Graffti and street artists are often targeted by owners of real estate for their illegal artworks – it’s a tradition. These days those same artists are approached by real estate companies to give their property some urban “edge”, increasing their appeal to younger populations.
In the case of one large corporation in Spain that rents student housing, the appeal has been paying off by giving their properties a ‘hip’ sort of brand, thanks to huge murals by street artists and others. The art is not deliberately political or controversial and usually is aesthetically pleasing to a wide audience.
Recently the Madrid-based collective Boa Mistura artists have left their unique artistic imprint on a 107 square meter surface of interior and exterior walls – using layered colorful typography to allude to the compendium of memories and experiences that can build during your life in one place.
“The murals represent the essence of everything that happens inside a residence: a meeting point, a place of dialogue and refuge,” say the artists say. They say that, with time, your home becomes “a place that is deeply rooted, building stories and memories for life”. In this case, the student living site is at Carlos III University Campus in Getafe.
A new sharply political campaign championing the freedom of expression has caught fire in Spain in the last few weeks under the hashtag #NoCallaremos, and Street Artists are now adding their talents to the protest. Rather shockingly for a modern European nation, a rapper’s prison sentence for offensive lyrics was upheld in Spanish Supreme Court in February (Billboard) and that decision along with other recent events has sparked a number of creative protests across the art world in cities across the country. Today BSA contributing Street Art photographer Fer Alcalá shares his opinions and new images of the murals in progress with BSA readers.
THE NO CALLAREM PLATFORM
~ by Fer Alcalá
…or how some of Spanish top artists react against censorship and repression of the freedom of speech from the central government…
It’s now known worldwide: the Spanish government is imprisoning hip hop artists like Valtonyc and Pablo Hasel because of their sharp and truthful lyrics as well as sentencing people like you and me because of their critical posts on social media.
As a reaction to these acts against the freedom of speech that are more in tune with a well established dictatorship than with 40 years of democracy, some projects like the No Callarem (we won’t shut up) platform have raised their voices.
One of the direct actions organized by the platform for fighting against Partido Popular’s civil rights oppression was to film a video clip featuring some of the most renowned lyricists on the scene as Frank T, Elphomega, Los Chikos del Maíz, La Ira, Rapsusklei, and César Strawberry, among others, at the old La Modelo prison. The location is an accurate metaphorical scenario when you are seeing that your liberty is being cut off thanks to laws like ‘Ley Mordaza’.
The song ‘Los Borbones son unos ladrones’, which alludes directly to the Spanish monarchy, includes some excerpts from some of the songs created by rappers serving a prison sentence. The video clip for the song, which you can watch at the end of this article, has become viral and almost all media outlets in the country are speaking about this big shout-out in the name of freedom.
I was invited to witness the filming and painting session by local artist Javier de Riba, from Reskate Studio, who invited some fellow artists to paint at La Modelo walls as a part of the whole process. Franco Fasoli JAZ, Twee Muizen, Txemy, Joan Tarragò, Enric Sant, Milvietnams, Werens and Fullet gave a new voice to the walls surrounding that backyard, providing 2D images that perfectly matched the spirit behind the beats and the rhymes.
This is what Javi has to say about his collaboration with the project:
“Our involvement with No Callarem happened thanks to the Catalan rap artist Pau Llonch. He lit the spark for recording a clip against the Valtonyc and Hasel sentences. They wanted to do it at La Modelo no matter what and the No Callarem platform supported the action. We helped to spread the word for putting together a team with different languages together to visually enhance the video clip.
At the beginning, was what meant to be an ‘atrezzo action’ turned into a bunch of pieces that can be visited in the backyard of Gallery 4. In fact that backyard is not open to the public, but you can see it from the watch guard pit. We think that, from a conceptual point of view, it’s very powerful to keep those pieces locked – especially when thinking about how things are going in Spain regarding freedom of speech.”
Additionally it’s worth mentioning Reskate’s initiative about shouting against the suffocating atmosphere that we are experiencing here for some time: ‘Our idea is that every artist post one piece / illustration / painting / picture (old or new) supporting our initiative promoting freedom of speech in order to criticize the lack of democracy within the Spanish government.
Some of the hashtags that we will use are #NoCallarem #EzGaraIsilduko #NonCalaremos #NunVamosCallar #NonCararam,#NoCallaremos being the main one.
