Inspired by the recent exhibition „Knotenpunkt 14“ in Hamburg and with slowly coming to an end of editing and selecting a best of photos from my trip, today’s post will be about the streetart scene in Colombia.
If you’re not so much into reading…I still hope you’ll enjoy my photos.
When I flew to Colombia I spent my first days in the capital: Bogotá. It is a huge city with a population of nearly 7 million people. Despite its size, however, there’s not so much to see and do as a tourist/traveler if you’re only after typical sightseeing. You can most definitely check off all major sights within 3 days and then continue your trip to wherever the wind blows. If you have a little more time and are willing to stroll around the districts, soak up the atmosphere (my ultimate travel motto), meet locals, study Spanish…and are not afraid of robberies (which btw probably only happen if you’re asking for them) that’s what you can and should do while in Bogotá, especially around the historic old town. Either on your own or in a guided tour.
On 31st December 2013, my fourth and last full day in Bogotá before coming back in March 2014, I opted for a guided graffiti tour that takes place twice a week and costs whatever you think it was worth it, but most people give between 15,000-30,000 Pesos (5.50 -11.50 Euros). It takes about 2 and a half hours and will show you how to read the pieces, how artists cooperate, and also what the legal situation is. You may have seen some works before on your way to a bus station, to the museums, or Monserate, while some others are hidden several meters above your head…or have already been painted over.
My favorite fact of the tour was: streetart is not forbidden, for graffiti is nowhere classified as crime or violation. In fact, there is no law on graffitis. So, with no legal yay or nay streetartists can pretty much do whatever they want wherever they want at any time – with the only exception being government buildings that must not me painted (sprayed) on. For that, Bogotá has become a place for international artists to experiment with styles and practice their art.
You will find different styles from simple tags of letters and messages to animal graffitis, and pieces that look like sketched, while other artists follow a mashup style of stickers and paint. The selected photos only show a fraction of works to be found in the old town, where the tour took place. And if you like to find out more about an artist, these names are worth checking out: Rodez, Crisp, Pez, Toxicomano, and maybe you’d like to watch this short (12 minutes) Vimeo clip on Bogota Street Art / Conexión Colombia – Perú as well.
If only streetart with its alleged liberties was so easy… in the recent past Colombian municipalities – with Bogota as role model – started to commission artists to create works in selected areas and for businesses. Artists have also been commissioned by house tenants to work their house front. This however has frequently led to misunderstandings with the police who more than often would brutally suspend the artists to do their work only until the house tenants would suspend the police. Similar incidents demonstrate that street art is often (still) ruled by the laws of the streets include robberies and stabbing for paint and equipment are valuable, and not every artist is respected in a certain district.
So it seems that despite their being no official law streetart in Colombia is well organized, which doesn’t mean one cannot find random tags in tunnels, too.
On January 1st, I took a plane from Bogotá to Cali, the third largest city of Colombia. There wasn’t much to do on New Year’s Day when I arrived but an overwhelming 30°C. So I changed immediately into summer gear, grabbed my camera, and went for a walk. With my newly acquired streetart knowledge and open eyes for urban works I came across a group of artists in action near a bus station and wondered if they were in any way responsible for these:
Due to countless distractions along the way and my wish to get out of major cities I didn’t follow the traces of street artists too much. Here and there I would see a pretty cool piece but didn’t make the effort of photographing it or writing down the artists‘ names. Then in February, my trip took me to Riohacha. It is a small city in the far north of Colombia – with a population of less than 200,000 people. There’s not much to do either, no major sights or events. Just incredible heat and not the slightest breeze from the coast. I was there only for a day on my way to Punta Gallinas, the most northern point of Colombia and South America – a deserted area in utter solitude. And now by looking back, it seems Riohacha has been a smooth introduction for people who make their way up north – up into more heat and even greater solitude.
The streetart scene here is very different from the one you can find in Bogotá, Cali, or Meddelin. As a matter of fact one could probably question if the works can in any way be considered street art in a traditional way. From what I understood with my minor Spanish knowledge (but compared to my first days in the country…already good enough to get that far – and hey, let’s face it: I wasn’t robbed), the pieces showed the city’s history and cultural heritage.
And I also came across this piece, a colorful Koi dragon. Any idea who the artist is? I forgot to take notes.
After all I think the scenes in Colombia and Germany have a lot in common like an increasing social acceptance. As for me, I noticed how I’m mostly drawn to wide mural works, sharp lines, bold graphics, and pieces that are only visible from a distance like works from Crisp or PUSH Styrocuts and ZIPPER DIE RAKETE that make me smile. But nevertheless will probably stop at anything unexpected along the way whether it’s on a house front, a construction site, on a public train, or an open exhibition. How about you?