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Pixação: What is Pixo?

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PIXO is a Brazilian documentary (2009) directed by João Wainer and Roberto T. Oliveira:

And here an article written by Marcio Siwi for The Guardian about Pixação and Graffiti:

If Brazil is “not for beginners”, as the composer Antonio Carlos Jobim once said, then its great urban centre, São Paulo, is certainly not for the faint of heart. It’s not just the noisy streets, the extreme socio-economic inequality, the abandoned buildings and the drug addicts roaming notorious “Cracolandia” that give my home city its rough edges. It’s what is written on the walls, too.

There is thick black paint on virtually every wall or facade here. When my photographer friend Pablo Lopez Luz came to visit, it was the first thing that caught his eye: “What’s with all the graffiti?” he asked. “It’s not graffiti,” I replied, “it’s pixação.”

At first sight, it is difficult to tell the two styles apart, but there are important differences. In the case of graffiti – be it tagging or bombing – the letters are rounder and more stylised thanks to the copious use of blending, shading and other techniques. Colour is another important element: the brighter the better in most cases, in images and figures too.

By contrast pixadores, as practitioners are called, (sometimes spelled pichadores) seldom create visuals, only letters. Their ubiquitous calligraphy is composed of straight lines and sharp edges, giving their creations – pixos – a jagged look. They are also primarily black (the verb “pichar” in Portuguese means to cover with tar). But just because pixos are monochromatic and less stylised does not mean they lack history or socio-cultural significance.

There are more than 5,000 active pixadores in São Paulo now.
There are more than 5,000 active pixadores in São Paulo. Photograph: Pablo Lopez Luz

The use of São Paulo’s city walls as a canvas is not new. In the 1930s, political candidates wrote campaign slogans all over them. By the late 1960s, when students took to the streets to voice their dissent against Brazil’s military government, spray painting phrases such as “abaixo a ditatura” (“down with the dictatorship”) on the walls of public buildings became an important act of protest.

 The style we now identify with pixação first emerged in São Paulo in the 1980s. Politically, the country was undergoing a gradual transition to democracy, but politics weren’t the only thing on the mind of São Paulo’s youth – so was heavy metal.

The musical genre that developed in the UK and US gained a strong following in São Paulo. In addition to the brute force of bands such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, AC/DC and Metallica, Paulistano youths were also attracted to their album covers – in particular, the runic-inspired typeface these bands used to brand themselves.

In true Brazilian fashion, youths in São Paulo cannibalised this foreign practice. Thus began the evolution of this city’s distinctive pixação: a style of urban writing that has inspired numerous pixadores to come up with their own variations on this type of calligraphy – according to one estimate, there are more than 5,000 active pixadores in São Paulo alone.

At its most basic level, pixação is about vanity, fame and self-promotion, which is why the vast majority of pixos are either personal monikers or the names of particular griffes (collectives). Fame in the world of pixação is primarily a numbers game – so much so that seasoned pixadores boast about having left their mark on nearly every wall of the city. Currently, one of São Paulo’s most famous and prolific pixadores goes by the moniker RAPDOS, a variation on the word rápido.

Pixação is also about visibility, particularly the kind that can only be achieved through daring acts of courage. In its most basic form, rolê de chão or “pavement cruising”, the targets are walls and the risk is relatively low – although it is still a criminal offence that carries a potential prison sentence.

The more extreme form is janela de prédio (“building window”), for which success is measured in terms of height. Pixadores – usually in teams of two – climb a building’s facade by grabbing on to its window ledges and pulling themselves up, floor by floor, leaving their pixos as they go up. Rooftop pixos require guts and the right equipment – black ink and a paint roller attached to a broomstick – but sometimes that’s not enough, and to extend their reach, pixadores have to dangle their bodies over the roof ledge.

These daring acts, however, do not come close to escalada, or “buildering”, whereby pixadores scale the outside of a building by holding on to its external surge arrester cable. This is a particularly perilous way to climb a building considering that the clamps used to fix this cable onto the facade are not built to withstand the weight of a person. To make matters worse, escaladas are executed at night by a lone pixador.

Not surprisingly, accidents are common – and sometimes fatal. But for the adrenaline-seeking pixador, the pay-off is worth the risk. By scaling the building in such a way, they can access large sections of a facade that have never been touched by another pixador. This kind of real estate is hard to come by in São Paulo, and nearly impossible for those who stick to rolê de chão and janela de prédio, where the competition for space is stiff.

In more extreme forms, success is measured by height.
Photograph: Pablo Lopez Luz

Aside from fame, visibility and adrenaline, the most important motivation for pixadores is anger – primarily directed against the city. Unlike graffiti (which many pixadores reject as being “too commercial” and a “beautification scheme”), pixação seeks to positively degrade the urban environment. As one pixador put it, pixação is “an assault on the city”.

