All posts tagged: Valtonyc

Bill Posters and Valtònyc: ‘The Gag Law Made Me Do It’ / ‘Lay Mordaza Me Obliga’

Bill Posters and Valtònyc: ‘The Gag Law Made Me Do It’ / ‘Lay Mordaza Me Obliga’

‘The Gag Law made me do it!,” says Street Art activist and social commentator Bill Posters as he talks about his new kiosk takeovers in Placa Espanya, Barcelona. The large black and white photographs are of two free speech advocates arrested for offending ‘Ley Mordaza’ in Spain – a curious concoction of restrictions passed as law 3 years ago that most people would tell you are clearly repressive and are frankly difficult to believe would last for long in a European country.

Including restrictions on photographing police, organizing on social media, public protesting, even leaving furniture in the street (?) (a tradition), in the first seven months of the law being passed 40,000 sanctions were imposed, according to statistics from the Ministry of Internal Affairs on the website European Center for Press and Media Freedom. Euroweekly says that the current average is 80 citations per day. Although some of those cases have been overturned and El Pais says the government has been backtracking on these laws recently.

Bill Posters. Portrait in Exile 2 – Anna Gabriel. ‘Lay Mordaza Me Obliga’ / ‘The Gag Law Made Me Do It’. Intervention in Placa Espanya. Barcelona, Spain. October 2018 (photo © Bill Posters)

Article 578, known as ‘Ley Mordaza’ (the ‘gag law’) has been condemned by Amnesty International and is symbolized in these Street Art pieces by the piece of red tape that goes across the subjects’ mouths. Mr. Posters tells us he intends it to be an interactive piece that the public can remove the tape themselves, symbolically allowing the subject to speak. This act of de-censorship is a novel idea and in fact someone recently did that and photographed it (below).

The artist tells us more details about the two subjects, who he says are, “taken hostage by the Spanish state’s legal apparatus that is increasingly designed to silence both political and cultural dissent.”

Anna Gabriel: “After the holding in 2017 of the Catalan independence referendum, called by the Generalitat de Catalunya, and declared illegal by the Constitutional Court of Spain – the former spokesperson for the Catalan pro-Independence campaign, was called to appear in front of the Spanish Supreme Court to give evidence about her participation in those events. On February 20th, 2018, she stated in an interview to Le Temps that she would not show up for her court hearing, while in a self imposed exile in Switzerland.”

Bill Posters. Portrait in Exile 1 – Valtònyc. ‘Lay Mordaza Me Obliga’ / ‘The Gag Law Made Me Do It’. Intervention in Placa Espanya. Barcelona, Spain. October 2018 (Screen grab from the video)

Valtònyc: “A vocal pro-independence rapper from Catalonia was sentenced to 3 years in prison in March 2018 for lyrics that contained (alleged) glorification of terrorism, slander, ‘lèse-majesté’ (defamation against the crown), and threats.”

Here at BSA we don’t pretend to know all of the history or innerworkings of Spain and Catalonia – or Brooklyn for that matter – but we do worry seriously when we hear about artists being silenced and jailed for speech – and you should too.

Through a third party BSA was able to send a few interview questions to the twenty-four year old Catalonian rapper Valtònyc, who is featured in one of these Street Art pieces and who Belgium recently refused to extradite. With a number of “western” societies going in a hard-right direction politically, we wanted to understand how a country like Spain could have passed these recent laws and how they are affecting artists – those weirdos who usually are the first to test the limits of free speech.

Edited for clarity and brevity, these are the answers we received back:

BSA: Democracy returned to Spain in 1977, yet 41 years later you were convicted by the Supreme Court of Spain for exercising your rights to express your opinions not only as a citizen but as an artist. How is it possible that a member state of the EU, one that bills itself as a democratic state, can rescind freedom of speech among its citizens?
Valtònyc: Being condemned for a song lyric is not the most serious thing that happens in Spain. Since the beginning of the supposed “democracy”, Spain has the only general secretary of a communist party in prison under a life sentence. Now he is also joined by the president of ERC and the ministers of Catalonia without trial and with accusations of up to 30 years for rebellion.

In Spain, multiple daily newspapers, websites and illegal political parties have also been closed. All this while Europe watches. We are not a bourgeois democracy like other countries in Europe, we are a fascist state and it is demonstrable.

The above photo of the installation shown without the red tape was sent to Valtonyc (the Catalonian rapper in exile) which shows his portrait with the red tape removed. “Someone, an unknown member of the public transgressed the boundary from observer to participant which is what the project intended!” Bill Posters


BSA: What about democracy? What’s happened to the Spanish Institutions that were created after the dictatorship to protect the rights of its citizens?
Valtònyc: In a democracy, institutions are there to serve citizens. In Spain they only serve to condemn them. There are 20,000 people affected by the ‘gag law’. When there is a wave of organization and demonstrations, they respond with repression.

It is curious that they never condemn fascists or Nazis and that the accused are always communists and anarchists. The constitutional court does not respond to violations of the constitution, such as my sentence and that of the remaining 15 rappers. Is not freedom of expression a constitutional right?

BSA: Do you think the current state of Spain is a direct consequence of corruption?
Valtònyc: Brussels recently has shown that Spain is the most corrupt country in Europe. Of 1400 corrupt politicians, only 70 have entered prison and none of them has served their sentence in full. Worst of all is corruption within justice – how judges paralyze investigations of political parties or destroy evidence of illegal financing. It’s a disaster.

BSA: Do you see other young people like yourself being aware of the social issues and the struggles facing Spain now? How are they getting involved to help create a better country?
Valtònyc: Every day people are more aware of what is happening in the Spanish state and are organized or mobilized. There are never enough, but as in France, we in Spain also have examples of organization and struggles that have ended in victory. There are the examples of Gamonal, the train of Murcia, or the miners of Asturias. It shows that the people united and on the street, not only on the Internet, can preserve all the rights they try to take away from us. History proves this as a fact and it has never changed.

(photo © Pepe Marín)

BSA: Do you think most young people in Spain view the Spain of Franco as something in the distant past and see no connection between his 35 years in power and the concerns of contemporary Spain?
Valtònyc: I believe that many people are aware of the rise of the extreme right throughout Europe; how the extreme right takes advantage of the weaknesses of the popular classes in their speeches and thus wins their sympathy. The problem is that we do not organize ourselves to stop fascism and then we are surprised that in the elections they win so many votes. Fascism advances if it is not fought and it is a pity that people do not understand that this is more than a simple slogan.

BSA: Do you think artists must take a position with their art to lead a revolution for change? What is the part that art plays during times of social unrest and injustice?
Valtònyc: I believe that art has to be a tool for social transformation; a hammer to shape reality. All art is political, many people think not, but that’s the way it is. Your art can serve the oppressor or the oppressed class, but it is impossible to stay out of politics. Now in the HipHop scene the Trap sound abounds and the political rap is not so notorious, but we still remain combative rappers in the trenches – especially in South America and in France.

 

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No Callarem: Street Artists Paint As Protest in La Modelo Prison, Barcelona

No Callarem: Street Artists Paint As Protest in La Modelo Prison, