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Pinto con Lata – Venezuelan graffiti documentary preview

August 29, 2010

Pinto con Lata, a documentary about graffiti artists in Caracas, will be out in December. Thanks to for the post.

I love how one of the artists chooses to express his passion: “This shit fucked up my life…” (“Esta vaina me jodió la vida…“). I find myself wishing there were a way to channel that passion into a life that isn’t fucked, but in this case the passion is for the rebellious act. The getting away with it. A response to a life that was (always) already fucked. Taking ownership of a city in which, according to these artists, one can do whatever one likes. Perhaps the feeling is closer to being left to do whatever one likes. I want to think that, whether they conceive of it as such or not, their tagging is a political act of appropriation and self-representation.

The trailer does a nice job of pointing to the very real political debate surrounding advertising. The señora’s objection to graffiti employs a private property argument: A company paid the owner of the space for the right to use the space, and that agreement should be respected. The artist, on the other hand, alludes to his lack of representation in the decision to grant ownership of that space in the first place. It’s a worthwhile debate, but the artist’s actions – though admirable for their principled motivation and decisiveness – are ultimately anti-social. “It’s not my ideal highway landscape, so I don’t have to accept it.” (“No es mi ideal de mi paisaje de autopista pues. Entonces, no me lo tengo que calar.“) Even in the best of democracies, one would often have to accept less than one’s ideal. So, is there a way to better leverage the artists’ passion in order to fortify democracy?

If the motivation is principled, then the artists should use discretion when choosing sites to tag. Advertisements would be fair game, perhaps, but not public or communal property. Better yet, the goal of the “never ending game” would go beyond making a reputation by the quantity, placement, or style of your tags. I’m guessing the audience for that game is comprised almost entirely of fellow artists. If the new goal was to intervene in public space and produce a commentary that the public can readily understand – to speak in the public sphere – a whole new political dimension would open. Then I’d feel more confident when referring to the grafiteros as artists.

For starters, they might glocalize – or copy outright – some of Banksy’s genius:

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