Most of what I know of street art and graffiti, I learned by walking the streets of Bogotá, Colombia. Like most people, I initially did not notice that my hometown was saturated with murals and pieces, as well as hastily executed stencils, tags and throw-ups. But just like a gestalt image, once you shift your gaze towards the street, you start seeing them, and then there is no turning back. My fascination with these strange letters and images, done mostly by anonymous artists, led me to start thinking through the tensions and contradictions embedded in our public spaces and eventually to writing my master’s thesis on Bogotá’s street art and graffiti culture.
Ever since completing my master’s, I have been defending street art and graffiti as being both aesthetically significant and culturally relevant, and have been challenging the notion that it is merely a rebellious and vandalic act. The way I see it, graffiti is a form of writing intended for those who already know how to decipher this complex calligraphy, while street art is based on graphic design and therefore revolves around images.