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Bogotá : A Liberal Approach To Art Creates Exceptional Street Culture

Posted on January 29, 2015

Thanks to a globalism of culture, many cities around the world have sprouted vibrant Street Art scenes – including today’s focus, Bogotá, Columbia. Far more open to expression than many cities, Bogotá has become a tolerant and welcoming place for artists on public walls, with the mayor actually agreeing and decreeing that graffiti and street art are a form of valued artistic expression, as long as you lay off the statues and City Hall. The government even gives grants for some painting, and political and social protest on walls goes a little further than you might expect. As part of a personal tour of Columbia in the last couple of months, occasional BSA contributor Yoav Litvin travelled to Bogotá and met a couple of artists who told him about the scene there.
 
 
by Yoav Litvin

We arrived at the Bogotá airport in the evening. For convenience sake, we took a cab from the airport to our accommodation in the heart of La Candelaria, an area of town known for its museums, beautiful architecture and street art. I knew Bogotá was going to be as special as far as its street art scene. I just did not know yet how incredible it was going to be.

My introduction to Bogotá street art and graffiti was the highway from the airport into town, aka Calle 26—it was completely BOMBED. When I say bombed I mean there was not a single space free of art on the walls or tunnels of the highway for miles on end. The beautiful graffiti and street art along with countless tags adorning the walls made me feel like a kid in a candy store. Immediately I knew Bogotá was going to be special, a heaven for street art and graffiti.

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Stink Fish. Bogota, Colombia. (photo © Yoav Litvin)

During my visit I was fortunate to meet two very active local artists: DJ LU (aka Juegasiempre), otherwise known as the “Bogotá Banksy” and CRISP, an Aussie transplant that has made the city his home. They were courteous and answered some of my questions.

Yoav Litvin: What makes the street art and graffiti scene so unique in Bogotá? Please discuss the political background in Bogotá in particular and Colombia in general and some policies (legality etc.) that influence the great diversity of work on the streets. What’s special here?
DJ LU: Bogotá’s treasure is its diversity, in every sense. It has very eclectic architecture, interesting places, and is extremely multiracial. Urban expressions are not the exception; here you can find murals, tagging, hip hop graffiti, paste ups, stickers, characters, lettering and stencil work among others. Bogotá is an ideal playground for public expression. First of all, its urban structure is patchy making it ideally suited as far as context; there are many residual spaces, remnants of highway constructions, parking lots and abandoned structures.

Second, the legislation is tolerant, so unless you are engaged in a very clear act of vandalism you won’t have a problem with the law. Residents are also becoming familiar with the practice so there is tolerance from the local population.

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Toxicomano . Unknown .  DJ LU .  Bogota, Colombia. (photo © Yoav Litvin)

CRISP: Bogotá is one of the most exciting, underrated and prolific urban art scenes on the planet. This is due to a combination of several factors, which have created a melting pot of creativity and expression. Firstly, there is a long history of civil unrest, inequality and injustices in Colombia that make street art and graffiti a potent form of expression and protest for the people.

It actually has the longest running civil war in the world, over half a century of bloodshed!

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Toxicomano . DJ LU . Lesivo . Bogota, Colombia. (photo © Yoav Litvin)

Secondly, it has a very tolerant legal approach to urban art compared to most other cities in the world. It’s not technically illegal but “prohibited”, which provides a unique situation where grafiteros can take their time and paint in broad daylight. That said, an artist still needs to be cautious of police depending on the type of street art you are doing and due to police history of brutality.

Thirdly, Colombia has a rich resource of inspiration: its people, music, food, indigenous cultures, animals and plants from the Pacific, Andes, Amazon and Caribbean! This complex mix of factors makes Bogotá’s urban art scene truly unique.

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DJ LU Bogota, Colombia. (photo © Yoav Litvin)

Yoav Litvin: What motivates you in your work? Please discuss how your work is an expression of your development within the scene in Bogota.
DJ LU: My work is motivated by reality. I’m interested in making people aware–through art–of lots of situations that affect us as a society. The first project I started with on the street is the Pictogram project. It is based on semiotics and sign language. As it proposes very simple designs it is intended to relay a message immediately. In this project I have designed more than 60 pictograms that I have put up all over Bogotá and many other cities around the world in stencil form, stickers and paste ups.

