Archives for category: Protest art

While the political chaos swirls around me, and daily life gets into the mix, it’s easy to forget that the show most certainly does go one. And street art is no exception.

I was reminded of this just a few days ago when I received, via twitter, the news that Spotted by locals, a website and app that serves as a guide to more than 65 cities worldwide, had chosen this blog to be on their list of the best of Barcelona. Be sure to take a look at the list here, as I’m in some excellent company.

As for the photos in this post, they range pretty much from the middle of July to just last week, and are from various locations, hence the title of this post. Many of them are from the murs lliures project in Poblenou, and have probably been replaced a few times over. Others are small shots from here in Gràcia, or the old city center. I have a small hunting expedition planned for the bank holiday coming up this week, so expect more in the next week or two!

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The last few months have been turbulent ones here in Catalonia, and it’s been nearly impossible not to get caught up in the action, hence the lack of publications during this time.

While the independence issue has been at the forefront for the last 7 years or so, since the Spanish government moved to decimate the “estatut” agreement which gave the Catalans more autonomy, and recognition of their cultural identity, it’s only this summer that things really began to heat up.

The president of Catalonia since 2015, Carles Puigdemont is a lifelong believer in the independence movement, in contrast to his predecessor Artur Mas, who was a fairly recent convert. In June, Puigdemont and the independence-minded majority of the Parliament decided to fulfill their election promise and call a binding referendum on the declaration of an independent Catalan Republic. There had been a vote in November of 2014, but it was largely symbolic, and mostly ignored by Madrid. This time, however, Madrid started using every weapon in its arsenal to prevent the referendum, which was slated for the 1st of October.

Over the summer, there was much back-and-forth between Madrid and Barcelona, which culminated in Spanish Civil Guard (paramilitary police, which evoke images for the Franco dictatorship for many) forcing their way into various Catalan government offices, in search of referendum-related materials. This was accompanied by the takedown (and re-birth) of referendum websites, the prohibition of referendum advertising on Catalan public media. There was also police intervention in public meetings to discuss the referendum. Needless to say, none of this sat well with the Catalan people, and massive street demonstrations, beginning on the 20th of September resulted in the imprisonment, without bail or trial, of two leading independence activists known as the “Jordis” for their share first name, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez.

Adding more fuel to the fire, the Spanish government decided to deploy 18,000 National riot police officers and Civil Guard, who were put up in cruise ships near the port.

The days leading up to the referendum were about as tense as I can remember having experienced since coming to live here, with all manner of threats being lobbed from Madrid toward Catalan leaders, citizens and media. The evening before the vote, people occupied the schools where the voting was to take place, organizing games, classes, workshops, and other activities to pass the time, and protect their polling places. The morning of the 1st was a rainy one, but people began to gather outside polling stations before sunrise, waiting to cast their votes, under the constant threat that the police moored at the port could appear at any time. The police did appear at some polling places, and exercised the restraint one would expect from a saber-rattling Madrid–some reports cite nearly 1000 injured, while others claim numbers in the single digits. The photo and video evidence which is abundant online seems to support the former numbers.

During these last few months, the citizen mobilization in the streets has been an impressive exercise in democracy which, whatever one’s feelings might be on the independence issue, has been unique for its lack of violence. A big part of those mobilizations has been the amount of postering and wheatpasting that has been done all over the city. As a street art blog, I felt it necessary to document some of it for you.

There’s been a bit of radio silence on the blog lately, but between the beginning of course, having fallen down the rabbit hole of blockchain technology, and of course the current political situation, I’ve been neglecting the writing. I’m working on a piece on the Catalonia situation, which changes by the hour, as well as a recap of random shots I’ve taken over the past few months. In the meantime, I leave you with a pasteup I stumbled upon on the 1 of October, the tumultuous referendum day.

2017-10-01 18.57.45-1

When heading down Carrer Marina toward the sea, just across the street from the (thankfully) now-defunct Monumental bullfighting arena, you can dip into a small plaza with some basketball courts and benches called the Jardins Interior d’illa de Clotilde Cerdà. On the walls of these “gardens” you’ll find an eclectic collection of mosaic art, created by students from the escola Massana, and originate from student work which dealt with the theme of multiculturalism.

While this isn’t the typical street art, it’s a great little trip off-off the beaten track if you decide to take the hike from the Sagrada Familia down to the sea.

Italian artist TVBoy, who has gained notoriety for portraits of the Pope and Donald Trump, Messi and Cristiano, and just yesterday an embrace between deadlocked politicians Mariano Rajoy and Carles Puigdemont. My shots are decidedly less contraversial in nature, portraits of modernized masters Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso, reimagined as street artists. I’ve also decided to include two photos of myself with the masters. This dynamic duo (minus me) can be found on the Carrer de Santa Tecla, near Corsega, in Gràcia.

