I did not burn down the Peña sign / I applaud the person who did. That’s more or less an invitation. Fuck the law! Those kinds of heroes are needed so that people can become aware that they need to get with it.
I did not burn down the Peña sign / I applaud the person who did. That’s more or less an invitation. Fuck the law! Those kinds of heroes are needed so that people can become aware that they need to get with it.
** Originally published at World Now:
MEXICO CITY -- Questions are dogging police this week after nearly 100 people were detained and at least 100 others injured -- two seriously -- during hours of raucous demonstrations in central Mexico City as Enrique Peña Nieto was sworn in as president of Mexico.
In scenes captured on video or transmitted live via Internet streams, demonstrators with their faces covered clashed Saturday with federal police officers outside the San Lazaro legislative chamber as Peña Nieto took the presidential oath of office. Later, more clashes erupted around the Palace of Fine Arts downtown between demonstrators and local police.
From there, masked "anarchists" rampaged through the central city, vandalizing hotels, restaurants and banks. The attacks caused more than $1.7 million in damage, authorities said.
"This was an attack on the city," Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said of the protesters who damaged businesses. "They had nothing to do with the day's events."
Ebrard and Mexico City Atty. Gen. Jesus Rodriguez said at police headquarters that at least three anarchist groups had planned the attacks on businesses "for weeks."
Two men were still hospitalized Tuesday, one critically, after being hit during the protests by what activists claim were police projectiles.
Juan Francisco Kuy Kendall, a 67-year-old theater director, was in a coma after he was hit in the head with a projectile outside San Lazaro during Saturday's confrontations, reports said. Further details about his condition were not known.
University student Uriel Sandoval Diaz, 22, was also struck with a projectile at San Lazaro and may lose sight in his right eye, doctors said.
Activists and rights groups are now raising questions about the police operations, claiming that dozens of people were arrested without cause.
YouTube videos show what are described as arbitrary detentions in the historic center of Mexico City. Municipal police are seen rounding up a man who was walking near a taco stand and another man in a suit.
The rights group Reporters Without Borders is calling for the release of two Romanian freelance journalists who were detained while covering the demonstrations.
At least seven Mexican journalists suffered injuries or some form of aggression while covering the street protests, the free speech group Articulo 19 said in a statement.
The Mexico chapter of Amnesty International also released a statement urging authorities to respect the rights of those detained.
A spokesman for Mexico City's police declined to answer specific questions about the protests or discuss Saturday's operation.
A spokesman for the federal police did not return calls.
On Monday, Manuel Mondragon y Kalb, who until recently was chief of police in Mexico City and joined the Peña Nieto government as an operational chief at the federal level, said the clashes were "totally directed" by several anarchists groups.
He said 10 or 12 federal officers were injured Saturday.
The confrontations between police and a variety of protesting groups -- including teachers, students and others -- appeared to set a troubling tone for future relations between leftist organizations in Mexico and the first presidency under the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, since 2000.
As early as 7:30 a.m. Saturday, protesters made the first of several attempts to storm the San Lazaro chamber, but they were repelled by federal officers using tear gas and high-pressure water, videos show.
Afterward, clashes erupted at various sites near the National Palace, where Peña Nieto gave the first speech of his government before foreign dignitaries, including U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and the vice president of China.
Similar but smaller demonstrations were also held in other cities in Mexico. In Guadalajara, protesters gathered outside the annual International Book Fair to denounce the ascent of Peña Nieto to the presidency. Police arrested 27 people there; they were freed Monday night after paying fines, reports said.
On Monday, more than 2,000 people marched through central Mexico City calling for the release of more than 60 "political prisoners" who remain in custody and are now facing vandalism charges.
* Cecilia Sanchez in The Times' Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.
As I'm coming from Mexico City -- home to 13,000 surveillance video cameras -- I'm always on the look out for a digital eye watching the scene. This is a public security camera in Pilsen, Chicago. It's a reality in 21st Century big cities: the security forces are watching you. Here, they call them PODs, and there are a lot of them in designated "safe zones."
Graffiti and gang-related homicides are a problem in Chicago. This saddening story tells how tweens attempt to make social lives under the threat of gang violence. "I want to be able to walk around in a neighborhood and not think about getting shot," said a girl named Samaiya.
