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Franรงois Chastanet

Foreword by Steven Heller










Pixação : São Paulo Signature L’épidémie pixação, avant-propos par Steven Heller 228

Ce qu’il y a à voir, le geste scriptural 231 La signature, le corps & l’architecture 237 Imaginaires typographiques 245 Notes sur les photographies 253 Légendes 255


Franรงois Chastanet

Pixação: São Paulo Signature The pixação epidemic, foreword by Steven Heller 229

What’s to be seen: scriptural gestures 231 Signature, body and architecture 237 Typographical fantasies 245 Notes on the photographs 253 Captions 255

*photographs p. 43, 191

the gestural signature, which is the conventional reference of the tag universe. It is, however, to be noted that the case of Los Angeles is specific, since it refers to gang names. The visual control of symbolic space being here accompanied by the active physical control of the territory concerned. On the other hand, the New York or São Paulo taggers constitute groups organized entirely on the basis of their passion for wild illegal writing, having no connection with conventional gang activities (i.e. centred around money), even if they sometimes share the imagery (in the choice of their di¤erent pseudonyms, pen names often favouring an aggressive wording, referring to an organization based on graded series of clans, etc.). They do not concentrate their writings/signatures on a specific territory, to be controlled by violence, but extend their invasion by means of craftwork publicity throughout the town concerned and beyond to the entire urban area to which they belong. In both the above cases, it would appear improbable that this type of image, not readily obtainable ¢, could have reached the streets of São Paulo, that a real visual connection could have been achieved, since the country had been under dictatorial control until the mid 1980s ∞. Access to information and pictures from abroad is all the more improbable in that the vast majority of the population is at that time poor and undereducated. Let us now reconsider more precisely the local conditions and context which gave birth to the phenomenon. What was then the first visual substratum of this writing phenomenon? At the end of the dictatorship, in the early 1980s, the various visual interventions in public places in São Paulo become more intense (as also in all the main urban areas throughout the country), their amplitude increases, encompassing traditional pro-democratic political demands mingled with poetic fragments based on coded play on words or on nonsense. But this period, from the formal standpoint, led to no revolutionary changes in letter design. Readability constraints, related to the necessity to transmit di¤erent messages, led to the adoption of Latin Roman capitals, universal model simplified and narrowed for this purpose. Simultaneously, the first modern pixadores appear, departing from vernacular political or advertising messages and imposing a sole content, i.e. the statement of their own name or that of their group. juneca was one of the first celebrities of this illegal writing movement, the exploits of whom are even related in the local newspapers, as was the case later on for the legendary tchentcho, who was the first to open the way to the use of the tops of architectural façades. They form with xuim, di *, chefe, os metralhas [the beagle boys] and many others, the first wave of a writing invasion, organized exclusively around the signature in São Paulo. The snowball e¤ect has been set in motion, a large number of young people, mainly (but not exclusively) from the favelas will now throw themselves into the name-image battle, giving rise to an endemic explosion of this type of writing with its characteristic exponential progression. The first signatures are stylistically of a basic nature, much simpler than those to be subsequently observed. As we have seen, certain pixadores, with a view to distinguishing themselves from their immediate visual environment, at the same time enriching this narrow alphabet, organized around a limited formal repertory 246

¢ Since both media and photographers focused their attention in the 1980s on the New York scene, the first Philadelphia graªtis or those of the Los Angeles gangs had not appeared in the various publications and fanzines circulating in the graªti world until recently. These pictures are still rare and diªcult to obtain, despite the present-day assistance of internet. However, note the probable influence of an actual street gang myth developped in movies such as The Warriors directed by Walter Hill (shot in 1979 in New York) or Colors directed by Dennis Hopper (shot in 1988 in Los Angeles). These two full-length films, sometimes quoted by some pixadores, nonetheless don’t show in detail the lettering of di¤erent graªtis observable in the background of numerous scenes, used here as a decorative eªcient stereotype to represent the atmosphere of urban ghettos in this kind of production. ∞ The Brazilian dictatorship (1964–1985) was less bloody than those endured in Chili or Argentina. Nevertheless, about 400 political opponents, in all probability, perished in the hands of the Brazilian military police and many others were victims of torture. Unlike the other South American countries, which chose to examine the exactions perpetrated by the juntas in power, Brazil had until recently refused to lay bare these practices.