Visual artists from Madrid, Zaragoza, Almería, Oviedo, Valencia, Vila-real, Barcelona, Bilbao, Valladolid, Tenerife…are supporting this initiative. Some of them are: Malakkai, Escif, Paula Bonet, Aryz, Ricardo Cavolo, Enric Sant, Twee Muizen, Franco Fasoli, Hyuro, Javier Jaén, Boa Mistura, Conrad Roset, Jordi Borràs, Danjer, Cinta Vidal, David de las Heras, Juan Díaz-Faes, Chamo San, and Marina Capdevila, among others.
La Semana por la Libertad de Expresión (Freedom of Speech Week) is happening now, with different activities taking place all over the country. The funds raised from these activities will go to a resistance fund for the platform in order to defend all those people chased and brought to justice because of censorship and repression. You can check the whole program of the week HERE.
So, yes: we have a fight going on. Comedians, actors and actresses, musicians, journalists, visual artists, the guy / girl next door who is active in social media… It’s kind of a Russian Roulette game where, if you are critical with the established system and you are using 3rd grade humor as a weapon, you can end in jail. And all of it is happening in a country whose government is accused of being the most corrupt on the whole continent.
I have a very well informed friend who has been kind of disappointed with the absence of critical vision and combative behaviors from most of the big names in the local street art / graffiti scene. Thanks to initiatives such as No Callarem and the impulse of people like Javi de Riba, she is reconciling herself with this small, but powerful little world whose images have the strength for making important things happen.
Finally, I’d like to recommend that you check the publications under the hashtag #nocallaremos that are out, as there will be some fine and unique art being produced for the occasion in the upcoming days.
As it’s being said in Los Borbones son unos Ladrones:
– rap music is not a crime
– we need scratches, we need paintings
– I don’t dream about Versace, I dream about barricades
– …because of the poetry that still sleeps in the ditches…
Big props to Javi de Riba, Xavier Urbano and all the artists behind the No Callarem movement.
Today is Marathon Day in New York City and the leaves on the trees have turned to oranges and reds and yellows to welcome the 26,000 people running through all five boroughs. In two days right here in New York City both Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton will wait at their campaign headquarters to see the results of the longest and slimiest presidential campaigns most of us can remember, with many of us reporting that it made us sick.
There is plenty of blame to go around, and hopefully these are simply the fitful growing pains of a fighting, evolving society and not the stabbing spasms of a dissolute, dying republic.
So here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Amanda Wong, Atomik, Boa Mistura, BK Foxx, Cash4, Giver, Kobra, Lexi Bella, Moter, Olek, Rambo, Reverend, Rocko, Ruben Sanchez, Sheryo, Sokar Uno, Wolftits, and You Go Girl.
We asked Olek about this brand new crocheted billboard she and a small team installed this week in New Jersey. We publish her reflections and statement here for BSA readers.
“This crocheted billboard is my uncommissioned letter to Hillary Clinton, a letter from a woman, an artist, and a naturalized US citizen.
This election has been fueled by hate and negativity. Initially, I did not want to make overtly political art. But then I realized I must, as too much is at stake. I could either make a negative statement about the other candidate or a positive one about Hillary. When a piece of art has 1000 hours of hand labor invested in it, I’d rather it be a positive statement.
Hillary might not be cool, but she is qualified, experienced and competent. I don’t want to hang out with her. I don’t want to drink beer with her. I don’t want to go dancing all night with her. I want her to be our president. I want her to run this country!
This is history happening in front of you, incredible and groundbreaking. The first African-American president will pass the most important job in the USA to the first woman president. No one would have imagined this just 50 years ago. So yes, these are amazing times.
Look at what is happening in Europe. Countries are returning to a conservative stance and people’s rights are being trampled and revoked. Few believed Brexit could take place, but indeed it did. We should learn from this mistake. Hate crimes are escalating. Immigrants, and especially Polish citizens, are being beaten and even killed. We cannot let this happen here in USA. We cannot go down this path of destruction in The United States of America.
I involved people across the USA to help me with this project. It was about a community working together and making a statement. We had two main groups crocheting – one in Virginia Beach and one in NYC. The excitement was tangible as we worked together to realize this vision. Each day we gathered in my tiny studio, those outside of NYC would join via Skype, as we all crocheted around the clock, talking to each other about our commitment to this piece and to Hillary Clinton, listening to music, podcasts, and audiobooks. Everyone involved jumped on this project because they believed in it.
We are happy that we have achieved it.
I am an artist. I am a woman. As both I must make a statement. I cannot remain neutral or silent. I wish more people would find a way make positive statements. Unfortunately, negativity sells much better these days.
