Posts Tagged ‘brazil


DIY Bike Lanes and Imaginary Crimes

First of all, let me begin with an awesome street art initiative from Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Urban Repair Squad

As the article mentions, Sao Paulo is known for its congested streets which pose a dangerous challenge for pedestrians and cyclists alike. During Brazil’s World Cup games, a group of street artists took to the city’s empty streets to paint bike lanes and pedestrian crosswalks in hazardous areas, a project which reminds me a lot of Montreal’s very own Roadsworth.
Train Tracks by Roadsworth

There’s some talk about initiating traffic-calming initiatives and pedestrian-friendly urban improvements in Montreal’s St. Henri Borough to manage dangerous and confusing intersections. (Ongoing construction has, in some places, created a maze of concrete barriers through which pedestrians must weave in order to cross streets). I’ve suggested that the local borough council, if and when it begins a public awareness campaign to raise support for intersection overhauls, get a street artist like Roadsworth (or myself) to paint new pedestrian crossings in certain intersections. I’m thinking of something along the lines of a meandering clown-shoed path to best illustrate the danger that construction barriers pose to pedestrians crossing far-too-wide streets in which they’re often forced to stop halfway. Or a stencil of the Montreal Pedestrian Charter, which was adopted to prevent situations like these.

And now on to gripe-town. The Harper government continues to stand pat on its decision to eliminate the mandatory census long-form, a decision which has been condemned across the board. To this date, only a handful of groups have come forward to support Harper’s decision. These include the Fraser Institute, a right-wing, pro-‘free market’ think-tank, as well as the National Citizens’ Coalition, site of Stephen Harper’s old job, and the euphemistically-named Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation.

Stephen Harper’s contempt for others and their points of view has been glaring and at times, even chilling. Watching Industry Minister Tony Clement being apparently forced to publicly defend the scrapping of the census long form, seemingly as punishment for having criticized Harper’s decision to do so in the beginning, smacks of a tragic comedy; one part misery and two parts farce.

As a future urban planner I will be one of the many people who will be making important use of census data that, in Canada, currently has an international reputation for accuracy, proper documentation and strict privacy controls. What it all boils down to is this:

As Noam Chomsky has said, media discourse no longer revolves around a debate or interaction of two opinions. What has replaced it is instead a strategy by which a message is repeated over and over until it enters the public consciousness and becomes public opinion. Facts are replaced by buzzwords. And it works. For example, take the recent survey which found that close to 20 per cent of Americans believe that President Obama is a Muslim.

Harper’s people have been trying to push a conservative Christian agenda on Canadians for a number of years, an agenda which requires more than a complete ignorance of the facts. For example, it’s not enough for them to say that Insite does not work, in spite of the massive support it has received at a city, provincial and even international level. It’s not enough to call for a recriminalization of marijuana and mandatory minimum sentencing for possession charges in spite of a tremendous amount of evidence contradicting the very same fear-mongering pitches which Harper & Co. toss out.

No, in order to successfully pull something like this off you have to sway public opinion in your favor first. And that involves both flooding the airwaves with your own message and destroying the foundations of your opponents’ arguments. As long as census data remains reliable you’re bound to see situations where Conservative ministers get caught with their pants down, as was the case when Treasury Board President Stockwell Day tried to claim that the Canadian crime rate is rising rather than falling in order to justify a planned $6 billion dollar expenditure on new prisons.

You can’t call your opponents “ivory-tower intellectuals” and “thug-huggers” and get away with it very well if they can meticulously tear your arguments apart with cold, hard data. You’re just stuck in place babbling on about Imaginary Crimes. These types are the worst kind of policy-makers. Like ‘bio-ethicist’ Margaret Somerville, these people follow a scientific approach insofar as it suits their ideological goals. They prepare an ideological argument first, and then scour for figures that supposedly back it up.


Pixacao and Graffiti in Sao Paulo

Juxtapoz Magazine has a couple of articles up here and here on the interesting tension between graffiti and pixacao in Brazil. They’re definitely worth a read.

From the article…
“Anyway, pixo has a very peculiar style and it’s an illegal form of expression, made mostly by people from the marginalized areas that got nothing to loose and very little to expect. Their main goal is the “ibope” (the real IBOPE is the biggest statistics institute in the country, known for its TV audience reports). To achieve the pixo’s “ibope”, one must have their name written everywhere, in the higher and most difficult public spaces, is the “getting up” from wild style graffiti writer’s equivalent. When they’re successful, it hurts a society that sees it as a dirty thing, nonsense angry and crime. Very few people see it as a creative outlet, as a calligraphic expression coming, in general, from youngsters who got no study or familiarity with graphic design. Since the 80’s pixação has taken a major space on many Brazilian cityscapes, especially in Sao Paulo. Now, it’s a worldwide known style and many Brazilian artists with roots on urban subcultures we love, like OSGEMEOS and Vitché, used pixo elements on their works.

In this complex context, on June 2008, a pixo writer called Rafael “Pixobomb” organized an attack to Belas Artes (fine arts) University as his graduation work. Fine art student himself, Pixobomb, and a group with about 50 other pixo writers, invaded the university claiming that art must be related to social issues, using pixação to make his point. It wasn’t very clear if Rafael wanted to elevate pixo as an art form, or if was just used as a way of protest.

On September, the same group attacked Choque Cultural gallery, also in Sao Paulo. This time, claiming that the real urban art (the pixo) can’t be sold or domesticated, as, at their point of view, the gallery was doing. Choque actually sell works with pixo (and graffiti, tattoo, etc) influences but in this violent attack, British pop artworks which have nothing to do with Brazilian urban art where painted over, together with all the walls and even some Juxtapoz magazines (now highly collectables!)…”

Pixacao can essentially be seen as a home-grown Brazilian graff movement originating out of the underclass, and its name stems from the use of paints made from roofing asphalt. Practitioners of pixacao seem to have abandoned all aesthetic concerns in favor of a balls-to-the-wall version of the graffiti tagging concept of ‘getting up’- they compete with one another by trying to get their tags up in as many hard-to-access places and as large a size as possible.

When Sao Paulo decriminalized graffiti writing several years ago, it was largely in response to pixacao, and this has generated one hell of a graffiti/pixacao divide which raises some fascinating questions and issues. Firstly, there’s that of the line between art and vandalism in a world where street art has entered the cultural lexicon and fetches high auction prices once again (shades of the 1980s, anyone?). At the same time, many pixo writers come from the underclass of Brazilian society and have come to see their work as a battle against mainstream society. Here I’m tempted to say that those who aren’t given the opportunity to create (and by this I most certainly include the ability to shape their environment or affect change within it) will often choose to destroy instead.

…and I’ve come back to urban planning again. What do you think, dear readers?