Archives for posts with tag: catalonia

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.

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Most of my search for interesting photos of street art take place off the beaten path, on small side streets, abandoned spaces, places that don’t (or didn’t use to) show up on the tourist maps. Add to this the fact that I live my day to day, my commutes, my trips to the supermarket, my dog walks in this city, and my view of Barcelona is literally quite limited.

I am usually only reminded of the true magnificence of the “Ciutat Comtal” when I am departing or returning via air, when the aircraft makes its customary circle around the coast, and pitches slightly from one side to another, allowing occupants of window seats to see the entire city from above.

Because Barcelona is tucked between the mountains and the sea, it’s possibilities for LA, or Madrid-style sprawl are limited, so it’s possible to see the highest point of Tibidabo, and the twin Mapfre towers which dot the coast in one glance. It’s possible to appreciate the peculiar order of the Eixample (Catalan for “extension) district, the expansion that took place once building was permitted outside the old city walls in the 19th century. It is this district with its cornerless city blocks which became a playground for the architects of the Modernist movement.

All of this was only visible to me, generally, the three or four occasions a year when I needed to fly. Or perhaps from a travel blog in my social media feeds.

Now, with Modern Map Art, I’m able to look up from my work and catch a glimpse of my adopted hometown, in all its oddly shaped, organically-expanded glory. It is incredibly detailed; I can see every winding street, every orderly block, and the way that Diagonal (Barcelona’s Broadway) cuts a well, diagonal, line through the city.

Modern Maps can be found here, and the list of cities continues to grow. Perhaps your favorite city, or your hometown (if they are different) are there. I’d definitely recommend it.

 

 

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.

Just yesterday, the annual Festa Major of Gràcia came to a fiery end with the Correfocs (fire runners) spreading sparks through the narrow streets of the neighborhood. The sea (including lots and lots of my favorite animal, the jellyfish) was a recurring theme in the decorated streets this year. Indeed, this year’s first prize winner was a brilliant under-the-sea motif featuring a giant fisherman, whose feet became the victims of vandals later in the week. In case you’re curious, here is a list of this year’s winners (in Catalan). Worth noting is that habitual winner Verdi has fallen to 7th position, with a California/Holywood-themed decor. Other themes included theatre, birthday party, a fantasy plant world, a commemoration of 20 years of participation, and women’s history.

Without further ado, here is the first installment of shots from this year’s grand festival.

Having a dog is a great excuse to get out and explore new areas of the city. My latest trips have taken me uphill, where the views of the city and the sea are marvelous, and there is also some nice street art hiding in the steep hills above the city.

The first few pictures come from the area near the Bunkers del Carmel, which served as the city’s defenses from fascist aerial attacks during the Spanish Civil War. The views are spectacular, and if you go during the week, you might be able to recapture some of the secluded off-the-beaten-track appeal. At the top of the hill you can find some walls which are painted with some murals, including one of the famous literary figure Don Quixote.

The rest of the photos are from the Vallcarca neighbourhood, which lies just next to Park Güell. This area is worth exploring as there are some interesting buildings and plazas, as well as some spectacular views of Barcelona spreading out toward the Mediterranean.

The dog days of summer are probably not the best time to explore this area as the sun seems to beat down a bit harder the higher you get, but a cloudy day in early autumn would be perfect for a climb, and besides, the pictures come out shadow-free on cloudy days.

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.