Monday, August 18, 2014

Three years after Becerra: street art in Bogota

Today marks the third anniversary of the murder by police in Bogota, Colombia of the young street artist Diego Felipe Becerra ("Lizarazo"), above.

Becerra was spray-painting his signature portrait of Felix the Cat under a bridge when police arrived.  He was shot in the back at close range by one of the officers.
The police then lied about Becerra being a suspect in an armed hold-up.

Mass protests broke out in the Colombian capital.

The United Nations Office for Human Rights in Colombia sent an open letter to the Prosecutor General’s Office condemning police.

The police officer was tried for murder and is currently in gaol.

The city authorities relaxed the laws against street art and suggested sites where artists could paint without police harassment.

The end result has been a flowering of sometimes socially critical murals and paintings.  Some if it is apolitical.  Among the socially critical elements are themes relating to environmentalism, Indigenous rights, civil rights, gender, capitalism and imperialism.

These works have brightened the city and challenged its residents on moral and social issues.

However, there has also been a proliferation of tagging, much of it resented by non-practitioners as just pointless and unsightly vandalism.

Friends have indicated that the authorities may reassess their attitude towards street art because of the tagging.

This selection of photos of Bogota street art is dedicated to Diego Felipe Becerra and against police brutality.

Stinkfish's work is instantly recognisable: the faces of people he sees around the streets of the capital (and sometimes faces from discarded photos found in rubbish), splashed with almost psychedelic designs.

Animal Poder Collectivo (APC) is a collective of numerous artists who draw attention to, amongst other things,  animal and bird species in bold colours:

Pez, from Barcelona, typifies the apollitical with his distinctive one-eyed "happy fish":

Jewellery designer Lik Mi breaks a number of rules, including pasting her work over that of other artists.  Her Kama Sutra inspired eroticism challenges conservative attitudes towards sex and sexuality in this deeply Catholic society:

Australian artist Crisp does much of his stencil work on environmental themes.  He here provokes responses to the whistle-blowers who have broken the imperialist's monopoly on the control of information:

Crisp also takes a poke at the corporate thieves, depicting bankers as stormtroopers of the empire:

Architect DJ Lu is a veteran of Bogota street art and his stencil work is among the most socially critical.  His pineapple grenades are a signature piece of work.

So are his war bugs, insects that carry the disease of war on behalf of the strong and powerful.

He incorporates automatic weapons into various representations such as this dollar sign which communicates the symbiosis of finance capital and violent reaction:

Toxicomano is an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist art collective.  Part of their work is a series of satirical B-grade movie ads which oppose policies which punish the poor, such as the displacement of farmers from their lands by big mining and private water corporations:

And this is one of my favourites: the rich man being carried by the poor man who, despite the efforts of the birds to pull him in the direction of freddom is nevertheless tied to his oppression by consumerism and religion.

Thanks for the walk Crisp!

Let's honour Jose Felipe's memory...the streets belong to the people!