1983 - 2013

The Talking Walls of Buenos Aires 


A tradition of art, activism and popular expression. 
May 2014

The walls of Buenos Aires have been used as a tool for communication and expression for as long as anyone can remember. 

When thousands of clandestine abductions and murders took place under a brutal military regime, activists used public walls to raise awareness of the scale of the disappearances.

Throughout the city's turbulent history art has been an essential tool for activism, resistance and communication.

The return of democracy saw the repressive power of the state wane. The city walls became covered in layer upon layer of commercial messages, political propaganda, graffiti and written messages.. 

Following a brief period of illusory prosperity, the city plunged into depression following the catastrophic collapse of the financial system in 2001 sparking widespread protests and riots in the streets.

Street protests took many forms. The "cacerolazo" spread throughout the city travelling at the speed of sound, as furious citizens clashed pans together, venting their anger and frustration at the government. 

In the aftermath of the crisis, new forms of expression emerged. Groups such as DOMA & FASE tried to bring levity and a smile back to the walls of a city ravaged by the crisis. 

The crisis saw an explosion in stencil art. A long established tool for activism, stencils have been used in the streets of Buenos Aires for over a century. A technique used for promotion and activism was subverted by artists who concocted a potent  blend of surreal imagery and scathing social commentary. 

Inspired by the sudden explosion of creative expression in the streets, a new generation of artists emerged who explored techniques from design, illustration and graffiti.

Artists began creating increasingly elaborate works, taking advantage of space offered by thousands of abandoned buildings throughout the city. 

A spirit of solidarity and cooperation lead to huge collaborative works being created throughout the city, as groups of artists worked together to transform public space.

Many people embraced this flourishing scene, giving artists permission to use their walls for creative experimentation.

Local businesses contracted artists to create murals, reclaiming their walls from political groups who had appropriated public space for propaganda. 

The turbulent history of the city and it's complicated relationship between  repression and expression has nurtured the talents of a generation who have developed their skills in a city which supports their work. The lack of money and access to materials provoked innovative new techniques. This piece was painted with tar, petrol and minimal use of red aerosol. 

The city's reputation for creativity has attracted artists from around the world, who come to Buenos Aires to experience the freedom of painting its walls and to participate in this unique tradition of public expression. 

Credits: Story

Curator — Jonny Robson
Photography — Monica Hasenberg, Carlos Brigo, graffitimundo

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions (listed below) who have supplied the content.
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