Stencils, wheat-pastes, and fevered texts by hand – they all are speaking to you in Valencia. Here in Spain, the pandemic has canceled Pamplona’s bull-running festival and Seville’s Holy Week procession. This month Valencia’s Fallas festival was held in the strictest of rules.
spooky set of images today from València, where an enormous torso of a
woman is set afire in the center of the city, billowing blackened smoke through
its cut severed body upward hundreds of meters into the air.
Only two years ago we gave you stunning photos by Martha Cooper of Okuda’s enormous geometric pop art sculpture aflame for this traditional festival (OKUDA Sculpture Engulfed in Flames for Falles Festival in València). The culmination of a city-wide street celebration that is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands in this city of 2.5 million. Now there is no one outside on Valencia streets.
Spain and most countries in Europe are closing their borders, going into some version of a 24-hour lock-down curfew, encouraging people to self -quarantine to protect against the spread of coronavirus.
Look at the images of the yoga posed woman with a face mask, cut in two, lit on fire, only her shoulders and neck, and head remaining. Is it violent? Is it poetry?
“Suddenly this image became a symbol of peace and calm, unity and solidarity,” says Spanish Street Artist Escif, the political sociologist who often infuses his figurative imagery with greater commentary on society.
Escif tells us that the Valencia government decided to burn just the body of the sculpture and to keep the face with the mask in the square – until this crisis ends. Surrounded by firefighters, this fire goes up. Yet this serene woman will remain after the flame is extinguished, what is left of her.
man of leisure these days, BSA contributor Lluis Olive-Bulbena took a three day
trip to Valencia, Spain to participate in the festivities of El dia del
El Cabanyal is a 333 acre (134 hectares) neighborhood in the old part of the city by the Mediterranean Sea, backed by a series of sandy beaches and a palm treed promenade. Its name is derived by the complex of barracks along the shore where the fishermen used to live when the town was purely a fishing village.
With the passage of time and change of the Spanish economy, El Cabanyal caught the eye of the leisure class who fill the streets with souvenir shops, cafes, and late-night clubs. The fishermen went someplace else. Not surprisingly perhaps, this tourist attraction is also a hot spot for Street Art – along with the greater city of Valencia for that matter.
We are told that many Street Artists have actually set-up studio here as well. Why not? The quality of life is nice, and the cost of living is much lower than in Barcelona and Madrid.
A few new marine-themed murals today from Benicarló in Valencia.
The realistic romantic stylings of many a muralist is a staple of current Urban Art Festivals right now, including a new one painted by the artist named El Niño de las pinturas, who mines fantasy and history, borrowing from memories, archetypes.
Completed in July during the annual patron saint festival, this year including the third edition of the urban art initiative Camden Bló, El Nino (from Granada) was joined by Xolaka, from Alcúdia (Valencia), the Argentinian Andrés Cobre, and illustrator César Cataldo.
It’s good to see the variety of styles being favored for local festivals and great to see artists getting opportunities to paint in the public sphere – even endorsed by the ministry of culture in this small town of 26,000 along the Mediterranean coast. Special thanks to photographer Lluis Olive Bulbena, who shares his photos with BSA readers.
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.
Street Artist Escif organized with other artists to fight the commercial development of seaside land in Valencia last month. With the help of other socially responsible artists including Aryz, BLU, Borondo, Escif, Anaïs Florin, Hyuro, Luzinterruptus, Daniel Muñoz “SAN”, Sam3 and Elías Taño, Escif and local organizers are publicly pushing a message that shows the local council what it means when citizens are engaged.
According to the organizers La Punta is a hamlet of orchards and gardens located in the south of the city of Valencia where more than 15 years ago the “Logistics Activities Zone” (ZAL) project of the Port of Valencia decided to chase hundreds of people out of this land to give to developers as a new port initiative.
Well, that failed spectacularly, probably because funding fell through due to the global financial crisis, and 15 years later development has not happened. The land has begun to evolve and return to its more natural state and a local farm economy has sprouted up. Meanwhile city planners are hoping they can conjure up another way to use these public lands for private profit.
