Archives for posts with tag: political art

Tomorrow, the 21st of December is the day that Catalans go to the polls in one of the tensest, most polarized election cycles since Spain’s return to democracy in the late 70’s. There are various parties involved, but really there are only two blocs: the independence bloc, and the so-called constitutionalist bloc, which consists of parties who in one way or another supported the Madrid central government’s seizing control of the Catalan regional government, dissolving the parliament, and calling snap elections. The idea behind the elections would be for non-independence forces to win and form pacts in order to, as Spanish president Rajoy put it, “restore normalcy”. Polls seem neck in neck, and debates have been tense, and no one really seems sure of what will happen, from the paid experts to the man (or woman) on the street.

Italian artist TVBoy has risen to the challenge and during the night slapped up some work which portrays the politicians from the pro-union parties engaged in passionate embraces, which would symbolize the post-election pact magic they would need in order to restore that holy grail of Madrid-style “normalcy”. I rushed downtown as soon as I heard about them, as such political art would likely become victim of the city cleaning squads, or angry citizens who feel their political idols are being mocked.

Added bonus: a rare selfie of your favorite blogger!

 

Advertisements

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.

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.

Lenin in Love

Mr. Lenin with his balloon and the later-added love are very close to my front door. Next to the art gallery on the corner. The “Love” was added by street artist Tmnk.