A true graffiti jam is still possible. This location in Barcelona, the Plaza de las 3 Chimeneas, is a platform for an ever-changing collection of works by new and established practitioners of graffiti, street art, and urban art. How many times have visited a local ‘Wall of Fame’ to find many of the same artists again and again, as if they are hand-picked by ‘kingmakers-queenmakers’?
Over the last decade we have featured this unique venue many times on many different occasions, thanks to photographer and BSA collaborator Lluis Olive Bulbena.
We’re happy to discover the democratic spirit applied to admissions of artists and writers time and again; to see new and emerging styles, political screeds, memoriums, handstyles, portraits, illustrations, text treatments – the gamut of voices that are all part of the greater Barcelona scene and beyond. It is reassuring to see that a scene that can be rebellious against institutional classism and clubby corruptive influences is also not falling prey to them.
This jam was organized by the Periferia Beat Festival, Lluis tells us. “They brought together a group of about 40 artists for a day of art, painting, and sharing stories among old friends.”
In a bit of cynical irony on the street, creative director/UX designer Mikel Parera teams up with this cluster of graffiti/street artists in Barcelona to parody the grey lines between using art as activism and merely imitating styles to push content. This new collection of graffiti styles are completely divorced from any contribution to or critique of society. The advertising “Creative” is portrayed little more than pre-meditated aesthetic manipulation – in service of a brand.
Roughly translated, here is his wall screed – naturally followed by Instagram handles.
“Who has not ever enjoyed seeing good graffiti? But there is a problem: – Everybody steps on everybody – General discomfort and confusion. – That shouldn’t be like that. It doesn’t seem fair to us either. That is why we make graffiti useful for people. Take a look at our work, contact us and start a project. Use graffiti to create quality content in your projects. Write us today! Refuse dishonest solutions. Don’t hurt your brand or your audience. Get original work and have an excellent experience. Go from feeling disoriented to standing out, being a benchmark in your sector.”
School is out, unemployment is higher than they’re reporting, and your younger sister is driving you crazy. Time to take off with some friends to the local abandoned building for some summer spray-cation!
Maybe you’ll finally do that masterpiece, maybe you’ll just spray some genitalia or extremely large breasts. Since they are on your mind anyway, why not? These are the last days of July, you might as well carry on what has become a modern tradition for many urban youths over the years.
Who has a speaker we can plug into a phone? I want to hear my jam!
Thank you for these Barcelonian hidden jewels from Lluis Olivas.
At a time when Barcelona has received criticism for allowing iconic murals to disappear, it is a joyful sight to witness street artist and muralist Jaz create a new iconic one after full immersion into the neighborhood of Trinidad Nova. Similarly, it is gratifying to see a contemporary painter creating something relevant and new for a community rather than creating banal niceties or, worse, using public space to sell a sneaker or brand.
Intended as part of a permanent dialogue between the neighborhood and artist, this clearly links to the people’s fighting spirit here, complete with pugnacious bulls, roaring boars, and rebels on motorcycles. The Argentinian consulted closely over a period of weeks with panels of leaders, circles of residents, experts, and historians in the square.
A coalition project under the auspices of B-Murals, Centro de Arte Urbano, and School of Restoration and Conservation of Cultural Heritage of Catalonia, Jaz integrated histories and aspirations into a triumphant, defiant, and uniquely expressive tableau worthy of a people. With his talents, the artist reflects the community and empowers it – honoring a TIME of the past while propelling its intentions of actualization into a TIME of the future…
In our ultimate meta-posting, today we feature photos from street photographer Lluis Olive of images left on the street by an artist named “The Photographer”. Needless to say, much of the past graffiti and Street Art would not even be discussed today without a small pool of photographers who documented the scene at great cost to themselves.
Despite the ocean of cameras in use today, it is still true that very few are directed by even-handed photographers whose interest is not simply in their favorites, but documenting a greater scene. Unfortunately, it’s still rare to find a good photographer on the street, but we think we got the shot this time.
The springtime wall jams have begun! And random Saturdays or Sundays are usually perfect days to schedule an event in many cities – since most people have time off during that time, depending on their work schedule. If an artist is lucky enough to have a job these days…
An informally organized event like this provides an opportunity to explore and create alongside peers, converse and discuss ideas and techniques, and hang out with visitors who stop by saying hello.
“We thought it was a good idea that we could notify each time any of us was going to paint,” says Spanish artist Jaume Montserrat, “in case someone else wanted to accompany them and have a good time doing what we like so much.”
