Even if the graffiti scene in Buenos Aires is fairly young it has developed in a excitingly fast rhythm over the last years. The follow the western traditions by bombing streets and metros, but, with a quite different attitude.
They same way that European graffiti in its first years followed in the footsteps of the United States, Buenos Aires also has took the “old country” as an example to follow.
Who better than Porno14, one of the city’s most prolific bombers, to show us the context of the Buenos Aires graffiti scene from his point of view. And since we are with him we start out with getting to know him a bit better before we start this truly interesting travel though the history of Argentinian graffiti.
Can you remember the first time you saw graffiti?
A long time ago as a kid I remember going back home from school and I always passed by this newspaper stand which was closed down. On the shop there was a sign in white, a bit transparent, and you could see that it had been there for quite some time. I obviously didn’t understand then that this was a tag, and I thought of it as some kind of symbol or sign for something. I tried to decipher what it said.. I saw an R, some type of N, but I never got to know what it really said. This started my restlessness. Months later I managed to figure out what it said and see that it said RAS.
Why did you decide to start painting?
I didn’t really deice to start painting, I went a school with drawing classes and one thing led to the other, and one day I was sketching letters, without even thinking about it.
How do you define your way of creating graffiti?
I don’t know how to define it, free, a bit trashy, I never searched for any specific form in my pieces, I sincerely don’t know, but along the years I have had focus on more abstract designs. I always tried to see things in a quite different way. If for example we painted a spot were there wasn’t enough space for my letters I found a way to adapt my letters to the space given. If the spot had obstacles like doors or profundities, I had to find a way to make it come together and fit. Maybe a lot of people just don’t even try when they are confronted with such uncomfortable surfaces and spaces, but me it was always like a game within itself to be able to adapt.
What do you admire most in a good graffiti writer?
Creativity, sense of wittiness, I was told numerous times that “everything has already been done, its too late”, but I don’t believe in this, maybe styles today are very specific but at the same time this is what make it interesting. Everyone can evolve in their own way an try to reflect their personality in the things that they create. Personally I don’t see the reason to why I should make the same letters that writers have been making since decades, I enjoy seeing the person who has had an evolution over time and managed to bring his style to another level, but without having left his personal way of painting. I don’t value people who completely changes style from one day to another, it makes me doubt the artists originality. But still this might have to do more with the conformism of each person right? Once some people feel happy with their results they seem to stop evolving and becomes stuck like in a circle. They seem to think they came to an end. “This is the best piece I ever made”… and they stay there. There is a good saying about this: “Cuando el ingenio se queda pequeño no basta con poner empeño” (When you are short of wit, determination is not enough).
Influences by name?
I started during a time when Buenos Aires had been completely splattered with european styles, but the ones that mostly influenced me back then on the local scene was IMAQ and SOKE.
Later maybe people like BITCH, MR.IX, ROGER…
What is the angle of your style in relation to Buenos Aires graffiti?
With mu graffiti as such? I don’t know if there is one… We where all developing styles at the same time and we all shared the influences of polish and german graffiti, a lot due to when tourists started to come. You could clearly see this in the areas where I always spent most of my time. People today might se a certain link to my style, but I never invented anything even if I have seen new writers using the same way of thinking as me when painting.
What is the relation between graffiti in Buenos Aires and European graffiti?
If we compare this city with other cities around the world that today has 3 decades of this virus we call graffiti you could say that we over here are in some kind of a cradle.
It is true that the internet has helped this to grow very fast, today the streets are completely bombed by tags, but this city only has 16 years of graffiti history. I don’t know if there was some post graffiti back in 97-99, and influences was slow up until then, but after OS GEMEOS, HOW and NOSM, and groups from Berlin like RCB, KHC, DSF came to visit it all became crazier than ever.
At leads when it comes to bombing the streets and train writing.
RCB made it popular to do silvers, and from there we got rooftops, trains, ,metros, and then someone made the first whole car in Argentina.
This was pretty amazing for those few that wrote in those days, a surprising spectacle to see for the first time.
