Archive for the 'Guest Contributor' Category

Foreign Report: Kat Carter

Llama Crossing

A couple of weeks ago, in a bit of a small-world scenario, I found myself sharing a hostel in La Paz, the Bolivian capital, with another Vis Com graduate – Kat Carter.

Kat graduated from GSA in 2004, having specialised in photography, and is currently backpacking around South America for a few months, documenting her trip using a photo-blog as she goes. Some great shots and a simple, effective format for this kind of visual diary.

Foreign Report: Santiago Stencil Graffiti


When I arrived in Santiago, the capital of Chile, I wasn´t aware of it having a distinctive visual culture, so was fascinated to discover a thriving stencil graffiti scene on it’s streets over the few days I spent there. To see the full set of images check out the Santiago Stencil Graffiti set on Flickr.
Few buildings in this sprawling city are untouched by graffiti in all its different forms, but by far the most interesting are the examples of stencil graffiti.

The subject-matter of the graffiti is generally political slogans and images with anti-american, anti-capitalist and animal rights themes. Alongside this, there are portraits, images of cartoon-characters and other less-defined subjects.
The stencil graffiti community in Chile has an interesting blog (in spanish but with good images) and a book was released recently called Santiago Stencil, which I believe can be bought using the contact section of the website.

Foreign Report: Symbols of Remembrance

Argentinian Flag at Half-Mast

The ‘Day of Rememberance for Truth and Justice’ is a public holiday in Argentina which takes place each year on the 24th of March. It commemorates the victims of the ‘Dirty War’; a period of state-sponsored violence by the military government which ruled the country from 1976 to 1983 and who were responsible for the illegal arrest, torture and execution of an estimated 30,000 Argentinian citizens. These victims have come to be known as the ‘disappeared’.

This period of Argentina’s history continues to be an open wound in the psyche of the country with trials of the leaders of the military government ongoing and questions on the fate of lost relatives still unanswered.

Last  month, on the public holiday,  demonstrations took place in towns throughout the country and I spent the day at one in a small town called Bariloche. These are some photos of the powerful visual symbols associated with remembering the disappeared.

The Painted White Shawls of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo

These paintings are of white shawls which is the icon of ‘The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo’, an association of the mothers of the disappeared who gather once a week in central Buenos Aires to protest. White shawls are worn by members of the group and symbolise the blankets of their lost children.

 Photocopied Images of the Disappeared

These photocopied images and descriptions of the disappeared are a sinister reminder of the age and background of the people involved. They were typically young, politically-liberal people, many of whom were students.

Hand-Prints on Canvas Covering Statue

This shows a colonial-era statue covered by a canvas of colourful hand-prints which seemed to have an anti-authoritarian message.

Blood-stained Argentinian Flag

Finally, a bloodstained Argentine flag perfectly captured the strength of emotion at the event.

For more on this topic check out the Oscar-winning film ‘The Official Story’ or this Wikipedia article.

Foreign Report: Pixacao

Pixacao 2

Pixacao is a form of graffiti that originated in Sao Paulo in the 1960s where people wrote political messages on the street using stolen tar (´piche´in Portugese). I came across this interesting example of it on a path running alongside a lake in Argentina.

What appeals to me about this form of graffiti is the way it responds to its environment, whether that´s on the architecture and streets of Sao Paulo or this example. Here, groups of symbols have been drawn in several places along the path creating a narrative in the landscape, which culminates in the set of symbols shown in the photos. This points out over the lake and, although I don´t know what the symbols mean, it appears to me to be a tribute to the landscape.

Pixacao 2

Pixacao emerged at around the same time as ‘Wildstyle’ tagging came to prominence in New York, but only the latter went onto influence graffiti worldwide. Pixacao, on the other hand, remained confined to the streets of Sao Paulo and has retained a distinct cultural identity.

Interestingly, this distinction has recently become a source of tension in Brazil with the de-criminalisation of graffiti at the same time as Pixacao was re-criminalised. In response to this news, and as a protest against the commodification of graffiti in general, last year Pixadores (Pixacao artists) ‘vandalised’ a graffiti show in an art gallery in Sao Paulo.

Pixacao 3

The following text is from a flyer they used to promote the protest:

“The Path to Revolution: We are going to invade with our protest art a shitty art gallery (Culture Shock), which, as per its ideology, gives space to underground artists – well, then it’s all ours anyway – and we will declare total protest.

Protest slogans: Long Live Tagging, Art as Crime, Crime as Art”

For more on Pixacao check out the the book ‘Pixacao: Sao Paulo Signature’ by Francois Chastanet and for more on the protest check out the article Pixacao vs. Graffiti in Sao Paulo.

Foreign Correspondent

Designer and Vis Com person Gordon Carmichael is travelling through South America for the next few months, and has kindly agreed to be our foreign correspondent and ‘send back’ some posts and pictures of the visual culture there. Look out for posts over the coming weeks.