Jimena Ponce de León is an Anthropologist and teaches at the Universidad de Buenos Aires. She received her Master on Local Development (c) from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and Universidad Nacional de General San Martín, her PhD on Social Sciences (c) from the Universidad Nacional de General Sarmiento.
She has been a Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) fellow. BIARI alumni (Brown University) and member of Young Voices of the Global South team (supported by Brown University).
Her research topics include: Youth, Arts, Cities, Education, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Local Develoment.
Jimena Ponce de León’s project:
Youth and Street Art: Strategies Developed in a Changing City
We consider Street Art as a world artistic movement which refers to visual arts in public spaces. Often expressed through graffiti, mural art, stencil and stickers, it has become an icon of youthful expression in Buenos Aires since the year 2000 (Ponce de León, 2011). At the beginning, being a graffiti writer meant to challenge other youth groups by painting just their signature and the one of their crew. But as time went by, their work topic has changed, as well as their goal, their esthetic and the practice itself. One of our aims in this research is to understand why and how those practices have changed.
Being born in a democratic regime, these groups of young artists are able to express through social yet individualistic frameworks since they grow up in a civic freedom environment. Even though Argentina has a very strong history with art in public spaces, this group of young street art artists made a new fresh start. Our hypothesis in this project is that Street Art plays an important role in the construction of the Buenos Aires visual identity. We seek to develop our research from an interpretive paradigm and qualitative study, which will be based in 30 in-depth ethnographical interviews.Our theoretical framework is based in Nussbaum (2001) and Sen’s (1999, 2007) Capability Approach, as well as Schneider (2006, 2007) idea of appropriation of art. Hence, we categorized Street Art as a resilience tool: it has become a way of overcoming vulnerability situations they face in everyday life. That means we analyze Street Art as a youth strategy. Specially, we analyze four different processes in which young artists choose to use Street Art to empower themselves. By using Street Art this group of young people covers their needs in terms of: (a) sociability, (b) professionalization, (c) political expression and (d) communitarian work.
The second part of our research is focused on the appropriation process of Street Art. We will explore how local private entities, foreign companies, offices of the State and policy makers and citizenship in general consider and perceive Street Art. We believe there is a different appropriation grade, and we will explain how it affects the Street Art development. Basically, their pieces are not yet considered part of the Buenos Aires cultural heritage. Hence, there is a need to go farther on the study of the relationship between Street Art and the creation of local identity in Buenos Aires since it can be part of heritagization process and so it gives a deep feedback in freedom perception.Still there is still a paradox: even though Street Artists use this tool in the four ways we mention above, they use a very strong power to push their message just because they use walls. They call everyone attention whether the audience like or not. Their voices are on streets. We believe that as they speak, express and paint freely they develop not only a personal but a general freedom sense, that make them and all citizenship feel stronger as human beings.