On Monday, 13th of July, some landmarks of the city of São Paulo were decorated with giant letters that spelled words such as “Descanse” (Rest), “Relaxe” (Relax) and “Calma” (Slow Down). The purpose of this artistic intervention, created by the Coletivo BijaRi, was to encourage some reflection in the midst of the urban chaos that is São Paulo and offer a feeling of peace and tranquility to the population. But on the very next day, the Mayor of the city had the words removed alleging it was not an artistic intervention, but subliminal advertisement and therefore against the law. The controversy rose because cosmetics brand Natura sponsored the initiative, transforming the artistic intervention into nothing more than visual pollution, according to the Lei da Cidade Limpa (Clean City legislation), which prohibits outdoor advertisement such as banners on buildings and billboards.
According to Natura’s spokesperson, “The company supports artistic intervention. There was no logo or any other reference to Natura in the pieces.” This intervention was part of a bigger project created by BijaRi which also includes a book and a video, all sponsored by Natura. The mayor’s decision quickly spurred a controversy in the media: what is art and what is advertisement. While most artists support the “Clean City Legislation”, they have proposed the creation of a council to evaluate proposals of urban intervention in order to differentiate true artistic interventions from simple attempts to bend the legislation.
– Comtributed by Valeria Tavares