This hostile relationship is ingrained in the very language of pixação. For instance, pixadores never use the term “paint” or “spray”. Instead, they prefer “arrebentar”, “detonar” or “escancarar” (“smash”, “blow-up” and “destroy”). Some typical pixador monikers translate as “shock”, “neurosis”, “death”, “scare”, “nightmare”, “danger” and “nocturnal attack”.

This anger towards the city is much more than teenage bravado or youthful rage. It is rooted in a sense of social injustice that is intrinsically connected with the pattern of uneven urbanisation that began in the 1940s and continues today. Seeking to remake São Paulo into a modern city, elite reformers and boosters of the 1940s and 50s embarked on ambitious urban renewal projects. In addition to infrastructural improvements, a street widening programme, the construction of a massive urban park (Parque Ibirapuera) and other beautification projects, the main feature of São Paulo’s urban renewal was its modernist skyscrapers.

Fuelled by easy credit, ambitious developers and aspirations for a New York-style skyline, São Paulo experienced an unprecedented building boom in the immediate postwar period. Some of the city’s best known modernist buildings date back to this period, including David Libeskind’s Conjunto Nacional, Franz Heep’s Edifício Itália, and Oscar’s Niemeyer’s iconic S-shaped Copan building.

But while such urban renewal projects may have benefited better-off Paulistanos who lived and worked in and around downtown São Paulo, they had an adverse effect on the lives of the city’s working-class residents. To transform São Paulo into the modern city envisioned, large portions were demolished, especially the “outmoded” buildings located in the downtown area inhabited by the working poor. Unable to find affordable housing in and around downtown, working-class Paulistanos were left with two bad options: join the urban poor in one of the city’s growing favelas, or relocate to the periphery. Most chose the periphery.

Life there was, and still is, challenging. Far from São Paulo’s downtown area where most jobs are concentrated, peripheral neighbourhoods also lacked the basic public services associated with modern urban living, including a proper sewage system, running water, paved roads, electricity, hospitals and schools. One early resident described living in the periphery as “like living in the wilderness”. As a result, São Paulo earned the reputation of being one of the world’s most unequal cities, divided between the haves of the centre and the have-nots of the periphery.

The anger that pixadores felt – and still feel – towards the city should be understood in the context of this uneven pattern of urban development. In the words of a well-known pixador, “Pixação is a reflection of the absence of the state in the life of that person who decided to become a pixador.” It is no coincidence that the vast majority of pixadores hail from São Paulo’s peripheral neighbourhoods and, just as important, that their preferred targets tend to be the centrally located modernist buildings – especially those designed by famous architects.

Pixadores have also targeted historic sites such as the Ramos de Azevedo fountain in downtown São Paulo.
Ramos de Azevedo fountain in downtown São Paulo. Photograph: Pablo Lopez Luz

In recent years, pixadores have targeted icons of São Paulo’s modernism, including the Wilton Paes de Almeida building and Niemeyer’s famous pavilion located inside Ibirapuera Park. Pixadores have also tarnished sites that are part of the city’s historic patrimony, including the Ramos de Azevedo fountain in downtown São Paulo. The more sacred the site, the more attractive it is as a target for their pixos.

Many pixadores approach their craft in terms of politics. As one pixador put it in a recent documentary by João Wainer, “We practise class warfare.” Others are more romantic, hoping that their pixos, by tarnishing the appearance of the more privileged areas of the city, will encourage better-off Paulistanos to reflect on the way working-class residents live – especially those in the periphery.

Unsurprisingly, however, the more common reaction to a wall full of pixos is resentment. To city officials and the “victims” of pixação, pixadores are vandals whose creations – which one observer referred to as “an urban plague” – must be eradicated at all cost.

Local authorities and residents have been engaged in a battle to stem the flow of pixação since the early 1980s, when the practice first emerged. Yet despite hi-tech security cameras, neighbourhood watch groups, police intimidation, draconian laws and a special sanitary unit within the city government dedicated to covering up pixos, pixação is more popular and widespread in São Paulo today than ever before.

The city’s authorities may be no match for pixação, but there are signs that the market forces that have co-opted graffiti and transformed it into an “acceptable” urban expression now hope to do the same with pixação. Pixação – and the image of the pixador as a subversive figure – has already been appropriated by such international brands as Puma to sell their apparel. A pixação-inspired font, Adrenalina, can be downloaded for US$25 and, in 2012, the 7th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art invited a group of pixadores to make an “artistic intervention”.