*diagrams 4 to 6, p. 279

*diagram 2, p. 278

*diagram 4, p. 279

of basic and monumental capitals, incorporate, apparently, di¤erent plastic characteristics derived from Fraktur, Runic, and Etruscan * scripts. How did this filiation come to exist, what path was taken by these specific forms of writing? These various aesthetic borrowings from ancient Latin written forms (practically unused at present), torn from their historical context, do not occur in a conscious, scholarly fashion, but indirectly, since most of the pixadores evoke and lay claim to the influence of the ‘heavy metal’ record sleeves, and more specifically, the logos of the various groups, which they attempt to reproduce, using basic monolinear strokes *. The record sleeve, worldwide image vector, together with the related stereotyped visual marketing, with its strictly conforming codes, intended to represent this musical cosmos, would appear to have led to the actualization and transplantation of various typographic ‘materials’, i.e. the alternative di¤usion of long lost writing models. A graphic analysis of these record sleeves e¤ectively evidences a recurrence in the typographic use of modernized and simplified Runic or Etruscan-type scriptural aesthetics, together with frequent recourse to Fraktur-type blackletters. A historic comparison of the di¤erent capital letter structures evidences formal similitudes with certain fairly rare typographic experiments of monolinear Fraktur *. In addition, it would appear pertinent to link this particular type of calligraphy, the pixações, with the ‘interrupted script’ § category, i.e. handwriting where the tracing of each letter corresponds to an interrupted construction, an alphabet which could, with a little exaggeration, be termed ‘ultra light condensed monoline blackletter’, to use the jargon currently employed at international level in the classification of typefaces. What is to be noted here is the originality of this pixação phenomenon, which, liberating the Runic and Fraktur scripts from their use as rigid typographic forms for record packaging, brings about their return to manual use, in a hybrid form. The process usually observed in type design consists in ‘freezing’ manual writing practices (calligraphy or lettering) in set typographic forms, duplicatable ad infinitum, i.e., prefabricated letters at the disposition of all. We are here confronted with an inverse phenomenon, where the desire to reproduce mimetically these fixed typographical shapes, using di¤erent tools from those initially employed, and their adaptation to a di¤erent context, gives birth again to a manual, gestural practice, in other words, to movement. The back and forth between calligraphy and type design is nonetheless particularly evident in the blackletter fonts, like Fraktur, where the relation with the manual origin of the design is maintained and remains visually particularly evident ¶. The reproduction and adaptation of these typographic logos using everyday tools, like the ballpoint or the felt-tip pen on paper and with a paint roller or spray can on a wall (‘poor’ drawing tools from the classic calligraphy viewpoint), appear mainly as monolinear lines. Our assumption is that this reappropriation facilitated the emergence of an e¤ective urban environment alphabet. This hybrid system is organized round a graphic notion of economy of means, developing a maximum visual e¤ect, based solely on the structure and skeleton of each letter. ‘One thing leads to another’ •: creation of a new universe, this time in the lettering field, using existing shapes, actualized by the hazard of identificatory fashions. It all happens 247

§ See the article establishing the reflections of Gerrit Noordzij, ‘Broken Scripts and The Classification of Typefaces’, Journal of Typographic Research (Visible Language), vol. iv, no. 3, 1970, pp. 213–240. The author, in his theory of writing, proposes a binary classification system, discerning two main categories of layout in the history of writing: the drawn construction of each sign being either continuous (‘running hand’ or cursive), or interrupted, i.e. performed with several distinct strokes, with the hand raised at linkage between the di¤erent vertical stems composing a glyph, thus ‘interrupting’ contact of the pen with the writing medium. He moreover makes no separation between the study of calligraphic shapes and that of typographic shapes, practices apprehended simultaneously as having the overall shape of the letter as object: ‘A history of writing is a history of shapes and not a history of meaning’ (take a look at ‘Upsetting The Table. A Dialogue Between Nicolette Gray and Gerrit Noordzij’ in LetterLetter. An inconsistent collection of tentative theories that do not claim any other authority than that of common sense, Hartley & Marks Publishers, Vancouver, 2000, p. 48). By the same author, read The Stroke of The Pen: Fundamental Aspects of Western Writing, Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten, The Hague, 1982 and The Stroke: Theory of Writing (English translation by Peter Enneson), Hyphen Press, 2005. ¶ See Paul Shaw, ‘The Calligraphic Tradition in Blackletter Type’, Scripsit, no. 1 & 2, volume 22, summer 1999. • See Bruno Munari, Da cosa nasce cosa, Biblioteca di cultura moderna 849, Rome and Bari, Laterza, 1981, 5th edition, 1992.