Of course, there is much more to any hood than whatever criminal profile might be attached to it. In Pilsen, we checked out the National Museum of Mexican Art and had burritos on a main strip.
This was some radical gang graffiti in Chicago, I guess, proclaiming, "Radicals Against Discrimination," like it was a slogan for a political party or a popular movement.
Somewhere along the north end of the city's shore on Lake Michigan, near Lincoln Park and DePaul University, an idealistic and committed Chicagoan, possibly a young person, decided it was necessary to say what she or he stood for.
Apart from the factor of a strong punk scene in Chicago, the gesture made me smile. People here are straight-up.
Chicago is huge. Some 2.7 million within the city limits and about 9.8 million people in the metropolitan region at large. I was more excited for this trip than any in a long while. What is going on down there? Had just a few short days to gather an impression, in for a talk at DePaul.
While landing, the city looked gargantuan and seemed to spread, dilligently and with evident muscularity, to the far-off horizons. Old-school, built-up, tough, efficient Americana. Chicago.
Upon arrival, the cold was significant. But it also felt good on the lungs. Above, your blogger before the Anish Kapoor sculpture "Cloud Gate" at Millenium Park near the Lake Michigan waterfront.
The Tribune Tower.
Pizza at a neighborhood family pizza spot in Brighton Park, a Mexican barrio near the Mexican Chicago epicenter of Pilsen. I was pretty astounded at first sight but now let's just say it flat and move on. "Chicago is a Mexican city," as ethnographer Daniel Makagon put it one night.
So here we were, a family pizza place on a Saturday night in Mexican Chicago. The pizza crust was amazing; rest of pie, so-so, but it didn't matter. The winning factor was the ambience. Almost everyone inside was brown. Others represented the ethnic diversity that is a standard cosmopolitanism of Mexican barrios anywhere in the world.
Anyone who lives in a pocho/paisa hood inevitably becomes somewhat Mexican themselves, right?
Dobler is a street artist in Taxco, Guerrero, who paints mural portraits of people on their stoops and corners in the middle of the night. His work creates startling visual scenarios when the street-person represented returns to a regular spot and orbits around the mural.
In one instance, Dobler painted an indigenous woman vendor of artesanías. When the woman saw herself represented visually on the wall behind her usual puesto the morning after Dobler struck, she began attempting to wash it off. Passersby tried to stop her, telling her the portrait was beautiful, but the vendedora was adamant. She removed it.
More at La Crónica Biónica.
The Spanish-language translation of my book, "El bajón y el delirio," is going on sale in Mexico. I'm excited and nervous. Starting in January, I'm going to have to re-live the book all over again, this time in chilango Spanish, which automatically takes the intimacy and immediacy of the book to other levels.
I'm also super happy with it y espero que los lectores lo disfruten. The design is beautiful, a worthy match to the terrific design of the original edition. For the Spanish edition, the celebrated Alejandro Magallanes devised a double-flap sketch for the cover, with the title in relief, as if the words were tagged with a scriber. He has more on his design at his blog, here.
(I love it. Gracias, Alejandro!)
The translation of "Down & Delirious in Mexico City" to Spanish is by Elizabeth Flores (an old friend from the Survival Brigade). Liz and I worked closely all summer on the translation, meeting in person to review each chapter line-by-line, discussing every possible outcome for a translation we both wanted to ring as true as possible for D.F. readers, yet while also retaining some of my native pochismos.
The editor of the translation is Guillermo Osorno, an associate editor at Editorial Oceano, my publisher in Spanish. Osorno is also editor of Gatopardo magazine, where one of two early sneaks of the book is published, in the December issue. Here is the chapter titled "Originales del punk," in its entirety, a journey through Mexico City punk, to the other side of Santa Fe, and back.
I hope you like it. I re-read it in the magazine with lots of trepidation, then found myself moved by it in a totally new way. You'll see.
Of course, there will be another big-ass party. Thank you. Y saludos a la banda de la caseta a Cuernavaca, a Reyes y su familia, y a los Agudos Crónicos y Vegetales.
* Elsewhere, "Gringo, chicano, chilango, y delirante."
... in New York City right now is writing PEMEX. Pemex, as in the state oil company in Mexico. Nice choice of letters, which is what it's really all about.
