Impermanence is one of the things that most appeals to me about art found on the streets. I can return after a few days, weeks, or months, and find a completely different work of art. There are many people that would lament the damage done to the two images I present today, and I doubt that the person who scratched out the eyes on the stencil of the little girl from C215 had art in mind when he or she acted. Nonetheless, I think we have to accept, or even embrace this proces of decay and regeneration in the creation of a completely new work of art. If we want protected art, we can always go to a museum where the works are mostly (with this recent exception caught on video) protected from accidental and non-accidental damage. I’m not even cure damage is the correct word. Transitional blemishes?
Every August, my neighbourhood of Gràcia celebrates its annual summer festival in which many streets are decorated by the residents, concerts are held and you can find vendors selling everything to homemade soaps and crafts to cheeses and traditional food products. The population of the “barri” goes up by about tenfold and the streets are abuzz from about 10 in the morning until the local police start moving people out of the area around three in the morning.
The pictures you’ll find here are mostly daylight (as the evenings have become nearly impossible to navigate due to the crowds and seas of selfie-sticks being carelessly waved about. There are a few night shots, but only when I was fortunate enough to find a hole in the crowds.
The winner of this year’s contest was no big surprise, Verdi street, which almost always takes the grand “premi”. Verdi’s theme this year was Japan, and it seems the spring cherry blossom festival. Other street themes included Avatar (I think I’m one of three people on earth who’s not part of an uncontacted tribe who hasn’t seen the Cameron blockbuster), the four seasons (“estacions” in Catalan), one street and a plaza devoted to art and artists, a circus theme, sweets and cakes, cornfields, two radioactive waste sites, a virtual zoo (which by the time I arrived had taken quite a beating from both the rain and drunken decoration thieves), and just one protest-oriented street which is quite near my house. The protest street was inspired by the iaioflautas, a protest group who, despite their age,are one of the most active when there are street demonstrations anywhere in Spain. Another spectacular street was dedicated to the Moulin Rouge, complete with a large-scale model of the Eiffel Tower, which was cordoned off later in the week as its base began to give way.
This event is one of my favourites of the year, though it seems to be rapidly outgrowing the neighbourhood, as the number of tourists visiting Barcelona continues to grow exponentially.
You’ll note that the gallery this year is huge, so I’ve placed it after the text. It’s actually a pared-down version of what’s on my memory card. I just didn’t want to leave anyone out.
One of the drawbacks to living in a beautiful Mediterranean city nestled between mountain and sea is that we have a bit of a microclimate, which is, generally, quite mild most of the year. Having said that, summers in Barcelona can be quite stifling in terms of heat and humidity, and this past July was no exception.
Like many people in Europe, my home lacks air conditioning, and I spend most of these humid nights with every possible door open, waiting for a stray breeze. I have a small fan, but even at full capacity it can’t manage to cut through the 80 per cent humidity–at nearly 2 am. A result of all this is that I generally haven’t been sleeping as well, and one of the side effects that I suffer when I’m not fully rested, are floaters–those pesky spots that swim in and out of your field of vision all day long. Closing your eyes only makes them even clearer.
I thought of this when I found these two images, very similar, and about a month apart. I’m not sure if the spots were from the original artist, or later added, nor am I sure if this is actually the same location, but I feel like someone placed them there with me, or my sleep-deprived field of vision in mind.
Over the last week or so, an army of small, simple figures have descended upon the neighbourhood of Gràcia. Many of them are decorated with hearts, ladders and euro symbols. After I placed a few of them on my instagram feed, a commentor informed me that they are the work of an Italian artist called exit enter. There isn’t much information, but after a bit of digging I managed to find a Pinterest board and a newspaper article/interview. From what I’ve been able to gather thanks to Chrome translate, the childlike simplicity of the work is far from accidental, and fits in very well with a message that seems highly critical of the frenetic, information-saturated, tech-dependent world. The balloons and ladders can provide us a means of escape to childlike lightness, an exit from the Huxley-esque dystopia of facebook feeds, twitter timelines and multi-tab web browsing.
Thanks for stopping by, Exit Enter, and I hope this isn’t your first visit to Barcelona.
