A group of Brazilian artists in the city of Rio de Janeiro fighting to protect the fragile, vertiginous Brazilian democracy through street art called “lambe-lambe”. Tupinambá Lambido took a break to talk about art, freedom and democracy to Wall Street International Magazine.

What is Tupinambá Lambido?

Tupinambá Lambido is the name of a group of artists from Rio de Janeiro who work with street or lambe-lambe (wheatpaste posters) on the street, whose themes are essentially political.

When and how did the idea come about?

When President Dilma was deposed, we realised that the political situation deserved a response from the artists at the height of the events. Art needed to leave galleries and museums, where the reach is limited, and go to the streets.

Why “anonymity”? Could Tupinambá Lambido be a “Tupinambá Banksy”?

Why? In Brazil censorship begins to return little by little. And the use we make of urban spaces is illegal. Banksy is very good, and all good art has something political, even if it is about the education of the eye. But in our case, it is a more incisive criticism of the reigning necropolitics.

Street art has always been a democratic form of manifestations of cultural and political activism. How does the current situation in Brazil contribute and inspire TL?

Brazil is one of the most unequal countries in the world. And the Brazilian neo-capitalism is very cruel, to the point that the State is less and less concerned with the neediest and unassisted people. After the coup that deposed Dilma Rousseff, the State began to cut funds from education, health, social rights, to carry out reforms that would end the labour and social security rights conquered since the 1940s as education, health to the worker, the woman, the black, the indigenous in short, the conditions of work and minorities.

What is the main source of inspiration for Tupinambá Lambido?

In fact, we are several artists, so our sources are different, even because we are from different generations. But contemporary activism inspires us, and above all for modern and contemporary Brazilian art. But in the case of posters or lambes, we realised that there was a common tendency to appropriate images and symbols used by the State, by the press, by the capitalist system, which are images and symbols that we needed to fight. So, we have appropriated them critically, a mixture of anthropophagy (as it existed between Modernists and Tropicália - a Brazilian artistic movement) and something we can call tactical media.

Can Tupinambá Lambido activism be seen in other cities in Brazil or just in Rio de Janeiro? Is there any idea of expanding it to other capitals?

As our actions became better known, we got support from art collectors that allowed us to think about intervening in other capitals, starting with São Paulo, which is a very large and influential city. So this action is likely to have an effect in São Paulo.

What has changed since the Dilma administration to the present and how does this influence TL's cultural and critical activism?

What has changed is that these governments, especially Bolsonaro's, are closely connected with the police, and even the militias, especially in Rio de Janeiro. Therefore, intervening on the streets of Rio at this time carries many risks.

How does TL choose locations to “expose” work to the public?

We generally choose between the various collage points of advertising campaigns spread around the city and occupy them. Lick-lick is generally allowed in Rio on sidings and certain walls. And there is a tradition in this city of using lambe-lambe to advertise shows and plays. We usually stick to neighbourhoods in the north, west, south and center.

Sub-posed colours, letter fonts forming new words like O Golpe (O Globo), Satan (Santander), are some examples of Tupinambá Lambido's artistic “provocations”, how do you do this poetic and aesthetic “recycling”?

As we said above, we appropriate the symbols, logos and images of the institutions of power to make their symbols turn against them critically. Globo, banks, financial capital, that is, the market, were some of the main players in Dilma's deposition coup. Therefore, nothing better than backfire. They said that with Bolsonaro and Guedes, the stock market would rise to 400,000 points. From Dilma to now just fell. Our currency and reserves have been devalued. The debt only increased. Even the spectre of inflation threatens to return. It is institutional and financial chaos.

Will Tupinambá Lambido always be opposed or not, in relation to governments?

It depends on the government. We can be critical of some progressive governments, but there is a big difference between governments that promote a setback like the one we are experiencing at the moment in Brazil. Not only is there a cultural war going on - against education, against universities, against science, against the environment - but above all, a constant threat of a military dictatorship. After all, more than half of Jair Bolsonaro's government ministries are occupied by the military.

What is the social and artistic legacy that Tupinambá Lambido would like to leave for society?

The legacy is that art is not restricted to galleries and museums, that art can be struggle and resistance, that art can be made with little money, with very simple means.

What can we expect from Tupinambá Lambido regarding the next elections?

We are not linked to any particular party and our campaigns are generally carried out outside election periods. We are leftist, progressive, we are for a gender and identity policy, but these words are too worn out to give an account of what we think about art and politics. Perhaps the best fit would be to say that we are against any form of authoritarianism, repression and censorship. We are, above all, against necropolitics and neo-capitalism for promoting more inequality and violence and attacks on the environment, women, blacks, and indigenous. We are strongly against these precarious new ways of working. Brazil is an immense, very rich country, there is no reason why its people, who are so hard-working, go hungry, do not have access to education and health. If Brazil knew how to explore the Amazon rainforest in a conscious and self-sustainable way, not only would more people have jobs, but we would earn much more money without destroying it. Denialism and this lack of vision shame us.