Last week, I made one of my twice-yearly trips to the US, with a focus on NYC and later heading to Westchester in order to attend my 20th university reunion. I stayed in my usual area, that is to say Chinatown/LES, but the walking tour I decided to try was the Williamsburg Street Art Tour, given by the great organization Free Tours by Foot. Due to the overcast, chilly weather, and the fact that the L train was unexpectedly out of service, our group was fairly small, less than 10, and usually-bustling streets of Williamsburg were relatively quiet. This made the tour better, as overcast days, in my opinion, make for better amateur picture-taking, and less activity on the streets meant we weren’t in everyone’s way as we listened to our guide.

The tour was also an interesting lesson in the history of the area, from its humble, industrial origins to the hip, gentrified neighbourhood that it is today. This is my second year in a row taking a tour with this company, and I would definitely recommend them, as the guide also gave us some pointers on other places to find interesting art Brooklyn, NYC’s biggest borough.

Just after the point where my street changes names from Bruniquer to Terol–it actually does so 4 times before finally ending–there is a dead end street/alleyway where you can find a blue doorway which has been decorated, and over-decorated constantly during the time I’ve had this blog. Saturday morning, I noticed that the artist TVboy had pasted up a giant image of Frida Kahlo dressed as a tourist, complete with an I ♥ BCN t-shirt. I snapped a quick photo, but as is often the case in sunny Barcelona, the time of day left a heavy shadow. On my way back home just two hours later, the sun had changed position , and I was hoping to get a better shadow-free shot. It wasn’t to be, however, as someone had come by and sprayed an orange cover over Frida, leaving just her eyes free. While I was a bit dismayed at not having been able to get my photo, I don’t personally see this as an act of destruction. I prefer to see it as part of the natural process, albeit quite accelerated, of what happens to art that is in the street, unprotected by vigilant museum security, alarms, glass casing, or velvet ropes.

Something similar happened to another piece by TvBoy which gained international media attention. The artist had pasted up an image of international football superstars Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo locked in a passionate kiss, just before one of the famous “Clasico” matches that take place between eternal rivals Barça and Real Madrid. It was near Plaça Catalunya, one of the most highly-traversed points in the Catalan capital. I won’t include a photo here, as my personal policy for this blog is that all photos must be taken by me, and in this case, I missed my opportunity, as not only did someone remove the image, but the entire abandoned petrol kiosk which hosted the image was removed. A bit overdramatic, in my opinion. In any case, here is a link to the Ronaldo-Messi photo, and another that was placed in Italy near the Vatican just this week of  Pope Francis and US President Donald Trump.

frida before after

The shots from this entry are from early to mid March and come from the “Tres Xemeneies”, or Three Chimneys park, just off Parallel Avenue. This is a part of the “free walls” project, and a popular destination for Barcelona’s active skater scene, as well as a favorite spot to get pictures for this blog. Most of these are gone, as the image turnover on this popular painting site increases as the weather gets better. I’ve tried to include the three chimneys in the photos for a bit of perspective.

At the end of January, I took a long weekend in London to visit some friends who live between there and Barcelona. I’d only been to the city twice before, once in 2012 for an 8 hour layover, which allowed me a short overnight stay in an airbnb near Paddington Station, and once in 2003 on another short weekend during which I coincided with the global Iraq War protests. Neither visit has permitted me the time I would have needed to get a good feel for the city and, of course, its art.

In this most recent visit I was blessed with fine weather, though chilly by Barcelona standards, and a slight overcast sky, which is always better for getting pictures.

As for the art that I saw, I had heard and seen much about the scene in London, and I wasn’t disappointed. The hotspots of Shoreditch and Brick Lane is where most of the shots on this post were taken. I found quite a bit of politically-motivated work, much of it lampooning Brexit PM Theresa May and her equally-adored ally President Donald Trump (still feels strange to type those three words), as well as some work from familiar artists such as C215.

I was also introduced to a well-known London street artist named Nathan Bowen, whose online shop you can find here.

As with any city the size of London, I didn’t get to nearly enough, but the ease, convenience and price mean that I can get away whenever I have a three, or four day mini-holiday.

PS: If you look carefully, you’ll find a rare shot of this blogger among the pics.

The majority of the shots in this post (including the first-ever shot of myself) are the work of the urban pop artist TVBOY. They are part of a series of famous artists from the past with touches of the present, including a Frida Kahlo Iphone selfie–the shot in which I couldn’t resist joining the famous Mexican artist for a rare narcissistic arm’s length self-portrait. The shot of Serge Gainsbourg comes from the artist Valerie Maho, and the great Muhammad Ali in stencil was created by RAF Urban. The other image (from sm172) which I’ve included is a darker reflection on our pop-selfie culture and is a statement on the voyeuristic bystander syndrome which seems to be a side effect of all of us being able to record and photograph all that we see, while forgetting to experience it, or get involved when necessary.