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Brazil: Manifesto For The Immediate Release of Graffiti Painter

The 28th Bienal de São Paulo came to a close in the first week of December, but the graffiti painter arrested on October 26 for spraying its pavilion's walls remains in jail. Caroline Pivetta da Mota spent her 24th birthday last Saturday behind Santana Penitentiary's bars, where she shares a cell with another young woman, convicted of armed robbery. She will probably still be there for Christmas and maybe even when the next arts biennial takes place in 2010, as the punishment set by the Environmental Crimes Law for the “destruction of cultural heritage” is of one to three years imprisonment.

A photo taken probably a few moments before Caroline Pivetta da Mota's arrest, which has been published by many bloggers, such as Leandro Ravaglia. Two in a group of about 40 grafitti painters were caught, but only Caroline remains in jail.

Fotoclubef508 [pt] is one of the many blogs to publish the text of a manifesto for the immediate release of Caroline Pivetta da Mota, written by Studium Magazine “on behalf of all humiliated and imprisoned artists in the history of mankind”. It says:

A jovem pichadora é pobre e suburbana. Sem uma família influente, está mofando há mais de 40 dias na cadeia. Pensem o contrário: se fosse um filho das altas classes sociais paulistanas, estaria preso? Provavelmente um escritório de advocacia já teria impetrado e ganho um habeas corpus, ou o garoto nem sequer tivesse sido preso…

A Arte se entristece com esta postura autoritária e policial.

Também não devemos confundir “danificar patrimônio público”, com o que aconteceu: uma coisa é alguém sujar um espaço público de uso coletivo; outra coisa é uma situação como essa, onde havia um espaço público destinado às manifestações artísticas. Podemos até admitir questionar o caráter artístico da manifestação da garota, mas isso é outra história, outra discussão, outro lugar, e a prisão não é a resposta.

The young graffiti painter is poor and from the other side of the tracks. Without an influential family, she has been stuck for more than 40 days in jail. Think about the contrary: should it be a child from the upper social classes of São Paulo, would they be in jail? Probably, a law firm would have petitioned the judge for a writ of habeas corpus, or the person would not even have been arrested…
The arts are saddened by this authoritarian and policed attitude.
We must not confuse “damaging public property” with what happened there: soiling a public space for collective use is one thing; a situation like this, where there was a public space dedicated to artistic expression, is something else. We can even accept to question the character of the girl's artistic expression, but that is another story, another discussion, another place, and imprisonment is not the answer.

The moment Caroline Pivetta da Mota was arrested, in reproduction from CCTV images

DJ Saddam [pt] says that Caroline has in fact had two habeas corpus denied by the Court of São Paulo because she could not produce proof of address, and agrees that her social background must have played a role in her not succeeding in being released from custody. He wishes the graffiti painter a happy birthday and wonders about the way society has responded to the issue:

Avaliando os comentários a respeito deste fato nos sites dos principais jornais, frequentados pela classe média reacionária, me causou espécie que a maioria vê com aprovação a prisão da jovem – o que não aconteceria se esta fosse filha ou neta desta gente.

Judging from the comments on this issue on the major newspapers’ websites, attended by the reactionary middle class, I was intrigued by the fact that the majority of them approve the young woman's arrest – which would not happen if she was their daughter or granddaughter.

Last week, the murder of a 3 year old boy by a police officer went unpunished in Rio de Janeiro. Many bloggers, among them Leandro Ravaglia [pt], are saying there are many faces of justice in Brazil:

Não estou defendendo a moça. Nunca pratiquei e acho uma merda a cidade toda rabiscada, mas deve-se lembrar que a própria curadoria da Bienal convidou os visitantes a “interagir com os espaços vazios do evento”, sem definir até onde tal “interação” podia ir.

Dado isto, fica a dica: Largue da lata e compre um revólver. Pichar dá cadeia.

I'm not defending the girl. I have never done it and I think it is shit to have the whole city sprayed, but one should remember that the Biennale's curators had invited visitors to “interact with the empty spaces of the exhibition,” without defining how far this “interaction” could go. Considering this, here is a tip: forget the spray can and get a gun. Graffiti results in jail.

“Down with dictatorship”, one of the phrases sprayed at the pavilion designed by Oscar Niemayer to host the São Paulo Art Biennials. Photo by flickr user A day after, the walls were white-washed again.

Billionaire banker Daniel Dantas, while under investigation by federal police on a series of charges including money laundering and fraud, was twice imprisoned and twice released by the Brazilian Supreme Court last July, and altogether spent much less time in jail than Caroline: three days. Despite the fact that Dantas has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for attempting to bribe the police to drop a money laundering investigation against him and ordered to pay a fine of R$1.4 million (around $600,000), he remains free pending his appeal against the ruling. Nice Pinheiro [pt] mentions other similar cases and gets very angry at the whole system, which seems to let the important and rich get off lightly with real crimes, and to punish exaggeratedly the poor and uneducated:

Aqui é assim: roubou um pote de margarina, pichou um muro vazio e reservado a expressões culturais públicas, furtou um pão pra matar a fome, vai em cana. Não tem perdão! Praticar crime contra a administração pública, lesar os contribuintes, fraudar documentos, licitações, desviar dinheiro público e outras cositas mais, são violações irrelevantes, crimes “leves”, transgressões morais e éticas sem importância alguma…Imagina!!!

