The world is a neighborhood and in the streets of all cities things happen, good and bad. When one paints graffiti, they spend a lot of time in those streets, which makes them susceptible to experiencing the extremes of city life. On occasions those experiences can turn out to be dangerous.
SAILE is one of the most highly reputed Latin American graffiti artists and unfortunately recently he’s was face to face with some street misfortune. Luckily he endured to tell us about it, but not without leaving behind a valuable message full of optimism and strength.
To begin tell us about your current situation…
Well, we're preparing a project for a brewery in Paraguay and were invited by Oz Montanía of Power Line, the Montana Colors shop in Asunción. In December we already painted the first phase of the project together with the Tropical Terror team.
With OZ we started a new crew together with Apitatan from Ecuador and Entes and Pesimo from Peru. We’ve been in constant contact online in order to be able to travel and work together… the truth is I’ve been travelling a lot lately.
But with respect to the brewery project, I don’t think I’ll be able to continue so Entes will substitute for me.
When earning a living through your art, how does productivity function?
Lately I’ve been very focused on private decorations, which is what can allow you to earn a living, apart from specific projects with brands or live events. It’s true that there’s more and more large format mural projects but you still can’t live off just that, or from selling canvases, which means I constantly have to do more commercial projects, illustration, design, etc.
For those of us who have never been to Santiago, how are the streets there? Is there a lot of violence?
I think there’s more robberies than violence… I think it works like an algorithm or something. A person who is so exposed to the street always imagines that it’s going to happen to them sooner or later. I take it as something that can happen to anyone. We’re always painting, we’re always there… exposed.
With respect to the street, it may be that it’s gotten more complicated but it’s not like it happens every day.
Also, we understand that the area where you had the incident wasn’t a dangerous area, right?
Not at all, it was right in the southern center.
Can you explain exactly what happened?
Of course! Entes and I were painting a mural, my girl arrived when we had almost finished the wall and parked her car beside us with the windows down. Ten minutes later two guys appeared. One on the driver’s side, and the other on our side, who jumped into the car through the passenger side window. I immediately grabbed him by the belt, pulled him out and that’s when the struggle started… I hit him in the face with my spray can and he thought I was trying to steal his phone so he yelled, “shoot him, shoot him!”, and when I raised my head the other guy came out and shot me in the leg. I only saw his silhouette, took a step back and fell to the ground after seeing my broken leg.
I saw the two guys run away automatically and since the vehicle was modern and worked with a card and they couldn’t steal it. It was all so fast. I stayed on the ground, the police arrived, they called the ambulance and they took me to the hospital.
In the hospital I was really lucky. I got to the emergency room and only had to wait 20 minutes until an operating room became available where they took me right away. Here in the public hospital, if you don’t show up with an extreme emergency, you can wait a whole day, so despite the bad luck I was quite lucky in the end.
Was the operation complicated?
They opened my knee and put in an intramedullarybnail from the knee to the ankle and then some other screws that crossed in order to secure the bone on the ends. It lasted about two hours but it’s all on the inside, they didn't have to put anything on the outside of my leg. For now at least I think I won’t have to have any more operations, just the recovery process.
In three weeks I have a revisit to let me know if I can put weight on the leg. I suppose I won’t be able to walk for another 4-5 months.
How do medical issues function in Chile?
I was saved because I went in on an emergency and the government helps and pays with that because it was a bullet wound. If it had been a fracture for any other motive I would have had to pay for the operation as if it were a private clinic.
I already had some work confirmed in Valparaiso, Santiago and Asunción that I’m not going to be able to do. Also, I’ve learned to save a little. I had plans to buy myself a truck and had saved a bit of money. With that I’ve got some sustenance for the first months and then I’ll see what I can do.
Do you have any projects planned that you could do without having to move?
Yes, I’ll have to do work that can be exhibited in a gallery… small canvases, papers or prints, since here it’s difficult to sell big canvases.
Do you think there will be a before and after in your work because of this incident?
I think so. I’ve got four months to rethink what I want to talk about now. Surely my visual style will be affected. I want to work a lot on it during this time. It’s a good opportunity to take advantage of that aspect and reinvent myself.
Do you think this will change your view of the streets?
I don’t think so. Before it was worse. I think graffiti made me strong and able to confront these types of things. As a kid you would see worse things. I’ve been doing graffiti for 20 years and hip-hop before used to be more gangster and attracted that sort of crowd. Now fortunately, reggaeton attracted all the thugs, but I started in that era and saw a lot of stuff go down. I think that thanks to the streets, I’m a little stronger and have been able to maintain relaxed in situations until the last minute.
Could you tell us any stories from the past?
A couple years ago some people tried to rob me in my house. Five armed guys came in. I also felt relaxed in that situation and confronted them and they didn’t manage to steal anything. I fought with them and we caught one of them. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
I think the street also gives us that type of resistance and even more so if you travel and see outside of your reality… you see these kinds of things or worse. Here as a kid there were always fights in the street or for trying to escape after painting trains, buses… situations that make you face adrenalin and force you to have to think before you act.
With respect to the topic of guns, how are the streets of Chile?
Within South America I think it’s the country with the least access to guns. It doesn’t compare to other countries like Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, or Venezuela. I think it’s the most relaxed one but it still isn’t perfect. In Brazil people have war ammunition, and in Argentina and Colombia the same. Here there’s just guns. They are accessible, I won’t deny that, but not as much.
As for the controversy that exists in the United States around gun regulations, what is your position on this?
It’s difficult. It’s a very complicated issue because in the end it’s about the misuse of weapons. I don’t know if I would ever have a gun because it becomes a double-edged sword. It’s a very difficult topic. I’m not in favor of arms but when these kinds of things happen to you, you find yourself at a crossroad.
Do you feel any sort of anger for what happened to you?
No, they’re just things that happen and I take it as an accident. One learns from these things to be more cautious. We left the car there with the windows open… you have to know that people are opportunists and if you create an opportunity, these kinds of things can happen to you. You can’t walk around in fear, you just have to be careful.
I’ve also met people who rob; people that who are born into it and it’s impossible for them to leave that circle. I’ve seen both sides. When one thinks about, the question of “what do you do” comes to mind.
So, the only way is to educate people.
We can see that you take on everything in a very positive way. What would you do to infect people with this optimism?
I can’t lock myself in, it would be absurd. This positivity is what has got me everything I have. Bad things happen to all of us and the only thing left to do is to get up, keep having goals, and doing more things. I’m going to keep moving forward with all of my projects with this same attitude. Now I’ll take this as a break and at least it was something fast that could have been much more serious and in the end it wasn’t. Nothing happened to my girlfriend, or Entes, I was lucky that the operation wasn’t expensive, I have a good family and good friends… I think it’s your energy that can make everything get better.