The graffiti and street art here in Bs As is one of the most inspiring and amazing things I’ve seen during the past month. There is graffiti literally everywhere, from the Subte to the rooftops of buildings, in every neighborhood of the city. In other cities graffiti is considered vandalism and is highly frowned upon, but here it’s totally acceptable (by most)—simply the people’s freedom of expression on public display.
During the “Dirty War,” when the military government had power, the walls were all spotless white and dreary. The people’s right to express themselves was taken away and anyone caught speaking, or writing, against the government was kidnapped and taken to secret concentration camps, or killed. Nowadays, the “talking walls” of Buenos Aires are gaining international recognition. Street artists use street art and graffiti as a means of self-expression, to engage the communities, and to illustrate their opinions of the government and current events.
In the 90s after the militars were long gone, the street artist of Buenos Aires began to emerge, and the artists were just a bunch of boys trying to copy the letters off of Beastie Boys cds. They formed groups and painted trains—collaboration was key to cover lots of area in a short amount of time. Street art in Bs As hit its peak in the early 2000s when the Argentinean economic crash in 2001 sparked the Muñequismo movement. Muñequismo comes from the word muñeca, which means “doll,” and the style of the art was colorful, bright, and pleasing to the eye. Giddy, fun cartoon characters and even popular tv characters were painted or stenciled onto the city walls to bring happiness into the lives of the porteños during this time of hardship. Who knew that graffiti could have such a positive impact, huh?
So graffiti isn’t so bad after all…. Continuing on that train of thought, I should note that the street artists here work in full daylight. This seems strange to most who assume that graffiti must be painted at night by some sketchy dude who is dressed in black with his hood pulled up trying not to be seen. While graffiti is still technically illegal in Buenos Aires under “destruction of property,” it isn’t really illegal because the artists will either A) ask permission from the owner of the building, B) be asked by the owner to paint on the building, or C) paint on a building that nobody really cares about. And most importantly, paint during the day because then it doesn’t look like you’re doing anything illegal—if you were working at night someone would call the cops because you look suspicious and you might be trying to break in.
But Maddy, how did you become such an expert on Bs As graffiti? Well, I went on a fabulous tour with this group called Graffitimundo. You should really check them out! Like right now! They’ve got loads of information on the different prominent artists around town, in-progress street art projects, and they’ve also just finished filming a documentary called White Walls Say Nothing (click the link to watch the trailer, learn more and all that jazz). I have been greatly inspired by them and the wonderful tour, and it is spectacular to see what these artists can do and how much they have to say about this crazy city.