«Ixtaltepec mural» by OSCAR AXO

Street Art piece that has modified the urban space: Ixtaltepec mural

Location : Ixtaltepec Town

Year : 2018

1- If you had to choose a Street Art piece that you created, as a transformation of the urban space, which one would you choose? How does this Street Art piece denote urban space metamorphosis?

I would certainly choose the intervention carried out in the town of Ixtaltepec in Oaxaca. This work was born at a very difficult time in the region and ended up becoming a symbol of an entire community.

«Ixtaltepec mural» by OSCAR AXO – Ixtaltepec Town, México | Photo provided by Oscar Axo

2- Why did you make this Street Art piece in this urban space? Was it the town hall or the property owner who authorized or asked you to create it? Can we consider this work as illegal/vandalism or legal, what is your criteria?

It really was a legal project. On September 7, 2017 the southern region of Mexico was shaken by a tremor of 8.1 degrees on the Richter scale. Ixtaltepec was the most affected city in Oaxaca, 90% of its buildings collapsed. Reconstruction was very slow. The association «One Hand for Oaxaca» invited me to intervene one of the few walls that were left standing after the earthquake. We decided to pay tribute to the owner of the house, who at the time lived in a makeshift room among the ruins. Na Ersita (grandmother Ersita in the Zapotec language) is one of the traditional cooks of the town, and with her mural I wanted to pay homage to the strength, culture and dignity of women in the region (there is a majority of the female population in the region due to immigration of men). The intervention ended up becoming an emblem or symbol of resistance of a people who refused to disappear and who day by day struggled to rebuild themselves and preserve their culture. Now it is lovingly cared for by the villagers.

«Ixtaltepec mural» by OSCAR AXO – Ixtaltepec Town, México | Photo provided by Oscar Axo

3- What is the message you want to communicate through this Street Art piece? Is it related to the urban space where you did it?

It is a tribute to the dignity of the woman from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca. Also a reminder of the strength of the women who rebuilt this town after the earthquakes, and who preserved their traditions.

«Ixtaltepec mural» by OSCAR AXO – Ixtaltepec Town, México | Photo provided by Oscar Axo

4- How was this work integrated into the urban space? What was the interaction that the inhabitants of this city had with your project? Did they participate in its creation?

The intervention was carried out on a very significant wall for the inhabitants of the area, since it was one of the few walls that were intact after the earthquakes. The act of painting the image of a woman with symbols of her culture in this space, made the work a source of pride and community resistance. From the first moment, the neighbors volunteered for the project.

«Ixtaltepec mural» by OSCAR AXO – Ixtaltepec Town, México | Photo provided by Oscar Axo

5-Do you think it is important that the inhabitants of the place participate during the production of your work and that they become modifying artists of the urban space or do you prefer to carry out your projects alone without anyone seeing you?

I love to involve people. Listen to their anecdotes, their traditions and customs. I think that all of this enriches the work. I remember very much what a lady once told me in Bacalar, a town in the Mexican Caribbean: “always remember when you paint, the people who walk here daily, for you they leave and we stay”. From my point of view, Street Arts is essentially an imposition, but it can become a very important bridge of dialogue.

«Ixtaltepec mural» by OSCAR AXO – Ixtaltepec Town, México | Photo provided by Oscar Axo

6- According to you, what is the criteria that determines your Street Art work modifies the urban space and why is your work considered aesthetically well done?

I consider that aesthetically an intervention is well done when it enters into the dynamics of the social life that surrounds it, when it is appropriated by the community. Later, other factors such as plastic and invoice values ​​are considered.

«Ixtaltepec mural» by OSCAR AXO – Ixtaltepec Town, México | Photo provided by Oscar Axo

7-What is the “historical future” of your work? Should we take care of it, preserve it and repaint it as if it were a museum’s piece of art? Or should it be allowed to age with the city itself?

The street and in general the urban dynamics are very changing and transitory. The city is constantly recreating itself, destroying the old and preserving what it considers important within its history or traditions. Most of the time the work will age and end up being destroyed by natural factors, thus ending its cycle. That is the transitory aesthetic of Street Art. But if one is lucky, a work may have become a very important identity element of the community where it is made, and then the community itself will take care of it and extend its existence a little more. In the end only the photographic record will remain. There is something mystical in the transience  of urban art.

8- How does your work add value to the urban space in which it is produced?

I believe that projects by involving the community create a very important connection, it is no longer an imposed proposal, now it was part of the dynamics of the community. In other cases, the mere fact of painting a space considerably improves the transit of people. It can be without a doubt a dangerous gentrification game. So I think, without the community nothing, with the community everything.

«Ixtaltepec mural» by OSCAR AXO – Ixtaltepec Town, México | Photo provided by Oscar Axo

9- What were the difficulties that you encountered during the completion of your work modifying the urban space?

There will always be difficulties, each project has its challenges. In this case it was the heat, and the state of seismic alert (trembled every day) that was still part of the town.

10- Why is urban art important to modify the urban space? What sort of projects are you planning to do in the future ?

I consider urban art to be a means of expression that can influence a considerable number of people. So it seems to me that painting on the street is a great responsibility. Undoubtedly, a project will not fix the multiple social problems that are lived day by day, but they promote empathy processes that are important for a better coexistence and in turn leave a positive aesthetic change in the public space. If the community where it is painted is recognized and on the wall and forces it to reflect on itself, it is already a great contribution.

«Ixtaltepec mural» by OSCAR AXO – Ixtaltepec Town, México | Photo provided by Oscar Axo

Oscar Axo.

Interview conducted by Art Bill – journalist and owner of Street Art In Action.

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