with a roller, o.g.t.s, m (moby), below, the grifes círculo vicioso and o+f (os mais fortes), then os+cr (os mais caretas) [the cleanest ones], 2000, and under the window, neca ¶ p. 107, on top, traced in black with a roller, the grife to em cima [reach the top], prag (pragas) [plague], rvtd (revotados) [the rebellious], lower, to the center, escadão, below, to the left ld7 (loucos da sete) [madmen from 7] and volume 3, at last poca and imagen [image] in the lower part of the façade ¶ p. 109, at the top of the façade, in blue, escadão by pqn and ngs, 01 (2001), underneath, in black, ritimos [rhythms], note, in white on a red background under the balcony, the emblem of the group s.s (skate sujera) [dirty skate] ¶ p. 111, at the top, on the concrete extension, grife drawn in blue paint ar (adolescência rebelde) meaning also arruaceiros [the ones who chill in the street], then in blue on a green background h2o by brasa, tribus and mamaue, in the middle of the façade in black, farus [smell, clue, evidence] and os grafes [the graffs] ¶ p. 113, in white with a roller above the window, escadão, note the white vertical aerosol inscription to the left of the double portal, lin ii ¶ p. 117, in the centre of the façade, lin, den, hbt 97, down below, 8 (8 batalhão) [the 8th battalion] and t44 (turma 44) [gang 44] 95, lower down, to the right, baroes [the barons], den, hbt ¶ p. 119, at the top of the façade, in black, ebolas [the ebola virus] by rg and xaradas [literally the charades, xarada being in fact a character, one of the ‘villains’ in the Batman universe named enigma] by vn, on the ground floor level canab2’s, with, to the right, the grife os rgs, represented by the symbol with the bat contours of Batman, followed by the expression ‘de dia’ signifing that the inscription was made in full day light. Note at the top, to the right, the following sentence placed side by side with the inscription of names: sem perceber larguei a escola e fui pra rua aprender, andar de skate, pixar e corri pra ver o mar [without learning much, i left school and went to the street to learn how to skate, do tags and run to see the ocean] ¶ p. 123, at the top of the façade, in black, tribunal, vadios [the lazy buggers, the vagrants] and túmulos, center above, grife os m (os melhores), to the left grife ar (adolescência rebelde) meaning also arruaceiros [the ones who chill in the street] 2002, above in yellow spmanos [the guys of são paulo], over the metal shutter cagic’s and canab2’s [cannabis], then in black, túmulos, primos [the cousins], jamaica, vudus [the voodoos] 02! (2002), below, in black, over a white inscription, hotcity, written in salmon pink the grife turma de mão and ebolas, in white on the lower part of the metal shutter, escadão, reais, and prds (os procurados) [wanted], etc.

