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Estonian street artist Sirla: One person's defacing is another one's art

Sirla and
Sirla and "OP" host Owe Petersell. Source: ERR

It's hard to clearly define where art ends and defacing begins, because it all depends on the viewer and their background, Stencibility Street Art Festival organizer and Estonian street artist Sirla said in a recent appearance on ETV cultural program "OP."

This year is a major one in many respects for Tartu street art – this May, "Hello, Mister Police Officer," an exhibition introducing the street art of Estonia's second-biggest city, will be opened in Tallinn, and the 15th Stencibility will be held this July.

"This is a major milestone anniversary for us, and we're going to be celebrating it," said Sirla. "We'll definitely be drawing a lot on walls, inviting plenty of guests from all over the world, and we'll also be opening an indoor exhibition in an abandoned house."

She noted that over this past decade and a half, perceptions of and support for street art have improved.

"I also conduct street art tours, and people ask pretty often whether this is defacing or art," Sirla said. "Sometimes it is hard to discern, and I've replied that it depends on the person – how they themselves view art. I think that if an image or text on the wall provides any sort of additional info, then it isn't defacing, but if it doesn't provide any sort of new info whatsoever, then I would call it defacing. But it really does depend on the person, and what background info they have."

She recalled that when they first started organizing Stencibility, then it was very difficult to clarify what they wanted to do and why street art is necessary, including what it contributes to an environment.

"But now I feel like I no longer have to justify this anymore," she acknowledged.

The supplies, techniques and paint used in street art have remained largely unchanged over the past 15 years, however more people have started doing large-scale work.

"We've been through this 'the bigger, the better' period with our festival too, but we've now come to the conclusion that human-sized works actually give the artist more freedom," the festival organizer explained. "And we've stuck with preferring to do a lot and smaller works."

According to Sirla, anyone can identify themselves as a street artist.

"You don't even have to call yourself an artist," she added. "If you feel like adding something to a  public space that makes it more interesting, more beautiful, then do it. You don't need a festival for that either."

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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