While some pixadores have embraced the idea of marketing pixação as a “legitimate” art form, others are much more critical. In recent years, one group has invaded a number of art galleries in São Paulo’s hippest neighbourhoods that were exhibiting (and selling) works by pixadores and photographs of pixos. In an act of protest, they covered all the pieces with black ink and painted slogans such as “sell-out” and “the street does not need you”. For these pixadores, ensuring that pixação remains a marginal expression of the urban periphery – as opposed to a marketable commodity – is essential to its very survival.

Marcio Siwi is a PhD candidate in history at New York University whose work explores post-war urban development and cultural production in São Paulo and New York.

 

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L’arte de Giuseppe Mastromatteo

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L’arte de Giuseppe Mastromatteo:

Dangers of in vitro fertilization and related treatments that infertile couples are not considering…

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Assisted Reproduction Treatment and the New Era of Multiple Babies

Assisted Reproduction Treatment and the New Era of Multiple Babies

Few months ago, a rich chinese couple had 8 babies with the help of assisted reproduction treatment. The mother had three of the children herself, and the other five with two surrogates, though the couple did not expected to have so many. It took years trying to have children and they spent nearly one million yuan (more than $150,000) on the procedure. After the babies were born, the couple hired eleven people, including eight baby sitters and a teacher, to take care of them.

The inability to have a child of one’s own challenges the most basic instinct. Patients who are infertile express extraordinary desperation, and many couples are prepared to try almost anything, no matter how speculative, unproven or even risky is the technology. Often out of genuine sympathy, medical practitioners are sometimes too ready to avoid crushing hope and instead offer treatments with little or no evidence base. Moreover, some therapies, which on any assessment are highly empirical or unproven, are being used in human subjects before they have been validated by proper cell culture experiments or detailed animal research (Halliday, 2011; Wiener-Megnazi et al., 2011; Winston & Hardy, 2002).

The in vitro Nobel with the first in vitro baby carrying her own baby!

In this 2008 photo, Nobel laureate Robert Edwards (left) attends the 30th birthday of the world's first 'test tube' baby, Louise Joy Brown (right), holding her son Cameron, and with her mother, Lesley Brown, at Bourn Hall, England.

One of the big questions is concerned about the high doses of hormones (gonadotrophins) taken to mature many eggs simultaneously. There is still doubt as to whether these drugs radically alter the uterine environment and the chances of successful implantation, and animal studies suggest that the super ovulation decreases embryo and fetal viability. Human studies indicated that implantation may be more likely when large amounts of exogenous hormones are avoided. After administration of these hormones, in both animals and humans, many of the eggs obtained are not viable. Interestingly, without in vitro fertilization, singleton pregnancies after hormone drugs treatment alone have a similarly increased risk of prematurity as in vitro fertilization pregnancies, suggesting that the hormone injection is a fundamental problem (Winston & Hardy, 2002).

Another important question is related to the potential adverse effects of in vitro fertilization with cell freezing (cryopreservation). Changes in embryonic metabolism during freezing may alter embryonic gene expression, and a subtle change in DNA might not manifest its effects until late in development, perhaps years after birth! For these reasons and others not mentioned here, it is regrettable that more stringent follow-up is not routine after all in vitro fertilization procedures of this type (Winston & Hardy, 2002).

The intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is another assisted reproduction treatment being used worldwide, and is also raising more doubts. Hundred of thousands of procedures have now been performed in Europe alone while the animal studies are many years behind the onset of human treatments. In a typical study of a mixed population, it was postulated that a slight increase in de novo chromosomal aberrations (a chromosome abnormality that occurred in the individual and was not inherited from the parents) in children born with this technique is more likely to be linked to the characteristics of the sperm injected rather than problems inherent in the procedure itself. However, this remains unproven. If it is true, maybe the infertility was playing a genetic protection (Halliday, 2011; Wiener-Megnazi et al., 2011).

Even with all those problems and questions raised about in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection, there is much less experience with some other techniques that are being heavily promoted: embryo biopsy and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). With these techniques, there is hope that ‘better quality’ embryos may be transferred – but is still an open question. But even being an open question, clinics are advertising a lot, and charging for this service.

New Babies

New Babies

A new therapy that has proceeded from concept to clinic with amazing rapidity is cytoplasmic transfer – the injection of a small amount of cytoplasm from healthy egg donor would rejuvenate recipient egg from women with recurrent in vitro fertilization failure. However, the fact that the cells of the offspring will contain mitochondria from both donor and the future mother has raised significant concerns regarding the safety of this technique because mitochondria is supposed to be maternally inherited. There is no idea of the consequences for future generations. Therefore, having a surrogate would be safer for having a healthier offspring, and that is why infertile couples started to look for surrogacy in poorer countries (Jayaraman, 2012).

