In BA, “mina” can mean two things: a mine or a girl. For the BiH project to b(l)oom, both definitions came into play, as mock traffic signs started to pop up first in Palermo, then Colegiales, Chacarita, Villa Crespo. Coming soon to a wall near you.
Mina: stricto sensu
On a trip to Bosnia last year, Palermo-bred Sebastian Andreatta followed a twenty-four year old Siege of Sarajevo survivor to an abandoned Serbian bunker, in an attempt to follow standard local travel tips: 1. check in, 2. exchange some cash, 3. locate nearest Serbian bunker.
On the hilly outskirts of the capital, Andreatta hiked up the tricky slopes. Signs with skulls and bones and cyrillic inscriptions were ubiquitously scattered along the way, warning of the presence of active land mines. “Basically, there are signs that tell you that you can blow up at any moment”.
Minutes later, while staring at abandoned army clothing and kitchen utensils in the bunker, a mine went off about 600 meters away sending echoes out into the valley. “Maybe a small animal set it off, or trickling water… who knows.” The explosion, and its warning signs engraved in the sound designer’s brain, served as the starting point of BiH’s creative genesis. It prompted the idea of resignifying traffic signs into a different kind of advice. But the actual catalyst that pushed Andreatta out on the street is mina of an entirely different type.
Mina: the B side
Upon returning to his native Buenos Aires, the back-home-and-broke blues combined with a recent separation. “My ex started parking her car on my block although she didn’t live close by — at all. I understand that it’s Palermo and people go out. But right in front of my house? Every night?”
Boom. Again. On a fateful Wednesday night, this singularly fed up Palermitano sat in his studio and designed twelve of the tampered traffic signs that would become his semiotic trademark. “I didn’t sleep, I went right to work, then straight to a print shop. That same night I was out pasting the walls of my neighborhood. Then it evolved into something else, but at first it was really a question of reconnecting with my space.”
His posters tend to be universal, but occasional contain a very local subtext. A sign prohibiting U-turns reads “retroceder nunca”, never retreat. You can think it’s just a stubborn wise piece of advice and you’d be right, although you’d be overlooking the “retroceder nunca, rendirse jamás” quote attributed to Che Guevara.
Figuring out some of BiH’s posters will help you prove your Argentine street cred, others will just cause you to crack a smile. However Andreatti warns that while humor is his medium this isn’t a boludez: “Just because it makes you laugh doesn’t mean that it’s not serious”.
He has a point. The reality is that in this day and age happiness is a very serious matter, here, in Bosnia and everywhere.