It is imperative for the future of our country that we succeed in electing Hillary Clinton as President of The United States of America this November 8th.” – OLEK
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening :
1. “Rubble Kings” : Gangs, Graffiti, Hip-Hop in 1970s NYC
2. INDECLINE: “This Land Was Our Land” (Largest Illegal Graffiti Piece In The World) 3. Al Karama: Boa Mistura Reverse Paints the Message in Casbah
4. Mutiny Of Colours: (Trailer) “Peace A Message From Iran”
BSA Special Feature: Rubble Kings
“Rubble Kings” Opens Today: Gangs, Graffiti, Hip-Hop in 1970s NYC
An outstanding recounting of the fierce gang culture born of despair and “white flight” that blighted New York City, Rubble Kings helps put in perspective the evolution of a people being pushed out of the American Dream grabbing it by the balls and reclaiming it as their own, remaking it in their image.
That may be the overly romantic view of an unjust and needlessly brutal time full of violence and murder, with innocent everyday people caught in the middle as victims. And certainly as oppressed as these former gang members were, the thought may cross your mind that the heroic roles depicted in this story are reserved for one gender almost exclusively. That said, props to the director Shan Nicholson that Rubble Kings presents a meaningful and compelling context for the unwinding of the social, political, institutional constructs that shook folks to the bone; an economic violence that decimated neighborhoods and communities.
Well edited storytelling with actual footage, pertinent interviews, and invented animated scenarios, the story traces the evolution of the Black and Latino experience following the killing of the Kennedy brothers, Dr. King, and Malcolm X, and the death of hope for a people who were just starting to see a chance at sitting at the table of equality, an opportunity at a middle class existence – even as the Vietnam War started claiming many young lives. Defenseless against unresponsive politicians, obtuse bull-headed urban planning, corrupt real estate owners who burned their buildings and contemptible landlords ignoring their responsibilities, high unemployment, a booming drug economy, and a general perception that the police were working against them, these street gangs became a new force of order and disorder; the kings of the rubble.
Aside from the lawlessness in the face of abandonment, the John Leguziamo narrated documentary features a well arched story that presents some crucial insight into origins of the birth of the Hip Hop movement: a grassroots-based all-city community reconciliation that enabled new coalitions and drew directly upon what became Hip Hop’s central tenets including Emceeing (MCing), DJing, Breaking, and Graffiti. With emotional and riveting accounts from gang members like leaders of the 2,500-strong Bronx based gang Ghetto Brothers, Benjamin Melendez and Carlos Suarez, you are able to see the dynamic tension between neighborhoods and philosophies, the depth of turmoil on the streets, and the weight of responsibility leaders assumed.
Musically a direct connection is drawn to the Afro-Cuban and Latin funk of the late 60s/early 70s blending with rock, eventually incorporating disco and electronic influences; a true melting pot worthy of a New York cultural movement. Also interviewed are musical pioneers like DJ Kool Herc, credited with originating hip hop music in the early 1970s in The Bronx, and Afrika Bambaataa, whose ZULU Nation is credited for integrating the needs of the community with inspiration and positive aspirations, weaving it with the creative spirit and a desire for an inclusive common culture celebrating style, strength, and power.
Rubble Kings opens today in New York at AMC Empire 25, in Los Angeles at AMC Burbank 8, and Chicago at AMC Country Club Hills 16. A wider national release will follow. It is also available on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, GooglePlay, Sony Entertainment Network and VHX.
INDECLINE: “This Land Was Our Land” (Largest Illegal Graffiti Piece In The World)
Saying they have just completed the largest illegal graffiti in the world, the anonymous INDECLINE took six days in April to complete this half mile wide statement on a disused military site in the California’s Mojave Desert.
Impressive as hell of course, and Woody Guthrie is an American hero and yes this land belonged to other people before it was claimed by the US and it has been severely damaged by the war machine. But outstanding questions here are: which eight graffiti heads can afford 6 days, 250 gallons of paint, sprayers, power leaf blowers, range rovers, and a $20K budget to pull this off? Also is the name related to the Adobe Creative Suite at all?
Al Karama: Boa Mistura Reverse Paints the Message in Casbah
This old town in Algiers called Casbah has been a World Heritage Site, as declared by UNESCO in 1992 but it has fallen into disrepair. The Mediterranean port is known for its white painted facades and features, something Boa Mistura says they found quite poetic. In their customary fashion the collective finds a way to write inspiring messages while preserving the history and character of the town.
