Saturday, 7 February 2015

Moments in Atacama Time....geoglyphs or just urban art?

For those in the know: Nasca ~ Palpa. PanAmericana Sud Route 1 Peru. Boring dates: Paracas Peoples' era: 800~100Bce. Nasca peoples' era: 100~750 ACE. My Date: 28th January.

Who knows what the Nasca peoples. intentions were, when they set out their 'lines'. The perfect geometric representations that in real life are best viewed from an aeroplane, or increasingly photographed from a drone 'copter. But for those with a phobia for air flights, boys' toys or spending money, they can best be viewed from Goole Earth or on the backs of buses, on craft stands or bedspreads, on park benches or plaza plantings. They're omnipresent and they've part smothered out another, earlier people's artwork, just a short distance down the road.

This time it's the Paracas peoples' graffiti that's on view. Where the Nascas worked on a level plain, the Paracas chose a hillside, obviously with a view to future viewing. Yet I wonder if their art gallery might be more the blank concrete wall of an inner city underpass. Their anthropomorphic depiction, a youth's insensitive rendition of Fat Bertha's weirdo hairdo. Why not? Times change, pubescent hormones don't.

Traditions don't die. They morph. Hillside graffiti is an ever-present feature to travelling throughout Peru. Most of it will be political or telecoms in nature. Where the ancients moved stones around, modern advertisers resort to whitewash and the GPS. To stone paint, to more accurately position your message, some of which can be measured in acres.

Wall art is thin on the ground in Peru, unlike in Chile, and in particular the old town of Valparaiso. Fortunately, so too is the incomprehensible 'gang slogan' scrawlings. Energy drinks and those same politicos are the favoured subjects for any available flat surface. With one notable exception: the outer walls of schools.

When you paint a wall, other than for esthetical purposes, your aim must be to influence, to put forward a message. The standard for the political class of '15, would appear to be along the lines of: "I'm new, I'm honest, I'm going to root out corruption", put your mark on my logo, be it a turkey or a llama, a tree or a pot. Make your choice, and hope for a lucky pick. The messages outside the schools are more subliminally disturbing. Wander any street, be it up on the Puna, down on the coast or in the middle of the city, and you soon understand the ethnic demographic of the country. The faces are of PeruenoAndino, as opposed to EuroLatino. Yet the aspirational images, and I'm deliberately ignoring the 1950s Janet and John gender stereotypeing, is for the Iberian Celt. In ways it's not surprising, the artist or at least the commissioning committee are mimicking the infinitely more influential advertising industry.

So if nothing is new and not much changes, is that zoomorphic rendition of a feline, scraped out on a hillside, two and a half centuries ago, an ad for cat chow or kitty litter? That disgruntled face, a man who's had his loan request rejected for lack of a positive credit rating?..."should have come to Banco de Seashell ~ we never say no"