Interview with Artist Bla Bla Buto

The last two weeks have been very busy–I’d been rushing to finish up a revision of one of my DAIA articles, due this past Friday–and I’ve let the blog slip a bit. But with the article submitted, I’m back in the game! I’ll try to post a few new things this week, hopefully another entry in the Pa’l Norte series about my trip to northwestern Argentina and something about Bartolme Mitre of two-peso-note fame, to launch the History by the Bill series I’ve been excited to write for a few weeks now.

But first, some catch-up. An interview I did with Federico Vazquez Villarino, aka comic and street artist Bla Bla Buto, went up on Juanele last week. I’ve pulled a few questions and responses and posted them below; you can read the full interview here.

Juanele: How’d you create the character of Bla Bla Buto?

Fede: The truth is pretty boring. I needed to have a mask, like an excuse. Sometimes I get tired of myself and I invent new characters. And sometimes I get tired of the new characters and I come up with other new ones. Bla Bla Buto came off a wall, actually. I drew a shape and above the shape I drew a line that ended up being a nose, then some glasses, a bald oval, and I said, What is this? Why is this there? He wants to come out more often, many of them, I’ve made a ton of them, they want to invade everything.

Really it was a mark, like the majority of graffiti artists write their name, with changed letters, and for me, it was eliminating the letters and putting up a character, a face.

J: Many of your comics — or at least, the ones that I like the most — start off in a really grandiose way, but then at the end nothing much happens. What’s that about?

F: Eh, ha ha. I don’t know…

J: For example, “Don Pepe,” or “Can I take a piss in the street?”

F: What happens is that the littlest things sometimes become very important depending on how you look at them. I’m passing through a stage when I like the more insignificant things and, like, yeah, absurd stories, where nothing happens. But I think it’s a stage.

J: The art that you make seems to have very little to do with the commercial art world. Did you reject it deliberately?

F: I have a marked tendency to make comics and in a very caricatured style, and this doesn’t fit so well with the formal market. Lamentably I think the fault is Argentina’s, that there isn’t more room for cartoonists. In Japan, people who draw comics are accepted as workers just as much as carpenters are. The craft is basically at the same level. And me, I do it because I don’t have any other option. Also it’s a little bit of an ideological posture, I don’t worry about the things that the market values. I do my own thing, I do what I know how to do and what my craft is and it hasn’t worked out too badly.

J: Does it make sense to talk about a “community” of cartoonists here in Buenos Aires?

F: Yeah, there are lots of cartoonists, and they’re very good, but there aren’t comic books, there aren’t publishers, and it’s a shame because everyone’s afraid except the illustrators, who keep doing what they do, and very well. There are many fanzines and they’re very good, but the majority of illustrators that I like do more small-scale work, they publish their stuff online and the circle of people who like this stuff stays pretty closed. I think the big crash is going to come and a comic strip is going to come out that brings everyone together and blows our minds, it’s already developing, it’s a monster that’s going to break everything.


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