He says he and his buddies have a WhatsApp group to keep each other apprised of their street art and mural projects. For this particular Sunday a couple of weeks ago, it was as simple as reaching out via text to fellow artist Núria Farré, he tells us.
“I wrote to her asking if she would like to do it on one of Wallspot’s legal walls, and when we found a date that suited us, we decided to invite some friends.”
BSA contributor and photographer Fer Acala was there in Barcelona to capture the action and the art, and we’re pleased to share his shots of the artists at work and the days’ activities.
Our thanks to Fer Alcala for sharing his excellent photos with us and BSA readers. Artists include: Irene Valiente (@valiente_creations) Sigrid Amores (@sigridamores) Pablo Navas (@pabl0navas) Antón G, Seoane (@antonseoane) Juanjo Sáez (@juanjo_saez) Núrria Farré (@nuriafarreabejon) Maria Cuellar (@mariacuellar.m) Lidia Martinez (@lidia.mpakkete) Rabassa (@israbassa) Jaume Montserrat (@jaumemontserrat)
International Women’s Day is only controversial for those who feel threatened by the idea of equality and freedom.
Perhaps that’s why, according to current statistics, women continue to fight and protest against the gender wage gap in Spain, as well as against violence against women. The national female unemployment rate is 17.4%, compared to 13.8% for men.
Elsewhere in Barcelona, strident activist painters created new murals in Tres Chimeneas Park to celebrate International Women’s Day this past weekend. We’re pleased to share with you a selection of the murals painted for the occasion courtesy of BSA contributor Lluis Olive Bulbena.
In the US, families of military veterans say, “Freedom isn’t free.” It refers to the enormous amount of sacrifice people have to make – military and civilians alike – to guarantee that societies provide a fulsome measure of freedom and autonomy to their citizens. Likewise, free speech has to be fought for periodically to ensure that people have it – because it can be so swiftly taken away if we are not vigilant.
In our third installment of the murals painted in February in Barcelona, Spain, we are reminded that historically, the artist is often one of an oppressive government’s targets. It is somewhat sequential, the positions and stations in society who gradually are targeted for slurring and silencing. Academics, clergy, the press – a building degradation of respect for institutions and trust across the board.
These artists express their opinions in defiance of silencing because, inherently, they fight for everyone’s right to freedom of speech and expression, regardless of our comfort or discomfort with the ideas expressed. Because they must.
It is notable when an organized gang of aerosol-wielding vandals protests your protest against censorship with censorship.
It’s also odious.
Everyone knows that it is normal for graffiti writers and street artists to expect that their ephemeral work may be buffed by a municipality or crossed out by a rival painter. This is a different matter entirely.
This is our 2nd time to bring you this story from a paint jam in Barcelona’s Plaza de las Tres Chimeneas where a collection of artists gathered to paint works addressing what they see as an unjust attack on the freedom of a citizen to express opinions in lyrics and writings. Taken together, these works are a passionate rejection of censorship and a colorful act of free speech by a community.
It made international news last month when Pablo Hasel, a Spanish rapper/singer/artist/musician from this city, was imprisoned under a Supreme Court ruling, which found his lyrics about King Emeritus Juan Carlos De Borbon to be offensive.
Artist Roc Blackblock was surrounded by a tight semi-circle of scrutinizing journalists and citizens as he painted. This was his second mural since his first had been immediately censored and ordered removed at the action in mid-February by an NCNeta brigade who a Barcelona Urban Guard escorted. He didn’t appear to mind the pressure.
Because there have been demonstrations in various cities and because modern media drools over scenes of destruction and violence, it’s easy to forget the many peaceful artists who paint their opinions, says documentary photographer Fernando Alcalá, who shares his work here.
“I think it’s important to keep speaking about the artistic actions when, after days of riots and looting, the media has forgotten about freedom of speech, and they just talk about burnt trash cans,” he says.
We’re happy that he captured these before they were destroyed by ‘Union de Brigadas,’ who recorded their censorious actions proudly and shared them on Twitter and YouTube.
I think it’s important to keep speaking about the artistic actions when, after days of riots and looting, the media has forgotten about freedom of speech and they just talk about burnt trash cans.”
Freedom of expression is foundational in a democracy. Without it, it is not difficult for a culture to descend into authoritarianism, fascism, and dictatorship. By many standards, Spain’s democracy is still young, with a Parliamentary Monarchy since 1978. So it is curious and alarming to hear that this EU country has been silencing free speech in the last few years.
