Archive for the ‘Personal Reflections’ Category

Another quick update…

My project has officially evolved/expanded so that I’ll be focusing on ARTE CALLEJERO (street art), as a more general term than just “graffiti.” I’ve been creating a timeline of sorts about any sort of movements that involve writing/art in the streets in Buenos Aires since about the 1890s until today, and what seems to emerge from this is two rather distinct histories/stories (linguistic/dorky sidenote: I love that in spanish, the word for those two can be the same).

1. the political writing on the wall (pintura política): organizations, the church, and political parties posting up their two cents for all to read. in the beginning, stamements were often rhythmic, like chants in demonstrations, so there was a link between the oral and the written. With time, this became more visuall; most notable is the Siluetazo of 1983 by the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (when the organization placed thousands of white silhouettes around the city, a nod to the Disappeared under the military dictatorship). In the 1990s, more groups emerged that hoped to raise awareness about the impunity of officers during the dictatorship, so there was a strong link to human rights groups. (Examples of these include HIJOs and Grupo Etcetera, both begun in 1997). Finally, following the economic crisis that peaked in December 2001, more groups emerged, this time more artistically-leaning (TPS, Arte! Arde), which sought to raise awareness about government neglect as well as police brutality. (Many poltiical-artistic groups formed that used Dario Santillan, who was killed by police at a protest, as their martyr.)
INTERNATIONAL HISTORICAL ANTECEDENT: France 1950s-60s, peaking with the student movement of May 1968.

2. graffiti / the artistic side: begun in the 60s/70s with statements scribbled on walls denouncing mass media (some art students also began to get involved). In the 70s, aerosol also started gaining popularity (even for political statements), a result of the NYC graff movement. In the 80s and 90s, graffiti began appearing relating to national and international rock music, as well as about football (soccer) teams. In the 1990s, tagging gained popularity too (cool note: according to researcher Emilio Peterson, the first tags in Buenos Aires were actually done by foreigners, not Argentines). Then in the late 90s, just as groups like HIJOS and Grupo Etc. were starting up, students at the University of Buenos Aires’ FADU (architecture/design) sector began making their marks on the street. According to Chu from one of those first groups (DOMA), some of those activities were political too. With the 2001 crisis, though, many artists began to reject the politicized nature of, well, everything, and began to create “personajes” (characters) that could enliven, and make happier, public streets. Other artists, less concerned about whether the act of graffiti should be considered political or not, joined simply because the culture was fun or because it allowed for another type of artistic expression.
INTERNATIONAL HISTORICAL ANTECEDENT: New York City 70s and 80s, aesthetic graffiti.

What’s interesting here is how both were born out of the same circumstances and are now creating two different responses to the same stimuli–like two fraternal twins, if you will. And as both movements continue to mature, they begin to face similar challenges posed by the current state of society/art: questions of institutionalism, their links to “high art,” and ways to make the forms participatory.

In one of Ana Longoni’s articles, some of the activist artists mentioned that there could be a decline of activist art now that political groups are utilizing artistic means within themselves, without needing to reach out to outside organizations specializing in political art. At the same time, graffiti seems to be expanding and entering a new phase of its life, causing some to term the current age one of “posgraffiti.”

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Quick thoughts…

In our interview, Pum Pum had talked about how pop art was one of her influences, and it struck me how similar (at least superficially) the two forms are:
-Pop art appropriated the form of advertising and mass media to create “art”
-Graphic designers and artists in Argentina have appropriated the form of “graffiti” (that is, writing on the wall), which was/is a form of political mass media here, to create “posgrafiti”–a term some graffiteros like Gaulicho, as well as street art curators like Máximo Jacoby, prefer bc it is more open-ended than “graffiti,” which has too strong of links to the nyc hip-hop scene.

And both pop art and posgrafiti sought/seek to take what was “on the streets” into the gallery.

It seems that the people who don’t do political street art don’t because they don’t think it’s the place for politics. Politics taints things, taints art. Their art is often more “cartoony”; it’s purpose is to make people smile or laugh. In other words, it seems to be constitute a shift in society in which people have become sick of politics (in contrast to the populist Peronist movement, for which there was LOTS of political graffiti). Also, it seems to be a statement about the efficacy of public education

read on>>

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“Palais de Glace,” the sign read, a little too loudly in an otherwise reticent street. Or perhaps it was fitting: another name brand in the street right behind Buenos Aires’ 5th Avenue, Av. Alvear, situated in the city’s version of yuppie Upper East Side, the barrio Recoleta. It was a strange setting for an exhibition all about street art, more commonly called “graffiti.”

Outside the building, twenty- and thirty-somethings clad in everything from business suits to worn-in hoodies hung out, smoking cigarettes and chatting frivolously. Already I felt slightly out of place in my layered, casual chic outfit, balancing—now I felt rather oddly—between dressed up and dressed down. Always the gringa, I thought, and entered the building as nonchalantly as I could, only half ready to meet and greet (in Spanish!) with some of the city’s finest grafiteros.

The first floor was strangely placid. And devoid of graffiti. The crowd was mostly women in their 40s and 50s, champagne glasses in hand. (Where could I get one of those?) Trying to get a sense of the place, I walked around the exhibit, which discussed, in somewhat Futurist manifesto language, the ways in which our society has confused art with life, and passageways (roads and avenues) with meeting spots. It was interesting, although not what I had expected.

Finally, I realized that I was at the wrong exhibit, and upon ascending the staircase, I saw: people. Lots of them. Of every type and age and socioeconomic class. The exhibition was swarming with people—much more than any other gallery opening I had ever been to, and with a much more diverse population. The Recoleta crowd had come after work to check out the museum’s new offerings. Other exchange students and tourists tried to take in a vivid part of BsAs’ culture. MCs from Mar del Plata, another Argentine city, came to get a taste of this hip hop culture.

más fotos + read on>>

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Hola a todos,

Well, I have been in BsAs for about a week now, though I’ve only been to a few barrios and haven’t explored any of them properly. So please take what I say next with a grain of salt. What I’ve noticed about graffiti is that:

1. for starters, it’s (almost) everywhere. there seems nothing too sacrilege for graffiti–including government buildings and statues Even the church nearby me has some (photo to be taken soon, but it says, “BUSH” with a swastika for the “S”). the only exception might be very commercial avenues, like Av. Sante Fe in Barrio Norte (in between Recoleta and Retiro), where I live. Here’s a map of the different barrios, although more detailed information on the barrios can be found on wikipedia:

2. The graffiti, though, seems to change across barrios. I’ve noticed that in more artsy/hipster areas (namely Palermo), there are more cartoony figures adorning the walls, kind of like the type of work the lovely pum pum does. I wonder if this is because the designers/grafiteros tend to live and/or work in these area … read on>>

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