But grassroots organizers say they want the public/private predatory folks to step back and let citizens decide what to do with this area. Thanks to this new “SenseMurs” public art initiative that is drawing a lot of critical eyes to the matter, more citizens may actually get a seat at the table. Well organized and great communicators, on March 10 and 11 the artists and activists gave tours of the murals of SenseMurs, called a press conference, threw a concert, and opened the doors to other citizens for their participation in the process.
“Within this context, neighbors and associations are trying to bring attention to this reality in order to negotiate with the Administration and start a public participation process,” says the art collective Luzinterruptus in an email, “where it will be decided how these lands will be used and to mend the injustices committed against the neighbors so another chance is given to the deported families to return and work the lands of l’Horta de la Punta.”
Enjoy these shots of the installations from Martha Cooper and two from Juanmi Ponce, starting off with the one and only BLU.
A: ¿ Porqué HAY LECHUGAS ?
B: Pues porqué alguien plantó semillas en esta tierra fértil, les puso agua y dejó que el sol hiciese su trabajo. Imágino que es un ciclo natural. La tierra es generosa y muy prospera. A poco que la cuides, te regala lechugas como estas.
A: No me refiero a eso. Mi pregunta es porque escribes la frase HAY LECHUGAS.
B: Ah! …pues porque hay lechugas!
During the annual Falles de València celebration, it’s normal for artworks to be destroyed publicly in about 500 locations throughout the city and in surrounding towns. Part of a spring tradition for València, Spain monuments (falles) are burned in a celebration that includes parades, brass bands, costumes, dinners, and the traditional paella dish.
This year the first Street Artist to make a sculpture in the traditional commemoration of Saint Joseph is the un-traditional OKUDA, creating his multi-color multi-planed optic centerpiece.
“It had the most prestigious location in front of city hall,” says famed street photographer Martha Cooper, who was a special guest of OKUDA and who captured many of the events involved in preparation and the crescendo of destruction that followed days of intermittent firecrackers, marching bands, and incredible traditional costumes.
The winner of the València City Council competition for the prime location, the pop surrealist from Santander and his studio team created his ninots (puppets or dolls) in the weeks leading up to their grand display for the public before incineration.
It is normal in the few weeks before the pyrotechnics take over this part of the city that crews of artisans and artists like OKUDA work along with sculptors, painters, and craftspeople to construct elaborate ninots with wood, paper, wax, and polystyrene, sometimes as tall as five stories.
Skillfully blending years of traditions with modern fashion, trends, and politics, the riotous 5 days of successively more bombastic displays and marching bands of the dolçaina and tabalet have garnered València and the festival the honor of being a recognized UNESCO site for being an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
There are many visual feasts for visitors to appreciate, says Ms. Cooper. “For Fallas, the entire city of Valencia turns into a massive street art installation. Thousands of people are out parading in gorgeous historic costumes and every neighborhood has not only their main sculpture but also a children’s sculpture,” she tells us.
She captured the building of the Virgin with flower bouquets and a number of politically charged sculptures depicting Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and even Kim Jong-un. She also talks with great admiration about the Fallas Queens with their full Courts of Honor followed by standard bearers and marching bands in a ceremony of beauty – the offerings to Our Lady of the Forsaken. With costumes and flower bouquets as the prime attraction, these marchers are keeping your attention in an entirely different manner than a roaring fire, but your heart may still burn.
Meanwhile the apex of the 5 nights of fireworks from March 14 to 19 is televised countrywide and this year in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento thousands of spectators stood back to watch OKUDA’s largest sculpture go up in ravaging flames.
As the creative partnership continues you can begin to see a common language forming with the oddly surreal photography/painting collage work that Bifido does and the context of Julieta’s paintings that are often occupying an other-worldly sphere of existence. Curiously, they ground one another.
Here the storied overture is your associations with the spiritual life, a young girls imaginings of being something ethereal and able to take wings. The façade of this austere Spanish colonial architecture provides a series of sizes and angles to work within for a scene surely inspired by the buildings use as St. Rafael’s Church.