Here it is like this: stealing a pot of margarine, spraying an empty wall kept for cultural public expression, pinching a loaf of bread to kill hunger [means] going to jail. There is no forgiveness! Committing crimes against the public administration, encroaching on taxpayers, defrauding through documents and fraudulent bidding, diverting public money and other little things are irrelevant violations, “light” crimes, moral and ethical transgressions without any importance … Imagine!

The Culture Minister Juca Ferreira has campaigned for the girl's freedom and even called up the Governor of São Paulo State José Serra asking for him to intervene on behalf of Caroline Pivetta da Mota – to no avail, as the governor is quoted to have said that Caroline's release is up to the Justice. Paulo D'Auria [pt] comments on Serra's reaction to the request:

Para o ministro da cultura e para este revoltado blogueiro que vos escreve “é um escândalo uma pessoa ficar presa esse tempo todo porque fez uma intervenção gráfica”.

O que o país ou a cidade ganham deixando presa junto com criminosas de verdade (ladras, assassinas) uma pichadora?

Sinto muito aos paulistanos retrógrados e ao governador (que – reza a lenda – já foi jovem e líder do movimento estudantil), mas não estou aqui pra fazer média com vocês:

A prisão de Caroline é uma vergonha para esta cidade!!!

For the minister of culture and for this angry blogger who writes here “it is a scandal that someone serves all this time in jail for making a graphic intervention”. What does the country get back by leaving a graffiti painter in jail with real criminal (thieves, killers)? I am sorry for the people of São Paulo for the backward Governor (who – it is said – was once a young leader of the student movement), but I am not here to be nice with you: Caroline's arrest is a disgrace to this city!

“Set Carol free” – Photo from POIESIS trabalho & cultura blog.

Yúdice Andrade is concerned about the victimization of the graffiti painter, who, nevertheless, committed an act of vandalism. She thinks, however, the girl should be allowed to respond for her crime in freedom:

Não mudei o meu ponto de vista, centenas de vezes sustentado aqui no blog, de que neste país se prende demais e sem necessidade. De que a persecução criminal é muito dura com os desprovidos de acesso aos bens da vida. Enfim, não afirmo que Caroline deva permanecer presa, mesmo sabendo que ela já responde a um outro processo, sob a mesma acusação. Que a soltem, para responder em liberdade. Mas não a tratem como vítima.

I have not changed my point of view, which I sustained hundreds of times here on this blog, that in this country we jail too much and unnecessarily. That the criminal prosecution is very hard on those who lack access to assets in life. Finally, I am not saying that Caroline should remain in jail, even though she has already faced charges in a different case, under the same indictment. Let her out to respond in freedom. But do not treat her as a victim.

POIESIS trabalho & cultura blog [pt] says that not only has the judicial system failed, the whole cultural apparatus is no longer functioning:

O aparato cultural do sistema não continua a arte moderna, mas a amordaça, recuperando-a. Já Carol e seus amigos, que não reivindicam fazer arte, mas contestá-la, justamente desse modo são herdeiros da grande arte moderna e de vanguarda do século 20… herdeiros legítimos, e precisamente porque se recusam a apropriar-se dela. Liberdade para Carol!

The cultural apparatus of the system does not bring continuity to modern art, but muzzles it, retrieves it. Already Carol and her friends, who do not claim to make art but to contest it, are for doing exactly this the inheritors of the great modern and avant-garde art of the 20th century … legitimate heirs, and precisely because they refuse to frame it. Freedom for Carol!

“Jail is only for the poor – Freedom for Carol” – Photo from POIESIS trabalho & cultura blog.


  • EXCELLENT article, Paula!
    I just can’t wait to see it in our GV in Portuguese headlines too!
    The situation of (in)Justice in our country is ages-old. Since the dawn of our history (after-“discovery”) is marked by the absolute injustice against the weaker groups. Aboriginal peoples, enslaved African peoples, mestizos, impoverished shantytown and downtown dwellers, people who are “naturally” guilty of anything they could be — just because they’re different from the elites somehow. Below our thin make-up of beautiful country with racial and social justice, we are as dirty and unfair and cruel as any other country. Our lies about ourselves are one of the biggest obstacles we face in our (long) way to the real development. Not the one other countries might wish for us, but the true development as a place of equality, justice and plentifulness for all.
    I hope we get there someday.
    Happy birthday to Carol. She probably had better birthdays in her past…


  • danil

    free carol

  • pixar é errado errar é humano somos humanos por isso pixamos

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