I was fortunate enough to spend some time in Buenos Aires this summer thanks to a travel grant from my university. I tasked myself with understanding the creative side of the Argentine capital; a scene once stunted by a military dictatorship and more recently rocked by the 2001 economic crash. What immediately struck me about the city was the seeming abundance of street manifestations and was repeatedly told that the protests, marches and free open air gigs which took place were 'a part of how we do things here'. Coming from the UK, where our claiming of the streets is so often restricted to late night binge drinking, I left inspired by the real sense of public, community participation I found in a nonetheless neo-liberally controlled world capital.
Tied up with this reclaiming of the streets are the countless murals, tags and political banners which cover many of BA's various suburbs. Diverse, largely tolerated and constantly changing, the work screams and teases from apartment blocks, playgrounds, cafes, warehouses, disused factories, and even police stations. It's intense and exciting.
I caught up with prolific street artist Dario Suarez, aka Malatesta who has been a key player in the blossoming scene in the last 15 years. Orginally a skater, he creates mostly figurative works utilizing a range of mediums including stencil, etching and sculpture. His portraits are are often devloped by scratching the design from layers of paint onto the surface of scrap metal and references to anarchy and alternative scenes are a large part of his work . In 2006, Malatesta was part of a group of six artists who launched Hollywood in Cambodia, an artist-run urban art gallery in the Palermo district of the city. I met him in Post Bar, a facade for this hub of underground art, where he talked about his role in the growth of the scene, the relationship between local people, artists and authorities and why, despite the Instagram buzz around street art in the city, he doesn't have internet on his phone.
Click on Dario below, pictured in front of one of his pieces, to listen to the interview on Soundcloud.