CBC News Viewpoint | July 14, 2006 |
When I first arrived in
After a little while, I began to see through what originally seemed like an unorganized mess to notice a recurring technique – graffiti created using stencils.
These stencils, typically measuring
The stencils can be artistic designs without a clear message, or politically motivated and satirical. For example, I've seen stencils portraying Argentine President Nestor Kirchner inserted into the logo for "Hello Kitty" with the words "Hello Kirchner" and another showing U.S. President George W. Bush wearing Mickey Mouse ears.
Some stencils are simply meant to cause a stir, such as one I saw that said "Material Girl" beneath a picture of The Madonna. Others are more serious: one stencil featured the famous McDonald's Golden Arches inverted to
I learned the back-story of the
The exact origins of the stencil trend are difficult to pinpoint because it began with individuals like Cabrera who saw their artistic ideas reflected back at them and decided to make their own contributions.
What is known is that the stencils first started to show up in the neighbourhoods surrounding the
Andres Iglecias, a sociology student who created his own stencil after being recruited by other artists involved in the trend, traces the origin of the stencils back to The Crisis of 2001. He argues that the tense economic situation of that period gave birth to the graffiti technique as a means of voicing dissent.
Of course, there are many people who would argue that the
City officials and business owners are constantly investing time and money to paint over the stencils. In fact, this March the national government shelled out big bucks to cover the
But while some see graffiti as a nuisance, others see it differently. In her book No Logo, Canadian author
Cabrera, who has designed some stencils in support of gay rights and others to promote safe sex, agrees, saying "I think it is important as an individual, I have a public way to express myself that is free."
The stenciling trend has provided a creative outlet for making social comment that is open to anyone with the skills to
The high watermark of the trend came in February 2005 with the release of the book Hasta la
To launch the book,
The book and the exhibit are legitimate forms of the illegal street art, but neither is a replacement for the graffiti itself because of their permanent nature. The stencils on the street, on the other hand, are constantly changing as old stencils are painted over and new stencils take their place. With any political developments or national event
This constant state of flux is what keeps the trend alive; every new coat of paint creates space for the next round of stencils and their unique brand of social commentary.