CANEMORTO presents Amo-Te Lisboa | Interview

We interviewed CANEMORTO, a crew of three Italian artists, who went to Lisbon in 2014 and during their stay had 30 interventions and numerous night bombings, without permission or authorization, now documented in Amo-Te Lisboa, “an ignominious street a̶̶r̶̶t̶̶ movie” about three painters worshiping a cruel dead-dog divinity, called Txakurra, which gives them the power to paint together as a single person, hitting public walls in order to spread its cult (more info).

You present Amo-Te Lisboa as “an ignominious street a̶̶r̶̶t̶̶ movie” and throughout the film we witness the ironic and sarcastic approach regarding the evolution of an artistic phenomenon that has risen from the underground to now follow the art market laws and flow. You show stereotypes in contrast to the reality behind the graffiti culture and scene, which has been left behind due to the popularity of this new form of art mainly focused on mural painting nowadays, embraced not only by former graffiti artists, so by people who may understand the core of the movement, its history, but also by artists from different fields. What do you find upsetting about the current state of what has been defined and is perceived as street art?

Festivals, events, exhibitions… nothing against this stuff, even if there is often a big confusion between requalification and gentrification. What we find really upsetting, maybe more depressing than upsetting, is the attitude of many so-called street artists, especially the newcomers. There is a whole army of people coming from applied arts (graphic design, interior design, architecture…) with a marketing-oriented mind; they don’t know shit about the history of graffiti writing, not even about the history of painting (which is born on walls, not on canvas…). These people paint a couple of walls in the back of their house following the “street trend” of the moment, take good pics, make Facebook and Instagram pages (often with their real names alongside the street ones), publish the pics and get the likes, then they get the attention of the street art websites and finally they get commissions and invitations to festivals… At this point they become fully convinced to be fresh and original, and they call each other kings. Kings of what?

 Amo-Te Lisboa Poster

What do you believe has facilitated this fast acceptance of street art? In the movie, you say it’s “nice and decorative”, and elsewhere you mention that your interventions in the public space are the opposite, “ugly”. Do you think that the need to be accepted and allowed in the public space depends on an unwritten condition that the work should be “beautiful”, so in line with a certain aesthetic, which may affect the final work, the message the artist wants to convey and his freedom of expression?

Yes, you got the point, we think that this hyper-fast acceptance of street art by the institutions is due to the fact that the majority of street artists make works that coincide to the most common and banal Western ideals of beauty.

This is a bit paradoxical and anachronistic because in the past the real badass artists have always fought to challenge the aesthetic canons of their time, especially in the last century.

But seems like we are almost the only ones who think in this way, so probably the problem is ours and we just didn’t understand a shit.

CANEMORTO in Lisbon

The movie is based on your two-month stay in Lisbon, where you painted without permission or authorization. In the movie, your actions seem rather destructive, but in many cases we see you choose abandoned buildings, talk to owners or, as in the case of the subway intervention, your aim is not vandalizing the space. Tell us why you preferred painting like this and why you chose Lisbon, where there are ongoing street art initiatives and galleries supporting urban art.

Painting visible places without any authorization is important to us not just because it’s much faster than following a boring legal and bureaucratic way, but especially because it’s part of an attitude which comes from graffiti writing, and which is getting completely lost and repudiated in the street art world. Obviously when you paint illegally a 20-meter-long wall in the middle of a city, using poles and rollers, you have to find a different strategy compared to the one you would use to make a two-color piece with spray cans.

Vandalism is another core element of graffiti writing, which permitted this movement to stay pure and faithful to its roots; that’s why we practice and encourage it.

In conclusion, to be honest we wanted to go to London, because someone told us that street artists get rich there, but Txakurra had other plans for us…

CANEMORTO in Lisbon

We see a lot of reactions in the movie, people who do not like your interventions, and the deity in the story, Txakurra, seems to want your art not to please residents. You even collaborated with Borondo and RUN, and we see them disapproving your actions, you need to be stopped, as RUN said, part of the plot. But were the reactions mainly negative? What are your most memorable moments, good or bad, interacting with the people living there?

Actually the reactions were very varied and contrasting as usual.

The most memorable moment happened when a guy called Paulo found us painting a huge distorted man on his wall. At the beginning he got really upset, then we offered him a beer and he calmed down; after that he asked us to write his name, his favorite football team and his beloved band on the wall: “Paulo S.L. Benfica AC/DC”.

Finally he understood that we were not going to write this stuff so he took a roller and he made it by himself.

CANEMORTO x BORONDO

CANEMORTO in Lisbon

If you could sum up the message of the film in just a few words, what would that be? Why do you think it is important for people to know your side of the story? What needs to change in how street art evolves from now on, in your opinion?

As our master Sbafe once said: “The only things that matter are estilo y cojones”.

Let’s say that when you know many sides of a story, then you have to choose a side and take a position: that is exactly what street artists should do, starting from realizing that so-called street art has become the frivolous and spoiled niece of graffiti. Learn from the uncle!

CANEMORTO / Photo: Tanguy Bombonera

The movie is also based on your art as a crew. Share some thoughts we should know about CANEMORTO.

We think you should know about all the other people who made this film possible: the infamous Tanguy Bombonera, who shot everything and curated the photography with his partner in crime El Pacino; Bobelgom aka Certosella Kid & ISO3200, who managed the whole editing and directed the movie with us; the friends who produced dope bangers for the soundtrack: Bad Karma, Brainstalker, Futur Arles, Taco Boy and Technoseeders; the friends who participated in the movie and painted with us in Lisbon: Borondo, Caso, Gab Respar, RUN, Porco & Slika; saint Angelina, who gave us lots of help in Lisbon and took some epic photographs; Chiara and the whole Studio Volante team, who believed in this movie since the beginning and organized the official presentation; Nipper, Guerrilla Spam, Servadio, Giuseppe, Pascal, Ava, Dima and all the people who are organizing a screening in their city; Gorgo and ZI, who produced the fanzine; Arturo & 56Fili gang who will print with us a series of silkscreens related to the movie; finally the STROLIG masters for the teachings: Sbafe, Ema Jons, Erugiery, Tilf, Blackwan and Vadis.

What’s next for the three of you?

This movie is 100% independent, produced, curated and distributed by us, so it is and it has been a huge, stressful and neverending work. After that we’re looking forward to merely paint again without any other pressure.

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Images courtesy of CANEMORTO. Click on the photos for zoom and credits.

More info on YouTube.