All these worries were increased by the report (Schieve et al., 2002) that found that in vitro fertilization babies were 2.6 times more likely to be underweight than those born after natural conception. Recently, a study (Tararbit et al., 2011) found that assisted reproduction treatment were associated with a 2.5 times higher of developing Tetralogy of Fallot (congenital heart defect) with the highest risk associated with ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection). It is imperative that detailed and careful follow-up is carried out of children born as a result of assisted reproductive technologies, taking account of whether the embryos have been produced through classical in vitro fertilization (IVF) or by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), cryopreserved (freezing) or cultured for extended periods of time or had cells removed for pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD).

“Patient desperation, medical hubris and commercial pressures should not be allowed to be the key determining features in this generation of humans. Bringing a child into the world is the most serious human responsibility. We cannot ignore the clouds lowering over these valuable therapies” (Winston & Hardy, 2002).

The New Era of Babies

The New Era of Babies

This is a summary of few scientific papers:

“Surrogacy tourism to rise”  by K. S. Jayaraman – Nature, 2012.

“Advanced paternal age and reproductive outcome”  by Zofnat Wiener-Megnazi, Ron Auslender and Martha Dirnfeld – Asian Journal of Andrology, 2011.

“A Population-Based Evaluation of the Specific Risks for Five Major Congenital Heart Defects in Relation to Assisted Reproductive Technologies”  by Tararbit et al. – Pediatric Research, 2011.

“Outcomes for offspring of men having ICSI for male factor infertility”  by Jane Halliday – Asian Journal of Andrology, 2011.

“Are we ignoring potential dangers of in vitro fertilization and related treatments?”  by Robert M. L. Winston and Kate Hardy – Nature, 2002.

Watch for higher risk of ovarian tumours after ovarian stimulation for in-vitro fertilization

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in-vitro baby

in-vitro baby

Ovarian stimulation for in-vitro fertilization may increase the risk of ovarian malignancies, especially borderline ovarian tumors. The percentage of children born in the Western world by assisted reproductive technologies is increasing. Fertilized drugs used in in-vitro fertilization treatment temporarily raise hormones, and consequently increase the chances of multiple ovulations. The long-term effects of ovarian stimulation are unknown, and concerns have been raised that ovarian stimulation as used in in-vitro fertilization may increase the risk of ovarian malignancies. Invasive ovarian cancer accounts for 6% of female cancer deaths in the USA (Jemal et al., 2008).

Lots of confounders, such as cause of sub-fertility, have limited the conclusions from previous studies about the link between higher risk of ovarian cancer and ovarian stimulation. The study presented here (van Leeuwen et al., 2011) is the first one analyzing the risk of borderline ovarian tumours following in-vitro fertilization treatment.

This large study with a follow-up of 15 years (and more than 20 thousand women history were analyzed) shows that women treated with ovarian stimulation for in-vitro fertilization have a double increased risk of all ovarian malignancies compared with subfertile women not treated with in-vitro fertilization, and more than 4 times increased risk of borderline ovarian malignancies compared with subfertile women not treated with in-vitro fertilization. The study is also confirmed by the observation of a high proportion (46%) of all ovarian malignancies in the in-vitro fertilization group concerned borderline ovarian tumours, whereas in the general population borderline ovarian tumours account only for 15–30% of ovarian malignancies.

A concerning finding of this study is the increased rate of invasive ovarian cancer in the in-vitro fertilization group after more than 15 years of follow-up, which was not observed in the non-in-vitro fertilization group.

ovarian stimulation

ovarian stimulation

In conclusion, the results suggest that ovarian stimulation for in-vitro fertilization may increase the risk of ovarian malignancies, especially borderline ovarian tumours. Knowledge about the magnitude of the risks associated with ovarian stimulation is important for women considering starting or continuing in-vitro fertilization treatment, as well as their treating physicians. Clearly, the outcome of weighing a wish to conceive against the potential risks associated with in-vitro fertilization may differ among couples considering fertility treatment.

It should be explained to women opting for in-vitro fertilization treatment that a borderline ovarian tumour does not constitute a lethal disease, although it may require extensive surgery and cause substantial morbidity. Ovarian cancer, however, is a disease with a high case fatality rate, for which effective screening methods are not available.

This is a summary of the paper “Risk of borderline and invasive ovarian tumours after ovarian stimulation for in vitro fertilization in a large Dutch cohort” by F.E. van Leeuwen and collaborators: http://humrep.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/10/19/humrep.der322.full.pdf