Voices in Aerosol
Youth Culture, Institutional Attunement, and Graffiti in Urban Mexico
304 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 1.40 in, one 32-page color insert, 67 b&w photos
Sales Date: January 9, 2024
How a city government in central Mexico evolved from waging war on graffiti in the early 2000s to sanctioning its creation a decade later, and how youth navigated these changing conditions for producing art.
The local government, residents, and media outlets in León, Mexico, treated graffiti as a disease until the state began sponsoring artistic graffiti through a program of its own. In Voices in Aerosol, the first book-length study of state-sponsored graffiti, Caitlin Frances Bruce considers the changing perceptions and recognition of graffiti artists, their right to the city, and the use of public space over the span of eighteen years (2000–2018). Focusing on the midsized city of León, Bruce offers readers a look at the way negotiations with the neoliberal state unfolded at different levels and across decades.
Issues brought to light in this case study, such as graffiti as a threat and graffiti as a sign of gentrification, resonate powerfully with those germane to other urban landscapes throughout the Western Hemisphere and beyond. Combining archival work, interviews, considerations of urban planning, local politics in Mexico, and insights gained by observing graffiti events and other informal artistic encounters, Bruce offers a new lens through which to understand the interplay between sanctioned and unsanctioned forms of cultural expression. Ultimately, Voices in Aerosol builds a strong case for graffiti as a contested tool for "voicing" public demands.
Voices in Aerosol is a formidable study of graffiti practice and youth culture in León, Mexico. Bruce’s rich rhetorical ethnography and its attendant theorizing—particularly her treatment of “attunement” as a means by which writers, media, public institutions, and the state orient to one another—make this book a must-read for anyone studying contemporary visual culture, urban rhetorics, or neoliberal governance. ~Christa J. Olson, University of Wisconsin–Madison, author of Constitutive Visions: Indigeneity and Commonplaces of National Identity in Republican Ecuador
With Voices in Aerosol, Caitlin Bruce has solidified her place as a foremost thinker in the field of visual rhetoric. Moreover, by attending to the productive tensions between graffiti and institutions, Bruce challenges how scholars of resistance and expressive culture have reductively characterized the way rhetorical agents engage with power. Visually captivating, masterfully written, and theoretically sophisticated, this book will change the way you think and see. ~Karma R. Chavez, University of Texas at Austin, author of The Borders of AIDS: Race, Quarantine, and Resistance
- List of Illustrations
- Chapter One. Frisson: Early Graffiti Writers Remapping the City
- Chapter Two. Noise: Desmadre in Neoliberal Geographies; Youth Voice against Zero Tolerance
- Chapter Three. Harmonization: Convivencia and Municipal Overtures to Writers
- Chapter Four. Amplification: Cultivating Acceptance through the Mural as Civic and Affective Form
- Chapter Five. Resonance: Urban Art and Good Vibrations
- Conclusion. Susurration: Cross-Border Institutional Attunements and Social Infrastructure; León as Global Example