Mutiny Of Colours: (Trailer) “Peace A Message From Iran”
Coming next week the Kickstarter for the filmmakers who are creating Mutiny of Colours. They have run out of money to finish their documentary and are reaching out to ask for support. The film follows Iranian street artists who are targeted for attention by the authorities for “promoting Satanism” among other accusations. Their fundraising starts June 28th, and we’ll tell you about it again when we get closer. In the mean time here is a teaser for the unfinished project from the directors, Zeinab & Paliz.
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening :
1. “SOMOS LUZ” – Boa Mistura in Panamá City
2. Giulio Vesprini by Alessandro Moglie
3. Ox Alien x Spider Tag in Rotterdam
4. Borondo in Rome with some Piety from The Blind Eye Factory
BSA Special Feature: “SOMOS LUZ” – Boa Mistura
We start off the BSA Film Friday for 2014 with a newly released story about the majority.
That is, the poor. Somehow despite the miracles and wealth and technological breakthroughs of the modern age we have allowed the majority of our brothers and sisters and neighbors around the globe to live in harsher conditions and mounting insecurity.
Madrid-based Street Art quartet Boa Mistura created a project they call SOMOS LUZ when they created a transformative piece of art taking over an entire housing project building in Panamá City. Their short documentary is a thoughtful examination that features daily scenes, observations on the political climate, the militarization of life, crime, the brutal cost of daily life.
As any mature artist will likely tell you, the work doesn’t resound so deeply until you have some skin in the game, and Boa Mistura make a serious study to learn from the people in El Chorrillo whose 50 homes they paint.
In the process, they bring a lot to light.
Giulio Vesprini by Alessandro Moglie
While painting a mural in Montegranaro for an event called Casa Museo, artist Giulio Vesprini was happy to have some musical accompaniment. Also, some interpretive dance to keep spirits high.
Ox Alien x Spider Tag in Rotterdam
With only six hours to spend in Rotterdam, Spidertag met up with Ox in December to do three collaborative works despite an ongoing spate of rain. The geometric interventions balance the styles of the two Street Artists, each preferring to let the lines do the talking.
Borondo in Rome with some Piety from The Blind Eye Factory
Two languid figures in repose are made from deliberate and raw impressionist swaths, relaxing in one anothers’ company across a large wall in composition entitled “Piedad”. See how Barondo moves along and defines the figures on this wall for the Museo dell’Altro e dell’Altrove di Metropoliz, and cross yourself.
From the neighborhood of El Chorrilo in Panama City comes a new face for that kind of building via the work of the five-man Spanish artist collective Boa Mistura. Taking the community aspect of their work to heart, these guys just finished turning a monolithic mass of housing into a vibrant grouping of individual homes, personalizing the scale with a little typography and a lot of color.
The words spelled out on the facade are “Somos Luz” (“We are Light”) and Boa Mistura says, “The message aims to inspire daily – not only the neighbors – but other people who walk by the building every day.”
By painting all the hallways, balconies, and landings in an ever-changing abstract color compositions Boa Mistura says they are trying to use participative urban art as a tool for encouragement in run-down communities and a way to work with the local residents in to improve their home environment.
“Luz Nas Vielas”, Vila Brasilândia, São Paulo, Brasil; A short film.
Intervention! That’s the more academic word choice that people like to used euphemistically to describe putting up a piece of street art sometimes – and one that belies a more holistic perception of Street Art’s overall potential to impact a community. So when Spanish Street Art collective Boa Mistura began talking about their planned “participative Urban Art interventions” in São Paulo this year, the implication was to somehow positively change conditions in the dense favelas using art and the creative spirit.
Describing art as “a tool for change and inspiration”, the Luz Nas Vielas project took place at the beginning of the year in the neighborhood of Vila Brasilândia, a community struggling economically. Hosted by the Gonçalves family, artists and organizers took time to get to know the neighborhood, study and analyze the narrow and winding streets that comprise a sort of urban net, and took part in a dialogue with residents.
With the active participation of neighbors, the Boa Mistura collective focused on some concepts that were identified as important to the area and used them as guidance. The words they collectively chose were Beleza, Firmeza, Amor, Doçura, and Orgulho (roughly translated as beauty, strength, love, kindness, and pride). With these universal values in mind, artists made their interventions with the intention of using art as a tool for change and intervention.
See the video for a full account and judge for yourself how successful they were.