Afterwards came the Street Pride project in which I took photographs of anonymous people whose appearance I found aesthetically interesting and who were interacting with the public space and I used them as models for my work. I believe that advertisements and the media in general are fabricating idols for the people to follow and to speed up consumerism. I want to make the invisible visible, to bring attention to anonymous people who construct our street culture.

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 Crisp. Bogota, Colombia. (photo © Yoav Litvin)

CRISP: I’ve always expressed myself through art from a very young age. In terms of street art I was a late bloomer. Despite an interest and curiosity in urban art, It was only when I came to Bogota that I truly became a street artist! I met grafitero friends here who encouraged me to put my artwork up in the street. Street art has shown me that it’s important that our public spaces aren’t controlled and dictated solely by councils, corporations, marketing companies, and formal art institutes.

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Toxicomano. Bogota, Colombia. (photo © Yoav Litvin)

Yoav Litvin:  How do you see the future of street art and graffiti in Bogota?
DJ LU: I believe that the progress of street art and graffiti is determined by a lot of factors: legal issues, trends, politics and economics. Graffiti and street art are trendy now in Bogotá, and this will most likely decrease. At that point only the ones that are doing it for real will keep working outside.

CRISP: The huge changes I’ve witnessed since 2001 through 2008 until the present are phenomenal. Bogota’s urban art has exploded in terms of quality and quantity. Everywhere you look, walk and drive, you see some form of creativity and expression on nearly every block in the city!

Mostly it is grass roots, passion-driven and totally devoid of the more corporate, council and gallery-organized and funded “street art” you see in many other cities in the world. In the near future I see many talented Colombian artists finally getting the recognition, support and ability to share their work with a wider international audience they deserve. Ironically this point isn’t important to many grafiteros here.

It’s the way of life, the friends, the culture, pure expression, fun, connecting with the public and the happiness this connection with the street brings that’s most important! In the future Bogota will be known as an urban art mecca but for all the right reasons!

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Lesivo. Bogota, Colombia. (photo © Yoav Litvin)

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Guache. Bogota, Colombia. (photo © Yoav Litvin)

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Stinkfish. Bogota, Colombia. (photo © Yoav Litvin)

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APC . Stinkfish . FCO . Temor. Bogota, Colombia. (photo © Yoav Litvin)

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Praxis. Bogota, Colombia. (photo © Yoav Litvin)

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Frank Salvador . Sur Beat. Bogota, Colombia. (photo © Yoav Litvin)

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Bastardilla wheatpaste afloat beneath a handful of dripping tags. Bogota, Colombia. (photo © Yoav Litvin)

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Bastardilla. Detail. Bogota, Colombia. (photo © Yoav Litvin)

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El Pez. Bogota, Colombia. (photo © Yoav Litvin)

 

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Please note: All content including images and text are © BrooklynStreetArt.com, unless otherwise noted. We like sharing BSA content for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the photographer(s) and BSA, include a link to the original article URL and do not remove the photographer’s name from the .jpg file. Otherwise, please refrain from re-posting. Thanks!

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Skiing Cities of Serenissima : Swoon Vessels in the Snowy Woods

Posted on January 28, 2015

Swoon has sent her vessels out to the countryside to reunite with the soil and trees.

Most art conservators and archivists make it their business to preserve a piece for posterity. Once art is created and collected it can be a vexing task for estates and institutions to make provisions enabling art to outlive the artist and it’s caretakers for decades, generations, even centuries.

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Swoon (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Swoon’s iconic rafts, or boats, or ships, or vessels of fantasy, however you may call them – these floating statues created for communal waterfaring made of discarded materials, cut paper, hand paint, gossamer sails and dreams are now completing their mission here in the snowy foothills, their recycled lives continuing their voyage back into the earth, not preserved for the ages.

Only last summer you could see these vessels in Submerged Motherlands, a record-setting exhibition at Brooklyn Museum that featured these rafts made of salvaged materials that once sailed on the direction of a rotating crew of captains and dreamers down the Missippi from Minneapolis to New Orleans, down the Hudson River and East River in New York, across the Adriatic from Slovenia to Italy to arrive shimmering and victorious at the Venice Biennial at night.

