Interview: Béco Dranoff
For Chapter 50 of the Frank151 book in 2013, we looked at Brazil, its culture, its history, and its political realities. Now with the whole world watching the country during the 2016 Summer Olympics, we revisit some of the defining articles.
São Paulo, a megalopolis of 18 million and the biggest city in the southern hemisphere, has a long tradition of street tagging and graffiti art. When the military regimen took over the country in 1964, students wrote protest messages on walls all over São Paulo at the risk of being arrested or “disappeared.” Since the democratic “opening” process in 1984, São Paulo’s urban tagging has taken a unique and strange turn. Today it is knows as pixação, or simply pixo.
To learn more the background on this distinctly Brazilian form of expression, we spoke to João Wainer, the director of the 2009 film, Pixo.
FRANK151: Is Pixo your first documentary?
João Wainer: No, Pixo is my second documentary. The first one is called A Ponte [The Bridge[ and focuses on the work of Tia Dag, a teacher doing some amazing work with the kids in the rough neighborhoods on the outskirts of São Paulo. I was able to get guest appearances by Mano Brown (from the seminal hip-hop group Racionais MCs) and Ferrez. The soundtrack was created by Zegon (of the N.A.S.A. Project) and Daniel Ganjaman (producer of Criolo’s award-winning second album).
F151: How did the Pixo documentary come to be?
JW: As a photojournalist I was always very aware of the pixação in São Paulo and the relationship between the public and those symbols. I noticed that people simply hated the strange symbols on the walls and never stopped to try and understand them. Pixação is painted lettering, and it was obvious to me that someone was trying to communicate something with those letters. I immersed myself in that world and slowly started to understand their message and significance.
While researching I met Djan, a pixador who produced a homemade pixação DVD series called 100 Comédia [Without Comedy] that he would sell to other pixadores. We became friends and decided to make this film together. My brother, Roberto T. Oilveira, joined us and we started production at a very slow pace.
At the end of the process we secured support from the Cartier Foundation, which helped us finalize the project in time to be part of the Ne Dans La Rue exhibit in Paris, perhaps the biggest show on street art ever assembled. Pixo became the biggest sensation of the exhibit and introduced this new kind of street art to the world. After that, São Paulo’s pixação started to be recognized globally.
Pixo is in the DNA of the kids that live in the poorest and roughest areas around São Paulo. What makes a young person climb a 30-storey building, from the outside, just to leave his name and brand at the top? I think these guys just want to exist. They live in the poorest areas, they are young and invisible and ignored by society. They practically don’t exist. When a guy creates a giant pixo on top of a building, he becomes unwanted by society. The minute anyone is hated, they start to exist. It’s better to be hated than to be ignored.