Monday, August 06, 2007

Interview: Vomito Attack On The Streets of Buenos Aires.

Time flies when you are sitting on your hole. Nearly a year ago I made a short trip to Argentina and was pretty taken aback at the highly developed street art culture my eyes were left to devour all around the city. You can have a taste of it from a large Flickr gallery I created to store the photos I took. Sometime after returning I contacted one of the collectives involved in putting this art up and got this interview down through the auld email.

Who are Vomito Attack and how did you guys come into being?

We began processing ideas after seeing the 9/11 attacks in New York City, 2001. After that we arrived in Buenos Aires in December and the crisis exploded. Without any possibilities of work possibilities, no money and a lot of free time - the project started growing. At first we did cut and pastes from newspapers and magazines changing the meaning of the contained information. Then we decided to use the streets as our main canvas, so we translated all that information to stencils and went out to paint.

Where's the name come from?

The name comes from how we recycle images, ideas and information. No fucking copyright exists for us. And also it's a peaceful and good way to get out all the shit that makes us sick.

A lot of the art I saw across Buenos Aires really seemed to be influenced by the radical politics prevalent during the economic troubles of 2001/02 - do you think that when the middle classes were out vandalising banks a space was created for street artists to put their work up on the walls of the city too?

Of course that was a big step to do whatever in the city, people were painting and destroying banks during the day, under the nose of the police - so at night it was easier to paint and do what you wanted on the streets.

During that time the city was in complete chaos, with a little bit of anarchy in the air.

Have you ever faced any hassle from the police when engaged in the creation of street art?

Yes - but just now beginning in 2007 - not before. In one week we had two incidents with police. During the second incident they made us erase what we painted. The problem now is that we are in an electoral year, both presidentials and major cith elections. And also we have a growing number of tourists coming to BA, so the city should look clean. Now in San Telmo we have a cop on every block.

What was the 'Vote PCM' campaign all about and where did you get the idea for it?

Political parties used to promote their candidates with "paintings" - using lime for the paint - which is very cheap. At the begining of the democracy in 1983 and during the eighties, people who painted the walls were all volunteers but from the nineties on it became a paid job. It's still the cheapest way to make political advertising.

Two years ago, we started the VOTE P.C.M. campaign, on top of the same walls, using the same font but changing the color (because every party has a representative colour)we propoused to vote POWER, CORRUPTION AND LIES. (Poder. Corrupción. Mentiras).

Most of the art I came across seemed to be located in and arond the Plaza de Dorrego? Are there any other areas I should have peeled my eyes in?

Yes! There´s a lot of street art around the city - but the main hoods are San Telmo, Palermo, Congreso y Abasto. Also we saw several stencils in others states of Argentina, like Córdoba, Bariloche, Mar del Plata and Entre Ríos. Thanks to the Internet!
Is there much of a street art network across South America?

Not really. We have kind of Latin American version of the Wooster Collective, which is very useful to connect with others latin american artists. But in fact we (in received more visits from U.S. and Europe artists than from Latin and South America.

Is there any over lap between traditional writers/bombers and newer artists influenced by stencil and sticker work?

I don´t think so. There´s not many graffitti artists in Bs.As., spray cans are expensive here. Stencil is much more rebel in content than graffitti. The conection between both are spray cans and the streets as medium to express.

A lot of the statues of military figures and statesmen from Argentinian history in Buenos Aires were splashed with red paint or had stenciled texts about imperialism at their base. When was this done and how come the state never washed it off?

During the 90´s stencil was only used in demonstrations and by a few artists. After 2001 crisis become a very strong way to show ideas. The Internet is the most used tool now. The way through we received information from the outside world.

Many are fascinated by the Latin American tradition of murals - do you guys take any influence from this background?

Not at all. But the city has many murals, all of them make it with permission. We never ask for permission.

Aside from political pieces, many of the street art works I saw suggested a strong counter culture in Buenos Aires. Is this a fair reading and what form does it take?

Argentina has a very strong history of anarchist activism. Lots of italian inmigrants came here and spread anarchist ideas during the past century. We´ve an interesting background. And streets always were the better place to put the ideas.

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