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.
La Ciutat Vella or The Old City is a district in Barcelona also known as the Gothic Quarters. Among many things it is also known as the stomping grounds for the young Pablo Picasso, who attended the Fine Arts school that once stood on Calle Avinyó.
Not to mention the impressive Gothic architecture and the first project of Famed Catalan architect Antonio Gaudi. Rambling up La Rambla is a good way to check out the parade of Barceloneons with its long walking avenue and take get great food in El Raval which is 50% populated by immigrants who come from many places including South America, Pakistan, the Phillipines, and Romania. Also, its close to the beach.
For those looking for street art this is also a remarkable point of destination. There are no big walls really but The Old City has plenty of back allies where artists find old rusty doors or windows to put up small pieces of Street Art.
Figurative, fantastical, surreal, dark pop, illustration techniques are favorites for local artiststs, who use all the compliment of modern Street Art techniques, including stencils, posters, stickers, and wheat pastes.
Our sincere thanks to photographer Lluis Olive who visited this part of the city recently and sends this dispatch of small offerings to share with BSA readers.
Images today from La Nau Bostik, an artist run complex in Barcelona that aims to be sustainable, inspirational, and a breathing living cultural oasis. By most accounts, it succeeds wildly.
Murals often accompany citizen-run cultural initiatives and art spaces like these, frequently to great effect. The spaces are raw and neglected and needs a sense of life and color; new narratives to fill the space with interactions and hopefully inspire collaboration.
Xavier Basiana and his cultural compatriots have established a community cultural and intellectual place in a settlement of ex-industrial warehouses over the last decade along the train tracks in La Sagrera, and the once barren soil now sprouts an ever growing crop of portraits, characters, fantasies, political and social messages.
In cities that we have the opportunity to visit we occasionally get to see these vibrant spaces like La Nau Bostik, now a cultural fixture that draws thousands throughout the year for a rich mix of programming and engagement. Surrounded by great organic works on the walls by fine artists and current or former Street Artists and graffiti writers, the environment seems to foster a re-generation of people-fueled ideas for progress, problem solving and dreaming.
Ivan Floro. Nau Bostik, Barcelona. (photo LluÍs Olivé Bulbena)
Without the synergistic effects of weaving all of these elements of education, celebration, theater, academic examination, civic engagement, the plastic arts, performance, labor, and commerce, these places may not be able to offer a safe place for free thought and internal exploration. As ever, it is the combined effect of a variety of talents that creates the greater sum. With so many factors and parties at play, maintaining a sense of balance is an ongoing goal.
Today we are happy to visit this arts space via the camera work of photographer Lluis Olive Bulbena, who we thank for sharing his images with BSA readers.
BSA Special Feature: Las Calles Hablan : Street Art in Barcelona
“Las Calles Hablan is a story about discovering a hidden world, an extraordinary subculture and the struggle between an artistic community painting for freedom of expression and an increasingly restrictive dogmatic government,” says Justin Donlon as he speaks about this hour long documentary he made with Silvia Vidal Muratori and Katrine Knauer.
An educational and unpretentious study of the spectrum of Street Artists and techniques currently at play in Barcelona, the team traces the scene through personal observations and their network of local and international artists, local gallerists, and their connections globally via the Internet.
The film traces the trajectory from the Street Art/graffiti’s emergence at the end of the 70s following the Franco dictatorship and the rise of international hip-hop culture through the 90s into a sort of freewheeling golden era in the early 2000s. It also explains the current unease with the city, the professionalizing of the artists through a growing gallery practice, and the collaborative initiatives of some community leaders with artists.
Taking a straightforward documentary approach, the motivations and inspirations of current artists on the scene are presented without much of the exaggerated myth-making that more commercial hype vehicles often contain. Included in the examination are how community and local citizens and authorities have taken a constructive role in facilitating space and opportunities for some artists here and elsewhere, while the definition and appetite for illegal work ebbs and flows.
Featured artists:Zosen, Mina Hamada, Kenor, Kram, El Xupet Negre, Debens, Fert, Dase, SM172, Ogoch, Kafre, Aleix Gordo, Meibol, Eledu, C215, H101, Miss Van, Btoy, El Arte Es Basura, Konair, Gola, Vinz.