and writing about these topics and, crucially, emphasizes the importance of paying attention to not just centrally-placed and flashy graffiti pieces and large-scale murals, but also to out-of-the-way and less conspicuous interventions.
Ilaria Hoppe (DE)Professor | Institute of Contemporary Arts and Media, Katholische Privat-Universität Linz
Read More
Javier Abarca is one of the most interesting graffiti researchers worldwide. On the one hand, his extensive knowledge comes directly from the street, as he is one of the pioneers of the writing scene in Spain; on the other hand, he looks back on many years of research and teaching within academia. He also initiated the Tag Conference and the Unlock Book Fair, which have become important events of critical graffiti research at the interface between subculture and scholarship.
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