In a previous incarnation of this blog, over 500 images of stencil graffiti were posted… most of them found in Buenos Aires. Although the glory days are gone —stencils have since been replaced by other types of street art— many of those images provided a social outlet for fed-up people in the aftermath of the 2001 crisis. Messages ranged from social commentary to advertisements to political activism. Naturally, I don’t necessarily agree with all the opinions of the artists, but disagreement is not a bad thing. A lack of expression for dissent is much worse. Spray on.
Clicking on any of the images in this post leads to a 5 Mb collage of all my Buenos Aires stencils photos from 2004. Below are some observations about the movement I made at the time:
“Inspired by the last post, I decided to walk around Buenos Aires & really pay attention. I didn’t think about bills that need to be paid, getting ready to go to Europe for the next two months, my braces, or any of the things that have been bouncing around my head lately.”
“There’s something about stencil graffiti that really attracts me. Maybe it’s the pre-meditated effort. Anyone can walk around & spraypaint their name or X “hearts” Y… valid only until the next coat of paint goes up or the relationship ends. But stencil graffiti is different. Taking a color photo & reducing it to monotone takes a lot of manipulation in Photoshop. Then you have to print the design, cut it on something like old x-ray film & try not to overspray. It takes effort.”
A quote from the “Hasta la Victoria” stencil compilation:
Crouching noiselessly in the chaos of the night, stencils added to the collective sense of belonging, calling for neighborhood meetings & mobilization, & whispering their sarcastic comments on the politics of the day. Art was back on the streets again, saying what had to be said for those who cared to look.
Inevitably, one day we discovered the presence of a ”hidden,” a latent message, & the eye suddenly began to see stencils on the streets by the dozen. The eyes became sharper & thousands of these pictograms appeared… And now it’s impossible not to see them & give a wry smile of complicity. And of pride, because there’s a certain privilege in getting ”the message” many fail to notice.
“We are so bombarded by advertising that failing to notice stencil graffiti is understandable. When I walk down the street it’s difficult enough to dodge cars, buses, other pedestrians, dog shit, missing sidewalk tiles, trash bags, baby strollers, hordes of school kids, & the like. When I get a break from that, the last thing I want to see is a Nescafé billboard five stories high. I don’t need to be told how wonderful an espresso would be at that moment… I can decide what I want for myself. The result of sensory overload is blocking all the non-essential stuff out. But once you begin to pay attention again, stencils leap out.”
“As part of the same Estudio Abierto art project which opened the Confitería del Molino, the city government told the “Hasta la Victoria Stencil” group to do as they pleased with a blank wall above a parking lot. I was going to wait for the final reveal, but after 45 minutes they hadn’t finished painting or even removed the scaffolding. So I took some other graffiti pics & walked home via an electrified Congress…”
“Let the urban scavenger hunt begin.”