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Cultural Expressions


Miami: Street Tags

by Mirena Suarez

My project consists in documenting one aspect of the city of Miami’s cultural expressions, which is the Street Art based on street tags (or signs).

Street Art is a broad concept that usually is sort of misunderstood, since it is often linked to the term of Graffiti mainly because of two facts.   First of all because of the fact that Street Art unquestionably develops in public places, and second, because it usually refers to spontaneous, unsanctioned, underground, or non-mainstream, type of art.  The term, in addition to Graffiti, can include some other terms such as Art Intervention, Street Installation, and Street Poster Art.  However, the term Street Art has been lately used to distinguish contemporary public-space artwork from territorial artwork (or vandalism), and it has been ultimately defined as “all art on the street that’s not only “graffiti”.  Therefore, it can be argued if the graffiti-like tags that cover the main walls of the downtown Miami area and its adjacent districts could be considered as a form of street art, or only a form of vandalism.  But what can not be argued though, is that in spite of artistic terms and definitions, these tags definitely represents the diversity of a city such as Miami, and thus, reflect a cultural aspect of it.

With this project, I want to focus on the many street tags/signs that we can find in this huge metropolitan area that is the city of Miami, made by street ‘s artists to define an ethic/social/cultural group in order to convey a specific message.  Signs made not only on walls, but on every type of surface available: garage doors, trash tanks, traffic signs, fences, concrete sidewalks, etc.  Signs created using spray painting of all colors and qualities, half-text and half-images, abstract and also recognizable signs, words, symbols of the colorful rainbow of many cultural backgrounds that make the city of Miami so unique and different. But, what these diverse tags in the streets of Miami convey? I think it is hard to come up with a convincing answer. I would say that they represent many concepts at the same time: from political views, religious beliefs, ethnic patterns, orientation of the communities they are made at, social groups, identity issues, to, in the end, a very particular aspect of the diversity and dynamics of the city of Miami’s always-changing multicultural scene.

Mirena Suarez is a photographer based in Miami, FL

Mirena Suarez