COLOUR & POLITICS IN BUENOS AIRES
I begin my blog in flair, by writing to you from Buenos Aires, home of vibrance, culture, a rich exciting history and a list of other descriptive words travel writers frequently use about most places. Work has brought me here, via Santiago, Chile and I feel quite lucky to have had this opportunity to experience it. Although it’s only a short and busy time, when travelling for these jobs I often get some great snippets of culture that I soak up through my oddly porous skin that provides a wealth of inspiration. I then digitally extract said inspiration from my complex and confused mind and place it into an app like Evernote or an even simpler app called notebook (it’s actually just a notebook). Although my ability to sometimes recollect that information fails, despite it being written down, there are somethings that still stick with you. I don’t know if maybe it has been a bit of maturity growth that happens when you travel, but something clicks and you go home with all of the excitement and shit load of ideas that can fit in a sack, just your standard canvas sack, nothing too fancy.
From Buenos Aires, I suppose, two things have really stuck with me. The fonts and the street art. It’s in abundance here and is really freaking cool. I suppose I’ll start with the fonts. The Fileteado lettering is what stands out the most. From hand painted signs in the markets to over the top designs on the sides of buses, this designer font and similar fonts are everywhere. It’s nice to see somewhere that doesn’t drape its public transport in graphics of ‘Chanel No. 5’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ features like a cheap and ashamed billboard parading around the streets. But instead, it shows the city’s heritage and desire to take pride in is art and design. From the streets you will see carefully designed shop windows with words, that’s right words, not pictures, hand painted, of what you can find inside. It feels like a step back to the early to mid 20th century.
I feel that there is an element of wanting to connect and communicate with one another in this part of the world, where in other parts it seems there are a lot of missed opportunities. I sat on the deck bar in my Santiago hotel looking down at the people walking along the street. I have been told previously that class dividers still existed in the extreme in many places in South America, but from this small observation, this is not what I saw. There were all sorts of people down there bustling about on there way home, or way out. Included in this chaos, were a few homeless men and amateur entrepreneurs selling their knock-off wares on the edges of pavement. I was surprised when I saw, from over the top of my frosted beer, that these people on the edge of it all were frequently chatted to and interacted with by people from all backgrounds, from head nods to a bit of change to a longer than average conversation. This brought me back to the thought that everyone needs to be acknowledged. It’s a basic right to be noticed. When looking into the window of a shop, if I see a hand painted sign or wording I feel like in a small insignificant way, a part of that is for my benefit, for me personally, just a little bit of that paint. And then I’m connected, I’ve been communicated to. I’ve been acknowledged.
Street art in Latin America is king! This stuff obviously stays there for a long time and shows no sign of being painted over or taken down. Yes yes, dear reader, I know, street art is everywhere these days, Melbourne, London, New York etc. etc. etc. But there is something about this art, in the southern Americas that feels unrestricted. It feels like they paint whatever the hell they want, but they do it bloody well, aside from the spray can taggers of course, who still do have that element of design and expression. Ranging from original and deep moving graphics that appear sketched, to copies of pop culture cartoons and characters. There is a remainder of the intense histories, dictators, revolutions and rebellions that slides through the rough concrete walls and into the artworks that makes them glow with a vigour and edge. Now it’s not to be hidden that my Spanish skills are slightly above ‘none’. Si (yes). So generally I have no idea what the work is about, but the fonts have power and kick and the people portrayed show sadness, passion, anger and joy unlike anything I have ever seen. It’s these works that draw me in, like an Argentinian to Mate and I can’t not have a personal experience with the work. There’s a great article here that gives you some insight into some defining works http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20130524-buenos-aires-past-as-told-through-street-art .
Buenos Aires is not a large city to walk around and has a great deal to see and I feel like artistically, it has not let go of the opportunity to create, over a long period of time. When I think back to my home in Australia, the art I see day to day is incredibly limited to advertisements I see on billboards, screens, transport and everywhere else. I find it difficult to become inspired and educated by an image or text that has an ulterior motive in presenting itself to me. So good on you Argentina, good on you South America, keep your people bathed in the paint and prints you cover your cities in.