Two years later when I started painting the KHC crew came to make a pretty strong impact on the local scene, and through them a kind of local “Berlin style” was born here…
Their adventures are well documented in the video “Rolling Stars 2”, where you can clearly see some of the most famous spots of today even if a lot has changed due to changes made in the yards and extensions of the lines and so on.
These people had to adapt to the Buenos Aires of back then since there wasn’t even any graffiti shops. To have caps and Montana’s was not as obvious as it is today.
It was not easy to find a piece in traffic either… Some of the lines back then where very strict and didn’t no t let any pieces roll out in traffic, also because of the simple fact that you didn’t get on the train thinking, “I wonder what panels I will see today?”. It was always a big surprise and that made it more mysterious. The game was transformed into something deeper without andy space for doubts.
It was also really hard to find graffiti videos if you didn’t have someone in the family or a friend that went traveling abroad that could bring back a graffmag or a VHS.
Today the graffiti here has had an evolution thanks to internet and the videos, and you can clearly see this when you travel around the city in the metro. It is also thanks to the crisis that affects the country, the public transportation is first place to see that things are going downhill…
A friend from abroad that came here and stayed for a whole month asked me: “what is happening here, the metro is really easy to hit or what?, I saw so many bad pieces down there”. I have noticed that because of the videos and the search for adrenaline, which is typical for the newer writers, you can say that it has developed a new breed of writer which I call the “KINGTOY”, this refers to the many kids that becomes good at breaking in, picking locks, opening hatches etc.. Just like in the videos they saw online. But many times it is very clear that they don’t spend as much time in developing nice styles as they do in getting around the system.
What is the best and the worst thing about graffiti in Buenos Aires?
The good thing we have is the variety of styles we have in both bombing and making murals, and the liberty of getting a wall to paint only by asking for permission.
The bad part in my opinion is that they don’t buff as much as before anymore. It is good that most of our writers are up on the metro showing them we are alive, but coming years changes will come and we will loose many old beautiful models of trains since the companies will start to do something about this.
The present graff scene has its focus on making whole cars and big pieces without thinking of the consequences… It is ok, and we are all free to do what we want to do, but you also have to think that a whole car will never have its original color again, and at some point we will have the whole system full of fully painted chrome wagons. I think we will loose the motivation to keep on painting since we all are looking for good pics where you can see what model was painted.
Important names on the scene?
There is many, but the ones that really had an impact on me and gained my respect is IMAQ (RAS), PATO, KOTM(ROY3), MATRIX(SOKE)
This might be a quite hot topic right now, and the reason for it has a lot to do with the lack of space in the metro.
Many times you come down in the tunnels and you can’t find a spot on the panel so you decide to paint over a old or “ugly” piece, and this type of situation creates beef with the people you decided to go over. In my opinion there is also a lack of respect for people that has been painting for a long time.
We need a certain type of common sense and put more value into our work. But also it is a bit stupid to think that your piece will keep running for ever if look at the level of activity that there is down in the tunnels right now.
Maybe we should start painting just for the pics like we did many years ago…
You have to be realistic when you are to judge a subway action, always on top of things and always try to keep cool and avoid getting angry when shit happens.
What is the difference between Buenos Aires and the rest of South America?
I think that Buenos Aires we focus on tags in different way, it makes it stand out in this sense.
We do not have styles as significant and specific as the pixaçao in Brazil, but you can still see a lot of can-control and technique in the tags here.
People here are inspired when they go out bombing, maybe a bit more than in the rest of South America. T least that is what people from abroad has told me, I haven’t had the opportunity to travel that much yet to make my own opinion.
Now we are starting to see a whole lot more bombs and it will be nice to see where all this is going to end.
How do you see yourself in the future?
Fat and bald, (laughs), I don’t know, I try not to think so much about the future, int this way I enjoy the present more.
Is there something you would like to point out before we finish up?
Yes, many times when I have read other writers interviews I never really felt that I could fully identify with what they said or tried to express… I say it again, I do not posses the whole truth but I give you my humble opinion about what is going on here right now. There are days I love this city, and then there are other days when I hate it, but what has been said here is what I love agout my city, which never bores me, and that never sleeps.