This past 24 of May, autonomous communities and municipalities all over the Spanish state held elections. The excitement and anticipation were more than I’ve ever seen, and it actually seemed that many people really felt the importance and impact of their vote–something rare these days. The reason for this is the disillusion generated by the two main parties, the Partido Popular (center-right neo-liberal party) and the PSOE (center left, literally Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) and the CiU (the now-separate Center-right coalition of the Democratic Convergence Party of Catalonia and Democratic Union of Catalonia) here in Catalonia–which stems from numerous corruption cases and a general perception disregard for their constituents.
The problem, until the 24 of May, was the lack of alternatives. In this last election, the anger which took root in the 15M movement as well as other social activism finally took shape in parties like Podemos, Barcelona en Comú (formerly Guanyem–we win), and Ahora Madrid.
Despite the media and their polls favoring the traditional parties, the new upstarts made an impressive showing, most notably in Spain’s two largest cities, Barcelona and the capital, Madrid.
Here you find two stenciled portraits which recently popped up in Gràcia.
Whether the change referred to in the title of this post will extend beyond the initial election results remains to be seen…
Just to the north of one of my favourite squares in all of Barcelona, the plaça de la Virreina, we find this larger-than-life image of the character Walter White, the main character in the immensely popular Breaking Bad. This image is the work of axe colours. I wish i had more to say about this series that wasn’t second-hand, but I haven’t had the opportunity to see even a single episode The reason is pretty much the same as the reason I haven’t updated this blog as much as I would like over the last few months.
Changes in my work and free time habits have provoked an inexcusable neglect of my little project here, one which I’m hoping to resolve between this summer and the next academic year. I also hope to be able to catch up on films and tv series, as I’m woefully behind on that aspect of pop culture.
This larger than life size image can be found on Carrer Bailen, just between Gràcia and the Eixample. It’s from the artist konair, whose work can be found, in many different sizes, all around Barcelona. This artist’s work is unmistakeable, because of the distinctive popsicle form which all of the emotionally-charged images take. Here you can find an article on the artist (in Spanish).
This past 9th and 10th of May, the street Pere IV in Barcelona’s Poblenou neighbourhood played host to the latest edition of the Ús festival, which is an initiative celebrating the innovative use of public spaces and urban art.
The festival was something along the lines of what Americans would call a block party, with theatre performances, children’s activities and a DJ. There were also numerous artists, such as sm172, invited, giving festivalgoers the opportunity to see works in progress.
Another interesting feature of the party was the presence of numerous food trucks, satisfying Barcelona’s new-found love for the concept of creative street food.
As the title suggests, I had some free time between lunch and having to race off the nieghbouring city of Badalona for my afternoon classes, so I decided to take a trip down Diagonal to the Murs Lliures which is found just a bit north of the Diagonal Mar shopping centre. This space consists of the walls which I think surround what was once an office for the famous “La Caixa” bank and is one of the bigger spaces where artists can sign up to paint. Along with the numerous elaborate tags, a few pieces definitely stood out: a portrait of a mad sushi chef who also seems to be working on a bowl of ramen, some quite feminine images, of which the giant dancer’s legs are my favourite. The image which stood out most for me was the replica of the cover for the 1994 album Ready to Die from the late, great Biggie Smalls (aka Notorious BIG, aka Christopher Wallace). It continues to be one of my favourite albums of all time, hip hop, or otherwise. Definitely recommended.
At the end of Carrer Girona runs a street which connects the upper part of the well-gridded Eixample with the more organic, chaotic streets of Gràcia. The street is called Milà i Fontanals and plays host to a number of small bars, vermut joints and one of Barcelona’s first Nepali restaurants. Along the way, you can also find some interesting images, some of which have been previously featured on this blog. At the very beginning of this street is an empty lot which has been previously protected by the aluminum guard rails which indicate that someone is deciding what to do with the tiny patch increasingly-rare urban emptiness.
It appears that a decision has been made, as the last time I passed by, the aluminum was gone, and the overgrowth which punctuates these empty spaces freshly mowed away. On the wall of the adjacent building are the images you’ll see here. They seem to have been there for quite a long time, placed by intrepid artists who aren’t (unlike me) put off by the presence of a fence.
As whatever will be there becomes a reality(I’ve heard rumours of a huge hotel), I imagine these little slices of spontaneity will be forever lost as another crack gets filled in the concrete jungle.