Through more than 300 images now posted online, you can explore the vibrant activism of Buenos Aires street art from your computer. As a metropolis where street art has often offered a voice for dissent and community resurgence, as well as a reminder to not forget recent atrocities, the Argentine capital has a distinct history that resonates on its walls.
Back in June, the Buenos Aires–based nonprofit Graffitimundo was one of 30 partners in the launch of the new Google Street Art Project. Their contribution to the platform includes hundreds of photographs from the 1980s to the present, as well as online exhibitions featuring stencil art and activism, the institutionalization of underground art, and the social impact of public art.
The street art starts in 1983 — the year that saw the end of the “Dirty War,” during which tens of thousands of people disappeared and were murdered by the state, and the return of democracy to Argentina. Suddenly people were able to speak their minds without fear of it leading to death, and the walls were mobbed with graffiti, propaganda, advertisements, and Argentinians just writing their thoughts. Then came the financial fallout of 2001, with its violent riots; following the destruction and bleak pall that befell the city, artists painted on the streets to bring some color and buoyancy back to Buenos Aires. Today these events of the recent past continue to reverberate — just this month a grandmother reunited with her grandson, who in 1978 was taken by the dictatorship from his mother, who gave birth to him in detention before she was executed.
Sparks of this history can be found in the Graffitimundo images, from Monica Hasenberg’s haunting 1983 “Silhouettes of the disappeared” to a recent wall collaboration by Tec, Defi, Chu, NASA, Parbo, Pedro, and Larva that’s representative of the post–financial crash style. Buenos Aires is very open in terms of giving artists permission to paint in public spaces — witness this collaboration between Jaz and Ever on an antique restoration warehouse, where the merchandise mingles with the mural’s cat-headed beings and man with three eyes — and you can see through the mapping project how the works wind through the city. There are also reminders of how street art continues to engage directly with contemporary issues, such as a mural by Borda on the grounds of the city psychiatric hospital that shows a figure examining medicine like it’s playing cards.
Later this year Graffitimundo plans to release a documentary on Buenos Aires street art called White Walls Say Nothing. That and the new explorable online cartography, while by no means comprehensive, give an international audience insight into the city’s activist street art.
View more from Graffitimundo at the Google Cultural Institute.