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The mirror murals

When Diana and Hernán approached me, with debris steps and an absent and desolate look, I knew immediately that they were the invisible ones. They stopped in front of the mural (located on one of the busiest and busiest avenues in Bogota) and recognized themselves in it. Just as it was evident that life had not been easy for them, neither was it easy to see themselves reflected in that gigantic painting full of color and graffiti signatures: the biggest kiss in the city. They stared at the wall for minutes, in silence and with confused gestures of joy. They crossed the street and sat down on the ground with a huge bag of junk they had brought with them from the Bronx, the most brutal neighborhood in the brutal capital. Catalina, Carlos and I sat next to them. We greeted them and I asked them if they minded us filming them. Hernán shook his head; Diana nodded almost unwillingly; absorbed in haggard thoughts. Catalina turned on the recorder; Carlos framed the image. I don't remember what was the first question I asked them. Or rather, what I asked Hernán. Diana, during the whole interview, which lasted no more than twenty minutes, said nothing. Or rather, her silence said enough.

The American philosopher Martha Nussbaum says, in several of her essays and publications, that an essential part of human emotions -and in its unbreakable alliance with thoughts- is related to the capacity to imagine. In that sense, imagination serves as a luminous stage on which emotion sinks or jumps and, as a result, fades or ends up dominating us. We need only recall the last time we felt jealousy to see that it was the direction of our imagination that brought us some serenity or solace or, on the other hand, deprived us of sleep as unwelcome and thoughtless images crossed our mind. However, the most interesting aspect of Nussbaum's theory (because of its content and transformative meaning) is that she finds in this imaginative power a whole strategy for practicing empathy.

By imagining the other, we can conceive him, measure him, be and be at the same level and, by effect, understand his suffering, his restlessness and even his unhappiness. And in this way, by placing ourselves in the life of others, we facilitate dialogue and cooperation among equals. (A priority issue in contemporary societies) There is no doubt that the philosopher was inspired by the various descriptions of artistic experience: the act of seeing ourselves through an emotional (emotional?) object such as a sculpture (as happens to my mother with Michelangelo's Pieta when she "imagines" the suffering of Mary holding her dying son), a painting or a film.

Of course, urban art does not escape any of the aforementioned conclusions: it functions both as a facilitator of social dialogue or as a trigger for the practice of intimate cathartic experience; the art freely and spontaneously placed in the streets of the city has a fundamental utility that we still find it difficult to admit and, above all, to take advantage of.

In my opinion, this neglect is due to the discredit that urban art has suffered with respect to more applauded and valued forms of art, which does not mean that we cannot begin -right now- to consider the walls (seen as a whole or separately) as adequate spaces and platforms -at the time of the appearance of the mural work- for the conception and multiplication of emotional experiences (profitable dialogues) that are healthy and useful for the citizens.

It would be enough to stop seeing the mural as a plain physical surface (the object) and "imagine" that what is in front of us is nothing more, nor less, than an invitation to converse (the aura). A dialectic bet that begins in the consideration and acceptance of a different thought, foreign and external to that of the passerby. Again, "imagining" the artist's message in his physical absence but inserted in the presence of his work. Additionally, a premise that cannot be underestimated is that the murals that appear on the street are images, and as images they conserve their potential for transformation into something else; that is, a silent and beneficial dialogue for the observer, who from this experience can come to understand himself and others. A restless viewer would say that, in short, the necessary task is to stop seeing murals and start seeing mirrors. A fantastic mirror in which not only our feelings and thoughts are reflected, but also those of others.

For all these reasons, El Beso de Los Invisibles functions as an exercise of self-examination and self-examination. For almost seven years now, Bogota has been witnessing daily a mirror of love with which they have identified, submerged and moved. At the time, El Beso generated a heated public debate on the appropriateness of painting two street dwellers of more than 250 square meters, who, without any modesty, kissed each other lying on the floor while Juan Manuel Santos gave a speech a few meters away from them. As always, time knew how to put everything in its place: today the city enjoys a monument (graffiti?) that recalls at least two fundamental instances of the human emotional experience: our natural integrity and conviction to love and the inevitable conclusion that also others -in any circumstance or adversity- can give themselves to love. The most subtle and irreversible of renunciations. The shared precipice.


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