¶ p. 125, at the top of the façade, in orange, with a roller, os+imun (os mais imundos), 2000, this inscription intentionally covering the adverse grife os rgs, here represented by the groups a’firma and os rvs (os rivais) [the opponents]; lower down, in black with a spray can, c.tropa, psicose and ajatos ¶ p. 127, at the top of the façade with a black spray can, pda (pixadores da altura) [high-level pixadores, of excellence, also signifying on the peak, able to reach the summits of buildings], note also the inscription mfs (os mafiosos) where the letters are drawn separately on the red metal shutters ¶ p. 129, at the top of the façade, in black, apaches with the grife união bola de gude and rapa [raid, dragnet] z.n (zona norte), 01 (2001), below, separated by the windows, gms ¶ p. 131, above the window, in black on a red background, novinhas [young girls], fk, 2003 ¶ p. 133, at the top of the façade, the inscription begins with the paint roller symbol and then continues with the name pesadelos [nightmares] where the ‘o’ is both a letter and a human face with horns and a halo; on the metal shutter in black, rdu (roedores de unha) [the nail biters] ¶ p. 135, black inscription, over the window on a blue background, collos by clo, the center window ajatos, at the same level on the right, enigma by mnh, note below, to the right, over the balcony, the inscription s.s (skate sujera) by ot comprising in the center the grife união bola de gude ¶ p. 137, at the top of the façade: gênios by cb and os dbs by dg, further down, with a black spray can, netiboys and aboa, lower down, to the left, arrotos then apoca (apocalipse), pav (pavor) and in two colors, black and blue, cripta ¶ p. 139, at the top of the edifice, painted in grey with a roller, cns (canais) [televison channels] and px9, then in the middle of the façade, over the center window, cripta [crypt], then to the right novinhas; to the left, set back, os gs (os garutos sujos) [the dirty boys] comprising in the middle of the inscription, the grife união bola de gude (a circle cut with a vertical stroke between two sets of quotation marks), and below, hot city by r ¶ p. 141, at the top of the façade, in black, written with a paint roller, the grife os inquebraveis (see diagram no. 21, p. 264), c c [carol & caroline] by n, kpg (kapangas) [the henchmen, the bodyguards] by e, again the grife os inquebraveis at the end of the inscription ¶ p. 143, at the top of the façade, in dark blue, os maldosos [the wicked, the bad guys] ¶ p. 145, in the upper central part of the façade, in black with a spray can, c.tropa and homens. pizza (the second part of the name here is obliterated), the letter ‘o’ here being a symbol for pizza, underneath, in the center, vgn (vagner), os bv (os bicho vivo), tms, and just above the balcony, note lemão [lemon] and santuario [sanctuary]


¶ p. 147, in the central part of the façade, vudus [the voodoos], c.tropa [troop c], then, in yellow, am (a máfia) [the mafia], lower down, on the grey garage door, in white, note tiras [cops] and ativos [the active ones] ¶ p. 149, at the top of the façade, in blue, maionese, mutants, profecia, 95 (1995), below, at the top of the metal shutter, top left, rivais [the opponents] , and in the center, with a black spray can, over the door, collos [phonetic transcription into Portuguese of the movie title Colors, which is also the title of the famous song that Ice-T made for the original soundtrack of the same movie] ¶ p. 151, at the top of the façade, agster and alma, in the middle, above the windows, in thin strokes with a black spray can, escadão and a’firma [the gang], 98 (1998), with the figure eight transformed into a small animal ; on the projecting edge of the balcony, skate sujera with the grife união bola de gude, then collos ¶ p. 153, upper part of the façade, black lines on a white background, a grife in the shape of a human figure followed by rtms (ritimos) [rhythms], ocdt + adi ¶ p. 155, at the top with a roller, partly erased, a grife then the inscription 8 batalhão [the 8th battalion] by killer, 1995, zl (zona leste), on the white metal shutter, beginning at the top, primos [the cousins], psycoboys, réplicas, t44 (turma 44) [gang 44] ¶ p. 159, in grey at the top, on the left, n!s (nada somos), then enemy’s, maloca 03, below in white, axs by rf, 2003 ¶ p. 160, in black with a roller, profecia by guto ¶ p. 161, in blue with a roller, the grife i (os infernais) then espião, 2004; note on this photo and the previous one, the single letter, drawn perfectly centred at the top of this fragment of façade, letters belonging to a name developing all-over this industrial building of which we have only reproduced here two modules ¶ p. 163, a church in Taipas, district of the West zone: in blue with a roller, pgm (pinguim) [the penguins] and pdm (pixadores do morro) [pixadores from the hill, from the shantytown]. Above, is inscribed a phrase from a song of the racionais mc’s, a São Paulo rap group: so sei que deus é mais eu tó vivo pela fé [all i know is that god is the greatest, i live by my faith] ¶ p. 165, a wall in Consolação neighbourhood, central zone of São Paulo ¶ p. 167, a façade in the surroundings of the train station Lapa, in white with a roller, with widely spaced letters prds (os procurados) [wanted], underneath, in grey, plenos [full, lots], then lower down, still in white with a roller, os grafes, raros and os mds (os maldosos); note in the upper right part of the photo, in black, with a spray can on grey concrete, the name hiv in extremely complex lettering ¶ p. 171, on the wagon to the left, os+imun (os mais imundos) followed by the grife dk (dead

