I am drawn to street art, enough to actually take a walk under the bridges and tunnels of Jakarta for a slow, close look at them a few years ago. I understand the resistance, the public discourse, the activism that is channeled through street art, so I kind of understand why someone was bothered enough by the commissioned murals in Georgetown, Penang, to take a stab at the public by tagging some of the most famous murals with cheeky ‘Facebook ready’ or ‘Instagram Me’ signs. I suppose that person feels that the city-commissioned murals take the politics and social commentary out of street art by turning it into photogenic tourist attractions.
When we finally walked through the streets of Georgetown, though, I actually smiled. True, the murals are definitely tourist attractions. There were long queues of people who want to take a photo with the murals and I bet these photos will make it to Facebook or Instagram, but I really couldn’t see what is wrong with that. Nobody frowned or complained about queuing under the scorching sun, you can find little children and old grandparents posing with the murals as creatively as they could. Coming from a city with dysfunctional public spaces, it is absolutely fantastic seeing people actually smiling as they are walking and riding bicycles, taking in the brilliant art gracing the walls of Georgetown.