In 2015, I adopted the pseudonym Oilik. Oilik has no exact meaning, although it plays on the combination of the words ‘oil’ and ‘leak’. The word ‘oil’ refers to my country and its most famous natural resource. Oil provides wealth to Iran; however, it also brings corruption, coups d’etat, war, and social political crisis. ‘Leak’ refers to me as a person who has leaked from another society/world to a new one, and who ‘leaks’ the truth of the migrant experience into the mainstream. Also, there is a slight hint of the word ‘like’, which reflects my passionate online support of activists and activist art.
By its nature, street art is immediate and temporal, perhaps more so than work designed for newspaper publication. It may be seen from a moving car or bicycle. It is inserted into an already visually cluttered landscape and stands like a manifesto; a powerful statement. In addition, its generally surreptitious creation and the challenges of buildings and built infrastructure as a medium mean that the artwork is generally rendered in the simplest and strongest manner possible.
As such, we might expect it to be least aligned with formal frameworks of discourse and most aggressive in terms of its presentation of a particular point of view. In keeping with this, the subject matter is generally urgent and driven by passion. It thus drips with the subjectivity of the lived- experience, even when it addresses issues, such as financial inequality, which might be at the heart of the theoretical framework’s formal framing of the current discourse.
I have always been interested in street art and had several experiences of using it in my homeland. As a published artist, street art was, for me, just another medium. In Iran, street art is widely used by the government and a range of official organisations as well as by activists, so it is considered an entirely legitimate means of expression. One of the characteristics of street art in contrast with published and exhibited works is that it is more pro-active and aggressive in its visibility. In the media or the gallery, an audience chooses to see the works. However, street art exposes itself on a wall in front of an accidental audience. As a result, street art has another distinction: it is designed to reach an audience that may not be sophisticated or mature enough to parse the complex layers of a gallery piece. It is this blunt directness that stands in greatest contrast to the theoretical comprehension of the current discourse.