I spotted this lil guy of a tag while on a walk with Joven Will the other night along the now-soul-crunching region of Manhattan formerly known as something that used to be called the Lower East Side.
Forgive me for indulging in a few well-worn cliches about Los Angeles; the planet's mood is certainly apocalyptic enough this week as it is. A meltdown is in progress in Japan. So driving around this city again didn't help ease the sensation that the world is snapping and crumbling around us.
Los Angeles is unsettling by its nature.
I used to laugh at the over-use of this cliche because true L.A. sophisticates know that L.A. is "more complex" or "more normal" than outsiders insist on imagining. But then I remembered, in fact, I always felt a little like this when I lived in L.A., unsettled, scrambled. The amount of time spent alone in a vehicle is really remarkable and completely alters a person's relationship to the city, its landscape, its other citizens. You're driving a deadly weapon. Depth perception becomes fuzzy.
I snapped this photo Sunday while swinging under the 110 to reach the 101, after an afternoon visiting a friend in Venice, for a quick beer at a metal fest at the Echo, before the reading in Lincoln Heights, before dinner back in Pasadena. Pasadena's chiseled streets got me lost for the first time in L.A. in years. It was frustrating.
Earlier, something about driving this freeway interchange seemed especially unfamiliar. Then I noticed. All the graffiti is gone.
"Oh yeah, they buffed that."
* How Postopolis spread: engagement. Via Tomo.
The culture supplement Tomo has just put out its Postopolis issue. Flip through the pages here. It's a useful marker to publish my final Postopolis report, so here it goes. Sorry for the delay ...
By Saturday, Postopolis had spread, like a Red Specter contagion. People in D.F. were hearing about it, tuning in and watching the stream online, and arriving to hear the talks live. The faces of my fellow bloggers were becoming not just familiar but welcoming. And those arty concrete ladrillos were by then all-too familiar with our poor sore nalgas.
On the final day David Lida came to discuss his book "First Stop in the New World" with Jace Clayton. A
questions centered on Lida's thesis in the book that Mexico is "the capital of
the Twenty First Century." He reiterated that his argument is based on the idea
fastest growing cities in the developing world are growing like Mexico
City did, which makes D.F. sort of the mother figure to places like Lagos or
Mumbai. People for the most part make their life here day-to-day, Lida said, like in so many other such cities.
In a question, Mariana Delgado of Proyecto Sonidero challenged the notion that Mexico City is post-Colonial or post-Hispanic. She said something to the effect of, 'This is still Tenochtitlán.' The exchange was so cool because it demonstrated that this question -– Is Tenochtitlán a ghost city or the city around us, actually? –- is still a relevant one in D.F. today, in the year 2010.
* Bloggers hard at work at Postopolis DF, via Tomo.
Postopolis DF finished on Saturday at about 10:00 p.m., after five days and 60 presentations, a bunch of parties and meals, and more information, ideas, and intersections at play than I believe most of us participating could handle. It was overwhelming, in the best possible sense. But that also meant that many of us barely had time to blog while absorbing the talks at El Eco (nice new site, by the way), and I apologize for not being as attentive as I should have been in this area.
I also missed a few talks that I really wish I could have seen live, but life and work call constantly in D.F. So now I'd like to offer a quick digest of highlights from the week, in parts. Check out Report No. 1 for the first bit of Post-processing. My Report No. 3 will appear on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Once more, what an amazing week.
Discussing the hip-hop subcultures of Mexico City with Wayne Marshall, Tomás Brum Alvarez of Rayarte, a D.F. graffiti magazine, broke down the lack of public space and media outlets in the city for hip-hop nacional. While doing so, he made a pointed dig at the old guard at El Chopo, whom he argued are resistant to incorporating hip-hop into the scene there. He referred to himself jokingly as a "choposuario," and then said, no, he's an "artesángano."
Couldn't help laughing out loud. "Choposuario" is a compound slangism that describes the graying old rockers who still guard El Chopo like it's some kind of countercultural holy grail (which it is), but also connotes a kind of nostalgic delusion for the old days of the tianguis -- which is now almost 30 years old. But artesángano was totally new to me. Sángano is another slangism that describes a lazy figure who leeches, or hooks others into doing his will. So what's an artesángano? An artesano, artisan seller, who hustles without shame? Whatever its intended meaning, I'll definitely be using it when inspiration strikes.