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Swoon (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Maybe it is because most people don’t have space enough to store a once-sea-worth D.I.Y. raft, maybe it’s because Street Artists are accustomed to their work being worn down and destroyed by the elements, or perhaps it is a philosophical outlook that recognizes that life and death are part of one cycle.

Swoon decided the final docking place for these vessels would be this wooded area away from the city and nested in by birds, trod upon by deer, eventually covered by moss. On the day we hiked here the smallest field mouse, no bigger than the palm of your hand, darted out from under a rudder onto the snow for a few feet, looked at us and quickly ran back into a hole so small as to be nearly imperceptible, submerged.

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Swoon (photo © Jaime Rojo)

When they were in use, these were near mythical conglomerations of sculpture, performance, shelter, community, fantasy, inner-fighting, lovemaking, maritime exploring, … untethered and in a sort of extended state of disbelief apart from the codified rhythms of a time-obsessed age on land.

When they stood still in the museum, stately and under-lit by a wallowing blinkering light meant to emulate water and moonlight, they began to take on a certain sense of lore and fantasy, a rallying point for the eclectic alumni who gathered there for music and word performances, reunion, reflecting and revisiting their common history.

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Swoon (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Here in these snow-quieted woods these rafts are at peace, still showing the signs of human activity but instead of exploring they are ready to be explored, open fantasies discovered in children’s play, inviting sparrows and chicadees and finches to fly through, an inhabitant of the terrestrial, each year more a part of it.

If there is a cycle that Swoon is honoring by allowing these vessels to float back to the land, she will tell us in due time, or not. Like many artists she is not going to ruin some stories that you’ll make but allow individual interpretation of her art in context, and here is a new one.

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Swoon (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Swoon (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Swoon (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Swoon (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Swoon (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Swoon (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Swoon (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Swoon (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Swoon (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Swoon (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Swoon (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Swoon (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Swoon (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Swoon (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Swoon (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

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Please note: All content including images and text are © BrooklynStreetArt.com, unless otherwise noted. We like sharing BSA content for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the photographer(s) and BSA, include a link to the original article URL and do not remove the photographer’s name from the .jpg file. Otherwise, please refrain from re-posting. Thanks!

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Don Rimx and BSA at Brooklyn Museum : You With Markers in Hand (VIDEO)

Posted on January 27, 2015

BSA continues to bring artists to the street wall, to the gallery, and to the museum whenever we can. The video here today captures one of the recent opportunities we had to help bring together Brooklyn Museum goers with one of Brooklyn’s hometown graffiti & street artists Don Rimx.

Just for one night in the grand ballroom of the museum, Rimx invited anyone with a marker to help fill in the color on his new kneeling figure on the temporary wall. Comprised of a complex series of trussing, supports, and various architectural abutments Rimx explained that the materials depicted represented both those he has seen in Brooklyn and Puerto Rico, places close to his heart and personal history.

(Check out the new video by Alex Seel at the end of these photos.)

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Don Rimx. Still from the video. (Video © Alex Seel)

We helped with the markers, initially to color in some of the paper mural ourselves, then to hand them out to guests of all sorts – moms, dads, grandparents, teens, students, graff writers, professionals, workers, – basically everyone who makes up the community here, even New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito and the Brooklyn Museum’s Managing Curator of Exhibitions, Sharon Matt Atkins.

It was excellent to see people accessing their inner artist and participating in the interactive piece while just behind it hung more classical examples of oil paintings and before us were couples taking live salsa lessons across the ballrooms’ glass and marble floor (it was Latino Heritage and Culture night after all).  We always say that Street Art is just one part of a conversation on the street. Seeing our neighbors taking an active role in creating art with one of New York’s talented street artists is just a confirmation that the creative spirit is alive and well to anyone who wants to access it.

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Don Rimx. Still from the video. (Video © Alex Seel)

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Don Rimx. Still from the video. (Video © Alex Seel)

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Don Rimx. Still from the video. (Video © Alex Seel)

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Don Rimx. Still from the video. (Video © Alex Seel)

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Don Rimx. Still from the video. (Video © Alex Seel)

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Don Rimx. Still from the video. (Video © Alex Seel)

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Don Rimx. Still from the video. (Video © Alex Seel)

Don Rimx at The Brooklyn Museum. Video by Alex Seel

 

We wish to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Brooklyn Museum, Alex Seel and of course to Don Rimx.

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