In 2018, we reported here on an initiative undertaken by more than two dozen artists from Spain called #nocallarem, a visual and musical protest inside a former prison to speak out against the Spanish Supreme Court ruling against the rights of an artist, a rapper, Pablo Hasel. In lyrics about the then-King Juan Carlos De Borbon deemed offensive, the young musician violated recently passed laws forbidding such speech.
Now, on the occasion of Mr. Hasel preparing to report to the authorities to begin serving his prison sentence, an outdoor art exhibition this month at Parque de las Tres Chimeneas (Three Chimneys Park) in Barcelona, a collection of artists gathered to paint works addressing what they see as an unjust attack on the freedom of a citizen and artist to express opinions in lyrics and writings. As you might expect at a graffiti/mural jam it was a celebratory Saturday of painting, music, dogs, kids, and the occasional soccer (fútbol) scrimmage.
But as soon as the mural paintings were up, the trouble began as well, according to artists and free-speech activists on the scene. “Less than twenty-four hours after doing their artistic actions, an NCNeta brigade escorted by a Barcelona Urban Guard van censored one of the works, covering it fully with paint,” says journalist and activist Audrey García in a Facebook posting.
The mural by artist Roc Blackblock featured the former king surrounded by words the rapper had used to describe him, including thief. Aside from being insulting to a public figure and calling out the rapper’s case, it is difficult for locals to understand why it was buffed.
García and others contend that the brazen act was evidence of an increasing level of silencing that targets some members of society for their speech but not others. “The city administration carried out a new act of censorship about our works, making our protest and denouncement of freedom of expression even more evident and necessary, adding a new case to the already too long, outrageous and constant violation of our rights and freedoms as creators and consequently of all society,” she says.
Eventually, the city apologized and offered solutions for restoring the piece, but the movement to free Mr. Hasel and protect free expression continues. About 15 artists participated in the painting jam, including Roc Blackblock, Antón Seoane, El Rughi, Magia Trece, Doctor Toy, El Edu, Galleta María, Kader, Maga, Owen, Reskate, Chamo San, Sigrid Amores, Tres Voltes Rebel, Arte Porvo y Elna Or, among others.
Since then, more demonstrations have taken place in the streets of Barcelona, Valencia, Lérida, and Hasel’s hometown of Segrià to protest his imprisonment. According to the BBC, “More than 200 artists, including film director Pedro Almodóvar and Hollywood star Javier Bardem, have signed a petition against Hasel’s jail term, while Amnesty International described his arrest as terrible news for freedom of expression in Spain.”
Our special thanks to photographer Fer Alcalá for sharing his fine work with BSA readers here.
Graffiti and street art are cyclical in many ways – reflective of society, urban planning, politics, current events, demographics… Currently the city of Barcelona is pushing hard on cleansing itself of the wild graffiti and street art that brought it so many tourists 15 years ago.
With the pendulum of real estate development and gentrification swinging from aesthetic chaos to antiseptic order, street artists are changing tactics as well, opting for smaller pieces that are quickly and surreptitiously installed.
“The Raval / Ciutat Vella neighborhood used to have 4 or 5 ‘orchards,’” says photographer Lluis Olive-Bulbena, using a slang term to describe empty areas between blocks where freelance painters like to adorn abandoned walls. “Nowadays there are only one or two.”
We’re pleased to introduce a number of artists specializing in smaller works; artists with names like BL2A, Karma, and Radical Playground. Each has their own style and each are part of a new wave using a smaller canvas, sometimes ingeniously; the sticker, the stencil, paste-ups, even ceramic – on the streets of Barcelona.
News reports are telling a story about an uptick in domestic violence because families are confined in closed quarters for long periods of time during the COVID-19 lock-downs across the world. A tendency toward abusive behavior is further complicated by economic insecurity, lack of food, and generalized fear. There is help available, please see below for resources.
Anti-Violence Project: Specialized resources for LGBTQIA+ and HIV-positive survivors; 24/7 hotline at 212-714-1141
Crisis Text Line: 24/7 text chat line for individuals in crisis in the United States and Canada; text HOME to 741741
Recover from Financial Abuse
“Unfortunately, financial abuse occurs in 99% of all domestic abuse cases, and the effects can negatively impact survivors for years after they escape,” says Nina Humphry at Bankrate. Below is an article that focuses on “rebuilding finances after escaping an abusive relationship, providing tips on budgeting, building credit, and getting back into the workforce.”