(Hip-hop is of course present at El Chopo, but mostly on the periphery. Across the street from the Saturday market, on Mosqueta, Plaza Peyote is there to meet all your Mexican hip-hop needs. It's where kids pick up CDs, fliers, T-shirts, magazines, sneakers, spray can caps, and so on.)
On Thursday I talked about human rights in Mexico City with Eréndira Cruzvillegas, former Special Speaker for Freedom of Expression at the D.F. human rights commission. I don't have a specific quote to share from Eréndira's brisk talk but, man, I certainly think it wowed and impressed those of us who were present for it. She spoke fiercely and passionately about the lack of opportunity for young people in the marginalized urban expanses of Mexico City, the kind that most visitors never see. Her perspective provided an alternate window from which to view the metropolis.
Shouts went out to the kids in the GAM, whom Eréndira said were critical to the drafting of an accurate -- and politically explosive -- report on the News Divine tragedy. Ms. Cruzvillegas is now the secretary of the permanent commission at the D.F. legislative assembly, but she remains an active advocate for human rights wherever she might be needed. Right after our talk, she had to leave early to go see someone behind bars who needs her help.
(Trivia: Eréndira is sibling to the Kurimanzutto artist Abraham Cruzvillegas.)
I enjoyed the talk by Jorge Legorreta, former borough chief in Cuauhtémoc and an expert on the D.F. water supply, in conversation with Jace Clayton. What a numbingly grim assessment for the future of water in a city founded on a lake. Water reserves are dwindling, infrastructure is notoriously bad, quality is low and generally uneven, and on and on. Most ominously, he predicted a "great flood" in Mexico City in the next few years, recalling the history of the catastrophic flood of 1629, which killed tens of thousands and didn't clear out until four years later, in 1633.
The evening highlight from Day 3 for me was the presentation by Greg Berger, the Gringoyo, who was introduced by Ethel Barona Pohl and Cesar Reyes. As I said in the Q&A, when I first saw Berger's site, I wasn't immediately sure that it was satire. That's how good it is, and that also says something about a) my naïvete, and b) the pop power of gringo stereotypes in Mexico.
Go in there and check out his mini-doc on the swine flu scare from last spring. It is incredibly effective political activism, fusing humor, wit, and agitation. Brilliant stuff. (My work on the swine flu feargasm of 2009, here and here.)
Above, punk impresario Malcolm McLaren is lowered into his grave at Highgate cemetery in London, photographed by Olivier Zahm of Purple magazine, April 22. "An artist who all his life used to fight constantly against the Societé du Spectacle with anarchy and chaos. I love you for ever Malcolm," Zahm writes.
Possessing no talent as a writer, musician or visual artist, however, McLaren realized that only one profession seemed open to him: "Plunder. I asked myself, could I enter the world of plunder like the great masters?"
McLaren's casket reportedly carried his signature slogan: "Too fast to live, too young to die."
* Above, acrylic and aerosol on canvas, by Sergio Hernandez.
Scorpio is here, and we all know what that means -- besides ferociously mythical horses. It's birthday time! On November 4, I turn 29. Yes, it's been another intense year. Right now, "it looks like you are in this serious work, reflective, looking to the future phase of your life," a friendly amateur astrologist just informed me.
I'd say that's about right. I'm writing, working, waiting, looking ahead. I've survived all the mid-twenties death-traps and I'm ready to relish in the sweet stings of late-youth. At least I know Fergie is by my side. And 15th Century Middle Eastern anatomical drawings. And Dolly Parton.
Above, modeling a one-of-a-kind hand-studded San Judas Tadeo sweatshirt by designer Uriel Urbán, available in Los Angeles exclusively at New High (M)art. Remember, October 28 is the day for San Juditas. This year, the saint has certainly earned it.
Mexico City is once again wintry and wet around these death-festive dates. The cool reminds that the month of Scorpio is about remaining calm and enjoying the ride. You handle yours, I'll handle mine.
* Link-in image, colored pencil on canary paper, by Kathryn Garcia.
