INTERVIEW WITH MUNDANO
Mundano uses art to raise awareness about socio-environmental problems in Brazil and around the world. Mundano is a symbol of activism. Uses art to resist and raise awareness of social and environmental problems in Brazil and worldwide. With his “graffiti papo reto”, which means “straight to the point”, he creates strong sentences that interact with the reality of the countries where he goes: Colombia, Peru, Argentina, South Africa, Tanzania, Russia, Belgium, Austria, France, Germany, Japan, among others. Now, as part of Emmathomas’ group of artists, Mundano gains a new space to reinforce the idea of art as a questioning agent. Whether it is with a can in hand painting a viaduct in São Paulo, whether by exhibiting a canvas in New York or painting a car in Bogota, the mission of the “artivist” is always the same: to bring up issues ignored by society.
Where does the name Mundano come from?
It comes from Mundānus, which can have different meanings in the languages originating in Latin. In Portuguese, it refers to the world or what belongs to it, that lives in the terrestrial, the common, the superficial, which only values the material. Mundane people are bound to the pleasures of the world. For this reason, Mundano is, by the way, a name of protest.
I was once the problem boy, tagger, graffiti artist, plastic artist, activist and social entrepreneur. The nomenclatures are changing, but I am always seeking the same thing: to generate reflection on the problems of the great urban centers, to charge the authorities and to bring visibility to the oppressed people. The challenges of this chaotic world are immense and seem only to increase. And, in this trajectory, I realized that the art allied to activism is a powerful tool of social transformation. That’s why the term “artivism” arises, which gains more and more strength, uses and adepts.
Even the engaged art – graffiti on walls with permission – is still seen as ‘depredation and vandalism’. What is your opinion about this?
I see it as something natural of the human being that begins from the first scribbling in the caves, to the political graffitti to overthrow a dictator. These expressions are present all over the world. Sometimes it is the only alternative to shout, since mass media is selective and partial and graffiti is free and independent. For me, vandalism is to build walls and segregate the city, it is the publicity that does not ask for authorization, it is the corruption that deflects public money that should be invested in education, it is to overturn squares and build buildings, it is racial and gender prejudice that still kills a lot of people, it is to take belongings of someone in a street situation. An entire painted city, like São Paulo, has opened the daily vandalism that its population suffers.
Comment on censorship and violence against artists and art. Do you believe that we are in an important context of resistance and action?
Censorship is the greatest of compliments. It is an indicator that the work made sense, which bothered. I have been censored several times, not only in Brazil, precisely because my art is not decorative. Censorship is a fuel since we live in a context of resistance. Freedom of expression is still not an achievement at all. So, if they erase, I’ll go there and do it again! In Brazil, graffiti is an environmental crime, the police still repress with truculence street artists who seek to express their indignation. It is unacceptable that dozens of artists continue to die with spray cans in their hands.
Streets, people, relationships and social inequalities are present in your work. How is your creative process? What inspires you?
My creative process is very organic and disorganized, it is both motivated by the social, environmental and political context in which I live, as well as by the interactions with people and the cities I have been through. Every experience is an inspiration. And each experience is unique, which allows for works created in a few hours or in many months. I use different supports besides the walls, most reuse, found in the streets or presented by recycling collectors.
Tell us about the characters and elements that make up your graffiti.
As graffiti has to be very fast, I simplified the trait, which ended up creating an identity for the characters, easily recognized by the vigorous nostrils, full lips and attentive eyes. Green is the most present color and represents my personal relationship with nature, as well as the other vibrant colors that, in general, make up my palette. In this context, I incorporate other elements with some symbolism to the works. The cactus, for example, portrays the resistance of the Brazilian people, because even in an arid environment, with little water, it can flourish. Garbage, also present in several works, represents waste and neglect with the natural resources, each day more scarcer.
How do you intend to maintain the activism that characterizes graffitti within a commercial context, in a gallery space?
It is not because I am exposing my works in a gallery that I will lose my essence, my themes of protest, my constant indignation for the problems of the world, my activism. On the contrary, it is an opportunity to create a permanent activist work, since the street is ephemeral. In a way, I find it incredible to have lasting works in this short life. My goal is not commercial, it’s my art. It is to leave a message that contributes to the creation of an irreversible and positive legacy. The gallery, in this case, will be the extension of a work I’ve done for 19 years on the street.
Mundano’s work with recyclable material pickers begins with the natural junction of marginalized art, grafiiti, and the still marginal work of them. There are 11 years of work and fight against the human rights violations that suffer daily and also for the recognition of the category – that is in a situation of social vulnerability. Mundano criticizes the disregard of public power regarding selective recycling, the management of solid waste and waste of materials and natural resources.
Each person produces, on average, 400 kg of solid waste per year. From there, only 12kg are recycled, 11kg being collected by recycling collectors. In other words, even providing an unpaid public cleaning service, making the selective collection and reverse logistics of products, the pickers remain invisible, without the proper recognition and support of the public power.
Pimp My Carroça
Founder of Pimp My Carroça (2012), Mundano works actively for the NGO to continue circulating in Brazil and in other countries. Thinking of the plurality and diversity of the movement, it has engaged thousands of volunteers to expand the performance of Pimp My Carroça, which has gone through 13 countries, 46 cities and involved more than 900 artists that have impacted the lives of more than 1000 recycling pickers.
After six years of project, the Pimp My Carroça has become one of the largest public street art exhibitions, being recognized in 2017 with the 3rd International Award for Public Art in Hong Kong. “When you color the carts, you make people realize and begin to interact with these true invisible heroes,” says the artivist.
Transcending the artistic boundaries, Pimp My Carroça has created Cataki, an application that connects pickers with those who want to recycle, thus increasing their income and recycling rates. In 2018, Cataki won the Netexplo Digital Innovation Award at the Unesco headquarters in Paris. “This only shows how art can transcend the walls of galleries and the walls in the streets, being a powerful tool of social transformation,” Mundano concludes.