kennedys) and lower down, teoria; on the wagon to the right, ma (os melhores amigos) [the best friends] next ousadia [audacious] ¶ p. 173, inscription by the group spcrimes [the são paulo crimes] over the painted publicity for a local politician, seen in Capão Redondo neighbourhood ¶ p. 173, criminais [the criminals] by pnd ¶ p. 177, lixo/man/ia! by zé, urban motor way through the center of São Paulo, closed on Sunday, when its access is stricly reserved for pedestrians, for walking or jogging ¶ p. 181, in the center of Capão Redondo shantytown, back façade of a building which, by its strategic location in the urban landscape, is used as a monument-support for local names: in black, on the right spcrimes, in white, malas [the damned nuisances] ¶ p. 183, the blind façade (in the center of the photo) o¤ers an exceptional inscription surface in terms of visibility in the surroundings, it constitutes an authentic ‘signature-monument’ of the Taipas neighbourhood, West zone area. To the foreground, pgm (pinguim) [the penguins] and pdm (pixadores do morro) [pixadores from the hill, from the shantytown] ¶ p. 185, detail of the mural inscription of the previous photo: one of the rare examples comprising a contour, here cdp (caras de pau) [literally faces of wood, Portuguese expression that can be translated by the hypocritical ones] in yellow and black, at the top in blue fdr (os federais) [the federate ones], in black in the lower part pinguim [the penguins] ¶ p. 187, to the left in red, ruins, on the right in green, novinhas and jamaica, fk, adr, 02 (2002) ¶ p. 189, trilhos [the rails], inscription made with a roller from the roof of this low building ¶ p. 191, in grey at the top, kidão, kiko and di, at the bottom di, kidão and kiko again; note on the upper part of the wall, to the right, a human silhouette whose limbs end in arrows, composing the grife pixar é humano, 91 (1991); di, deceased in 1996, is one of the greatest legends of the pixadores world ¶ p. 193, three grifes (monograms): não me siga, os+im (os mais imundos), os+a (os mais antigos) ¶ p. 195, lixomania! by z (zé); note how each of the di¤erent signatures clings to the rough patches of the architecture, whatever the scale ¶ p. 197, z/o (zona oeste) jamaica by fnd (fernando), note the particularly complex grife (apparently a monogram composed of the letters fqp) in the upper part of this inscription in white done with a roller; to the right, with a spray can in beige os crs ¶ p. 199, the names bebados [the drunkards], absolutas and chits [the shits] drawn with a roller; note the right-left justifying aimed at occupying the entire width of the wall (see also diagrams no. 11 and 12, p. 277) ¶ p. 201, at the top kito, then on the third line down from the top, partly obliterated, the inscription os d(e) sempre [those of always], then