“Our new work is about the power of church and the influence that religion has on people,” Bifido tells us as they finish the mural here in Buñol, not far from Valencia. They have given the piece the title, “EGO”.
Thought provoking, curious, underplayed. There is a certain circumspect quality to the Street Art scene in this seaside city in Spain that ranks third in population but which may be vying for the Street Art title that once was held securely by Barcelona.
Admittedly it is an unthankable task to try to characterize the urban art of any city, but the eclectic street works like those found in Valencia’s neighborhoods like El Carmen, with its peculiar configurations of streets and plazas and little in-between places, are often a trifle more cerebral in their culmination. With challenging riddles and allegories you’ll find yourself studiously unpacking meanings and subtext with these often small and midsize works that call to you, rather than scream.
Yes, Valencia inherited the grafiteros romance and hip-hop aerosol aesthetic in the late 20th century, as many cities around the globe did, and you can see ample evidence of those fame and style influences here as well. However there is an almost Lo-fi illustrator vibe in Valencia and many figurative pieces are singular, influenced by cartoons and modernly ironic illustration styles, from deadpan dry in black, grey, and white to fully realistic and photorealist aerosol portraits.
It is not unusual for works to have a message or point of view, where symbols stand in for sentiments and metaphors abound. The “cute” quotient may also be lower than many cities, as is the need to fill in a background to occupy space. In a genre that can get very cluttered, with pieces chock-a-block and smashing into one another with no discernable through-thread, Valencia looks like it can give artists the space, and artists are using that space effectively.
Valencia based Escif has many Street Art pieces throughout his city and today we have a survey of some of them for you to look at.
Called a humorist sometimes, or more accurately perhaps a contemporary sociologist, you decode his murals quickly, and then again. He isn’t deliberately obvious but he is our reflector and rather than being explicit, he trusts that you’ll figure it out. With deceptively simple presentations on the street, Escif is content to imagine that the wheels inside your mind are turning and perhaps you will see analogies that are familiar to you, connecting observations with your daily existence.
Take the first one, for example: a currently typical scene of humans slightly bent forward in a marching plod, their attention captivated, even trained, to little devices in their hand. The title translated is “Programmed Obsolescence”, which may refer to the software and hardware designers who know that their income is only replenished when they create things that expire – the precise opposite of a “sustainability” model.
A second interpretation may refer to the humans – not the electronic devices – who are gradually and quickly regarded as superfluous in an automated robotic artificial intelligence-managed modern world. Regarded as no more than “resources” by corporate parlance since the 80s, these humans and their features are less and less impressive or needed for the production of goods and services, slowly programmed to the margins.
“I’m sorry, we don’t support that model anymore, is there anything else we can help you with today?”
The dry flat linear illustration style may call to mind instruction manuals or clip art and that is the sly normative familiarity that will lead you in one direction with Escif. Free of flourishes, one may question what possible depth can be alluded to when the piece doesn’t clamor or preen for that one second of attention you are willing to part with. With Escif you can be assured that these are considered choices; recomposing symbols, forms, text and their relation to one another, to history, to the present, and to you.
Mankey is a Spanish artist now living in Berlin who is challenging himself to study and learn from artists and culture to find his own distinctive voice. Combining elements of comics, animation, primitavism, deconstructed graffiti, abstraction, Miro, Picasso, and Basquiat, the energy powering his assembled exploration is a professed desire to learn from and to talk to an audience.
“Going Big” is what a lot of street artists and muralists are doing today, and this title is probably as sarcastic as it is directive. Mankey questions the testosterone fueled impulsive behaviors of man, even while observing them in himself and this figurative raging stallion, powered by an electric abstraction in his loins is pushing out into your field of view and as far off the wall as it can get with fury and possibly fear.
His bio says Mankey contemplates social topics such as hierarchies, male chauvinism, anthropology, racism, and respect for the environment – it is interesting to see how those concerns are expressed in this aesthetic context.
He says the purpose of his work is to start a dialog through art. See if you can break it down.