Here's a detail of the massive Dr. Lakra mural on view for just a couple more days at Kurimanzutto. Surrounding you on all sides, and sometimes spilling onto the floor, the whole thing felt like an out-of-control trip down the darkest disco tunnels. Sex, witchcraft, disfigurement, oozy acid tripping on cruise ships and frightening hotel rooms. The technical qualities of the installation are outstanding; Lakra put his work in.
* Traveling for a few days. Back soon.
* Via BLOGUE.
He was "a photographer, sculptor, graffiti and installation artist" who "captured the raw and decadent nature of the NYC underworld and art culture." More importantly, to those who got to spend time with him, Dash Snow was within his true self a genuine, warm, and kind person.
Filled equally with electricity, generosity, and mischief, he just did what he did, and did it well. My thoughts today are with Secret, Jade, all his collaborators, all his friends, his crew, and his family.
* In Interview: "I just want to hang out with my baby and make art."
Rest peacefully, Dash.
It's hard to tell if this video is super-serious or seriously satirizing itself. It treats the gray, white and beige blotches of "graffiti abatement" rendered by municipal workers across the U.S. as unintentional extensions of abstract expressionism and minimalism, and an "important step in the future of modern art."
Yes, those quilts of anonymous spots of graffiti erasure are often beautiful. But ... really? * The clip info says the original filmmaker is Matt McCormick.
Tijuana-San Diego street artist Acamonchi has a show up in the heart of D.F. right now, at the Upper Playground outpost in Condesa, and we caught it before taking off to California. His work is defined by a frenetic layering of icons and textures from the urban landscape.
Whatever happened to Chaka? I bet too many of us thought he was still locked up, or worse. But, nope. Chaka -- the "nation's most prolific graffiti vandal" in the 1980s and early 90s, the golden age of tagging -- is alive and well and staying in Bakersfield, Calif., reports Mike Boehm on Culture Monster at the L.A. Times.
On April 25, King Chaka, a.k.a. Daniel Ramos, re-emerged for his first-ever solo art show at Mid-City Arts in Los Angeles. LA TACO has photos of the opening. Looks like the dude basically tagged up some things and put them in the gallery, but still ... it's Chaka.
* Forthcoming to D.F., the new Soumaya, via PA.
I have a piece in the current Spring Travel issue of T magazine in The New York Times, on new art spaces in Mexico City. The note focuses on Kurimanzutto's new gallery in San Miguel Chapultepec, the upgraded Border, the start-up Gaga, the new cultural center at Tlatelolco, the new MUAC on the UNAM campus, and the planned Soumaya museum in the Polanco area.
Check out the rendering above. Carlos Slim's project looks like it's going to be officially outstanding.
The above image, and its setting, captures perfectly the constant, cannibalizing appropriation of raw street culture by the media machine: a graffiti writer being interviewed for any old random "culture" television outfit in Mexico City about his art and his lifestyle.
At Estadio Azteca over the weekend, passing-through journalists swarmed around the writers who, swallowing their pride maybe, had gathered for the stadium's second graffiti "mega-contest," in which D.F. taggers were assigned panels and given paint (sponsored by Comex) to produce pieces along the stadium's walls. Everything went down under the watchful eye of fully uniformed Mexico City police, who -- yes, indeed -- organize the event.
A 'true' writer, when you find one, professes absolute disdain for such a set-up. One insidious theory floating among the OGs is that the contest allows police to easily identify and catalogue the city's known graffiti heads. On the other hand, the event allows young or inexperienced writers to have free, safe space to practice their craft.
Whatevs, the predominant thinking went. When I asked one tagger at the stadium his opinion on the fact that Comex was handing out paint (and T-shirts) and that the poli were strolling the grounds, keeping watch, he shrugged and replied: "Culero."
* See previous posts in Intersections on graffiti here.
* A Sunday in Tultitlan, Estado de Mexico.
“We don’t have journalist positions at the CIA,” Craig P tells me with
a wide smile, “but we do hire people that have journalism backgrounds
as analysts…. And what do analysts do at the CIA? Well, they read. A
lot. They read everything we give them, and make sense of it.” He asks
me where I’m from, and we exchange small talk about perceptions about
the West Coast and East Coast. While we’re on the topic of perceptions,
I mutter something about waterboarding, but Craig P either ignores me
or the comment flies right over his head. He is still smiling.
