The More Buffed, the More Persistent: Small Urban Inscriptions and Struggle for Communication in Moscow Public Space
This article examines the crisis of informal urban imagery as an indicator of a crisis of urban communication. It refers to the situation of the late 2010s–20s when the saturation of the city with graffiti and street art became a new urban routine. The article argues that compared to the past, it is not the presence but the absence of informal urban imagery or a sharp disproportion in favor of commercial or propaganda images that indicates a crisis of urban communication. Focusing on Moscow, the article shows that the ‘absence’ of informal imagery results from the project of world-class city making that includes the large-scale reorganization of the urban environment and the top-down muralization. Street artists contest the ‘absence’ through small urban inscriptions that enrich urban communication with new meanings. These informal street images initiate spontaneous discussions involving urban dwellers in a dialogue that does not fit the ‘programmable communication’ imposed by the reorganized urban environment. The article assumes that the crisis of urban imagery and communication is not general and uniform, therefore, the analysis at the city level is needed to identify its scope and character.