below, rbo, 2001, z.o (zona oeste) ; note the triangular grife (monogram) at (atropelos) at the beginning of the second line ¶ p. 203, note, in the upper part of the metal shutter, various grifes followed by the emblem am (a máfia), where the hyphen also represents a mouth with a joint (the eyes are sketched in above), then klts (kaloteiros) [the bad payers]; it is extremely rare to observe utilization of the notion of shadowed surface as here, where the stroke in fact marks the shadow of an invisible letter; another a máfia inscription is observable p. 147, drawn in yellow with a spray can, on the right-hand side of the photograph ¶ p. 205, first line, os bichovivo [the living animals] by n, second line vitimas [the victims] by c, z.s (zona sul), third line the grife humilidad faz a diferença, 2003; produced with a spray can in black, this inscription is of remarkable calligraphic rigour, spacing requirements and the constant width of each sign are exceptionally well mastered ¶ p. 207, lixo/ma, abreviated form of lixomania [the dustbin madmen] by z (zé) ¶ p. 208, lixoma (lixomania) at the bottom, on the ground; higher the grife tm (turma da mão) [the hand gang] followed by primos [the cousins] ¶ p. 209, letter ‘c’ comprising an arrow, then os f.d.l ® (os foras de lei) [the outlaws] ¶ p. 211, at the top, to the right, spreading around the center point, which is the window, escadão [stairs] by ngs and japão [japan], 03 (2003), below, blecaut [phonetic transcription into Portuguese of the English expression black-out] by jlc and viseras [the visors (of baseball caps)], 02 (2002) ¶ p. 213, fatos [the facts] inscribed with a black spray can ¶ p. 215, olo (olodum) [musical rhythm, type of music from the area of Bahia], drawn with a black spray can ¶ p. 216, detail of the grife os+a (os mais antigos) [the elders] ¶ p. 217, group symbol, probably the figure ‘2’ ¶ p. 219, grife (monogram) mts (mestres) [the masters] ¶ p. 221, cabeças e.., the inscription cabeças [the heads] is a group name, which was traced by one of its members, whose name or personal surname begins with an ‘e’, here end ¶ p. 223, detail of a ‘p’: photography here clearly evidences the constraints attached to use of a roller as writing instrument, in that one is obliged to use wide radius curves.


Inscriptions in detail ¶ p. 265 # ¡ lnx by d, dig ®, nbs by davi, inscription traced with a roller: lnx signifies the union of three names comprising the original group members (lino+neto+xand) but also loucos no xadrez [the madmen from prison], this part of the inscription is carried out by danis, of whom only the first letter appears bracketted in smaller letters to the group name; dig is the name of a person; nbs is a group called night boys, the inscription is made by davi, the drawing presented here reproduces more accurately the inscription observable p. 25 at the top of the edifice # ™ * (marijuana) zo (zona oeste) tensão [tension] v3, inscription traced with a roller. The star symbol is in fact an extremely stylized cannabis leaf, frequently encountered in the di¤erent inscriptions-signatures. This symbol often replaces a zero in indicating the year or an ‘o’ in a name. The group or the person nicknamed tension comes from the West zone of the town, as indicated by the sign ‘zo’; note the presence of an emblem or grife seemingly v3, sign of a membership of a larger group of the same name # £ sonambulos [the sleepwalkers], inscription traced with a roller, is the name of a group belonging to a larger group called união bola de gude [the pinball union], as shown by the presence of the circular barred grife in the internal space of the ‘m’, see also the photo p. 169 # ¢ escadão [stairs], inscription traced with a paint roller, is the name of a particularly active pixadores group, see notably the following photographs p. 85, 109, 113, 123, 151, 155, 211 # ∞ tribunal, inscription inscribed with a spray can, is a group name, see also the photo p. 123 # § apaches, inscription traced with spray can, is the name of a group, which belongs, like case no. 3, to a larger group called união bola de gude [the pinball union], as indicated by the barred round grife (monogram) between the lower parts of the ‘e’ and the ‘s’, see also the photographs p. 84, 129 ¶ p. 266 # ¶ os mds, inscription inscribed with a roller, is a group name composed of three letters, a contraction of os maldosos, see also the photographs p. 143, 167 # • perdidos [the lost ones], inscription traced with a roller, group name # ª peraltas, inscription traced with a roller # ¡º reprise, inscription traced with a roller, group name, see the photographs p. 47, 71 # ¡¡ túmulos, inscription traced with a spray can, is a group name, where the ‘o’ is replaced by the symbol of a coªn, marked with a Christian cross, wich is the specific grife (monogram) of this group, see also the photograph p. 123 # ¡™ fdt, inscription traced with a spray can, is a group name, ‘s’ was responsible for this signature, as shown by the presence of his initial between the ‘d’ and the ‘t’ ¶ p. 267 # ¡£ trombadas [pick-pockets], inscription traced with a roller, is a group name, pt













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Steven Heller | author, critic, New York Times Steven Heller | author, critic, New York Times senior art art director senior director

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Pixação: São Paulo Signature