The silent tears of Pixação.
The roughness of São Paulo is found not only in the society but also in the writings on the walls. What we would recognize as graffiti in any other place is actually pixação in the streets and buildings of Brazil. In traditional graffiti, we usually work with rounder and more stylish writings and tagging, and playing with colors is crucial to attract the viewer. But that's what makes it different from the stricter calligraphy of pixação. It may have a more monochromatic color palette, but it expresses the socio-political messages just as loudly, if not more so.
What once started with political rights movements in the 1930s and gradually progressed in the 1960s was also heavily influenced by heavy metal. The brute force of bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden, AC /DC, Judas Priest - they all had a unique expression through their music, but also through their record covers with runic writing that inspired Brazilian youth. Soon, they applied this style to their newly developed pixação art, calling themselves pixadores - each with their unique style of urban writing, increasing their numbers to around 5000.
The essence of pixação was originally inspired by self-expression and leaving a mark, which explains why most of their pixo depict their names or collectives to which they belong. This, in turn, has sparked a competition to leave as many writings as possible on the walls of Sao Paulo.
But how is the pixadores’ fame measured? Height.
You heard that right, the higher and more dangerous the wall/building you work on, the more respect you get. One of the riskier forms is called janela de prédio - which means, "building window". This involves pixadores (usually in pairs or more) climbing up through the windowsills of the building, leaving pixos behind as they climb up floor by floor. And that requires not only courage, but also the right equipment and strategy.
But wait, that's not all. There's also escalada, or more specifically "buildering", when just holding onto the external surge protectors, usually at night, a single pixador scales the building.
High risk, rebellion, and danger - but for what purpose? For whom?
This artistic expression of rage is more than rebellion, it is the result of perpetual social injustice. Since the 1940s, there has been uneven urbanization in São Paulo, which benefited only its rich citizens and pushed the working class out of the city to the periphery as a result of unaffordable housing. Not only were jobs too far away in the center, but the periphery lacked the most basic needs such as running water, electricity, and a proper sewage system - earning São Paulo a reputation today as one of the most unequal cities.
A well-known pixador once expressed this movement as "()...a reflection of the absence of the state in the life of the person who decided to become a pixador." Indeed, the most targeted objects of the pixadores are those most sacred to the institutions. Their message is more than political, it is a cry for help. And pixadores cry their silent tears even though they are imprisoned for these "crimes."
The authorities may not support pixação, but some of the most prestigious brands and art movements do - like Puma and even the Biennale of Contemporary Art. But the purpose of pixação is not to be bought or branded - it's to deliver messages powerful enough to motivate change.
Real, honest, difficult change that Paulistanos have a right to.
Written by Aurora Hyseni.