“We don’t have journalist positions at the CIA,” Craig P tells me with a wide smile, “but we do hire people that have journalism backgrounds as analysts…. And what do analysts do at the CIA? Well, they read. A lot. They read everything we give them, and make sense of it.” He asks me where I’m from, and we exchange small talk about perceptions about the West Coast and East Coast. While we’re on the topic of perceptions, I mutter something about waterboarding, but Craig P either ignores me or the comment flies right over his head. He is still smiling.
As UNITY wraps up today with a speech from Barack Obama, a burning question is, "Where is all this talent of color going to go?" You know, as newspapers and many mainstream news outlets -- once professed to be 100% committed to "newsroom diversity" -- die a slow and agonizing death. To the CIA, really? Bogado adds: "I would have to admit that for some people, the situation is bordering on desperate. That said, I am shocked that an agency which has played an important role in suppressing freedom of the press in the United States and abroad is here to recruit us."
* Bogado is a dope progressive reporter and blogger based in Los Angeles, who recently had some, uh, words for street art game-player Shepard Fairey. In interview after interview, Fairey has dismissed Bogado as "a girl who was Mexican" who once got in his face over his use of the image of Che Guevara. (Bogado's origins are in Argentina, like El Che.)
You forget sometimes how big, 'urban,' and sort of permanently tucked away Colonia Roma is, despite its known evolution. In particular, I mean the farther reaches of Roma Sur heading toward Viaducto. It's like its own mini-city. Here I am with my friend Nuria, a resident of Roma Sur, checking out the current show at Border -- deceptively monochromatic paintings by Gustavo Abascal -- and then having a coffee at Border's new cafe-gallery-library space at 43 Zacatecas. They specialize in graffiti and street art.
Meant to post this a whole ago: Sickly Season has valuable audio from a panel discussing graffiti and its engagement with civic life in Los Angeles, from June 2007, at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy, in Little Tokyo. Really interesting perspectives in there from OG writer Chaz Bojorquez, Retna, Al Nodal, Slick, CalTrans official Dan Freeman, and Roger Gatsman, founding editor of While You Were Sleeping and Swindle. Also on the panel sat Shelley Leopold of the LA Weekly. Leopold has a feature this week on Mr. Brainwash, who is apparently making a scene on the L.A. landscape right now.
Definitely listen to what Chaz has to say. ("New York? They're still doing bubble letters.") But the really interesting part comes at the very beginning, when the panel's organizer tells the audience that someone had tagged the NCPD building in the "in the last fifteen minutes, which isn't cool." The organizer, in a fascinating bit of protocol and street smarts, handles the incident very well. Download the audio here. Graffiti: ever-mainstreaming, ever renegade.
** Housekeeping note: The fonts here have been finally, mercifully updated. Sans serif at last. I also added the "recent comments" box on the left, to highlight feedback that arrives on posts deep in the archives. Also slightly updated my author profile. Thanks for the continued feedback and encouragement.
A fresh batch of posts at my "Letter from Mexico City" over at LA Weekly. Here are images from a show of Mexican graffiti at the Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico. Here's a quick look at the way the global food crisis is being approached in Mexico. And here is a cronica of my reluctant affair with a fake 10 peso coin. Lesson learned: Always check your change. * Image above, a pedestrian tunnel below Calzada de Tlalpan.
*** Thursday update No. 3: Nevermind.
The enigmatic Skulllphone took street art vandalism to a new level of sophistication last week, apparently hacking into 10 Clear Channel digital billboards across metropolitan Los Angeles and covering the advertisements with his signature image, the dead cellular user. Supertouch has pictures. Brazen, illegal, and, if true, impressive. But some commenters at LA TACO are arguing the "operation" was just regular old bought propoganda.
* Thursday update No. 1: I sent a press inquiry to the people at Clear Channel asking for verification of the hacking and any sort of comment. Updates as warranted.
Here's a deserted high-rise on Insurgentes right in one of the most touristy, most commercial areas of the city. Notice how it's covered in graffiti. The throwups on the windows, assuming they're painted from the inside, would have required the taggers to paint each letter backwards. Interesting. Below are some close-ups.
Don't the pieces on the roof area remind you a little of that infamous production by Saber-Revok did on top of that abandoned tower in L.A.'s Koreatown a couple years ago? See the bottom of this post for a pic.