Graffiti and advertising: the sinister pact.
"There are no good walls anymore," Gonzalo told me. In spite of being a city that -also- has grown upwards in an enormous way, Mexico City has run out of walls. Hundreds of buildings now prefer to receive a sporadic payment to rent their facades and roofs -to brands and companies willing to pay for advertising- than to serve as canvases for artists. What is unusual -some unsuspecting will call it innovative- is that these giant billboards are executed by graffiti artists and muralists. In the Mexican capital, billboards and advertisements are disguised as graffiti and companies take advantage of legal technicalities (which reduce costs) to pollute the city even more. And so, little by little, strategic spaces are being lost for the creation of large-format pictorial works that invite reflection and dialogue; the interruption of the gaze or; the suggestion of otherness from the image. Advertising swallows art without chewing it.
Of course, it is not about censoring all the participation of the private sector. In fact, the role of companies and brands is fundamental in the flourishing of art and culture (the intervention of capital in the creation of man is nothing new, it has been going on for centuries). However, the negotiation between the private and the cultural must generate benefits for both, not only for one of the extremes and much less only for the most robust and powerful. Such is the case of billboards disguised as graffiti that leave nothing to the culture of urban art, and contribute very little - or nothing - to the consolidation of the careers of the artists who create them. This anomalous asymmetry is not only an exclusive issue of Mexico City, with concern I see the advance of these spray-painted advertisements also in Bogota. And the city, which every day boasts of being a world graffiti capital, cannot afford it.
Nothing can be blamed on the artists who participate in these campaigns: it is a job like any other and it is their duty to consider proposals that can relieve them economically. Much less, one can hold responsible the buildings that see a business that can be useful to them to reduce the administration costs of their residents. However, what should be noted - beyond the moral judgment that is not my place - is the loss of opportunities for the private sector to create great, useful, eye-catching and memorable campaigns from the creative hand of graffiti artists. Hire professional, sensitive and voracious artists to do the work of a printer that would take a couple of minutes to do? Or even worse, to pay fees to these artists so that they only reproduce outdated ideas of advertising agencies that are substantially unaware of the reasons for the existence and survival of graffiti and the city itself? Beyond being inconvenient -and I have many doubts about its legality- what brands and companies are doing is throwing money away. And by the way, they also pollute.
And that is the big difference between advertising and art. While the former -mostly- seeks to alienate the human spirit, leading it to the great malaise of consumption; on the other hand, art is the opposite: its liberation and sublimation. That is why advertising in the public space is considered external visual pollution and, on the other hand, art -at least that was the intention of the law- is promoted and encouraged: knowing its capacity to suggest necessary conversations for citizenship. Let's hope this brief text serves as a consideration for brands and that what happened in Mexico City does not happen to us. And as a fatal consequence, we threaten one of the most authentic cultural heritages that depends, in its constitution, on artists who insist on the craft of thinking autonomously and critically.