Street art and performance in public spaces has a long and rich history, extending as far back through history as ancient Rome. Street performers have consistently benefited the social, cultural and economic landscape of many of the great population centres. ASAP! has a vision of our shared public spaces being places of community interaction, engagement and enjoyment. The contribution of street artists and performers to the fabric of contemporary society is invaluable, especially at the current time of economic and social uncertainty.
And yet, opposition to street culture is just as old. The practice and prohibition of street art and performance have a deep and complex historical entanglement. As Murray Smith writes:
In Europe, itinerant musical culture has long been subject to legal and ecclesiastical “supervision.” As early as 45 1 B.C., the Roman Republic enacted, in legislation known as the Laws of the Twelve Tables, a prohibition, under pain of death, against singing or composing libelli famosi, that is, defamatory texts or songs. Religious authorities customarily condemned itinerant performers as superstitious pagans. Political leaders were no different. Charlemagne’s son, Louis the Pious, for example, “excluded histriones and scurrae, which included all entertainers without noble protection, from the privilege of justice”. In 1530, Henry VIII ordered the licensing of beggars who could not work, as well as pardoners, fortune-tellers, fencers, minstrels, and players; if they did not obey they could be whipped on two consecutive days.1
In direct contrast to those forces who have wished to restrict spontaneous street culture, and in some cases prohibit it entirely, ASAP! aims to keep the public spaces of our country as open as possible to a wide variety of street art, performance and other forms of human interaction!