Arts & Culture

Greek and Chilean street art adorns campus

Trilingual panel, painting demonstrations in Watson, Granoff celebrate indigenous, diverse artists

By
Arts & Culture Editor
Sunday, June 3, 2018

Students who frequent the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs may have noticed the addition of two black vinyl tape lines running parallel in a geometric pattern across the side of the building’s staircase. As part of “Re-thinking the Wall: Greek and Chilean Street Art at Brown,” Greek and Chilean artists created street art pieces in the Watson Institute and outside the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts this April, which remain on display.

Hosted by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and organized in part by Grace Monk ’18, the show included painting demonstrations by Greek street artist Chris Tzaferos, also known as Simek, and pieces by Chilean artists Juan Lara Hidalgo and Francisco Verdugo Navea. The art was accompanied by a trilingual panel discussion that explored the artists’ work and creative processes.

“The opportunity to think about the public and somewhat ephemeral nature of what they do was interesting,” said Steven Bloomfield, associate director of the Watson Institute. “They’re quite aware of what will degrade and change and what will gather people’s attention, which is entirely different from a museum or gallery space.” Bloomfield added that the artists defended the integrity of their street art as “a counterpoint to something that might be more private and perceived as more permanent.”

Monk said that translating two foreign languages into English contributed a unique lens and filter to an international perspective, while the painting displays also added to the conversation at Brown about urban space.

“Street art is not something we do a ton with here (at Brown) even though I think people are very interested in the themes it pertains to,” Monk said. As part of her senior thesis on street art capitals Athens, Greece and Valparaíso, Chile, she felt it was important to bring attention to public art, culture and especially pieces created by low-income artists to help diversify artistic voices on campus.

The painting demonstrations and discussion also offered Brown students the opportunity to look at “the production of the art and space both in a local context and in a global context,” said Damien Mahiet, associate director of the Cogut Center for the Humanities, which helped fund the artists coming to Brown, along with the Watson Institute and other departments.

Hidalgo works with Mapuche identity, that of an indigenous community in South America, while Navea’s work grapples with the concepts of consumption and immigration.

“The ‘art’ that I do explores a lost identity,” Hidalgo wrote in an email to The Herald. In Latin America, there is an admiration for foreign cultures, while the countries’ own cultures are viewed negatively, he explained. Through his artwork, he aims to draw attention to the deterioration of Latin American culture. “I want people to love their roots more and stop looking at Latin America as something bad and with a certain sense of mockery,” he wrote.

In the United States, Monk says the artists are also thinking about “issues of immigration and identity, and how to bring the Chilean complexities about those same issues into their work here.”

Simek primarily plays with geometry, lines and patterns in urban spaces to create therapeutic and calming experimental art. Having created street art since the age of 14, he combines his graffiti with various materials to integrate his artwork into the architecture of spaces.

“All places have power, and (Brown) has the power of students’ thinking,” Simek said. “The energy is different.” Monk added that she loves Simek’s work because “it’s so attentive to space.”

Bloomfield said there was some hesitancy about Simek painting on the staircase, so a compromise was reached with the idea of having him use black tape.

“How long will it stay there? I’m hoping for quite a long time,” Bloomfield said. “There’s no reason to think it can’t be permanent.”

Hidalgo noted that he felt a greater appreciation for his street art at Brown than at home. He hopes to inform students of the “the expropriation of land for the benefit of the state” of Chile through his artwork.

For Simek, creating art is “a lifestyle,” he says. “It’s something that I do every day. I love the moment, I love what I am doing, I love the expression.”

— quotes translated by Eduard Muñoz-Suñé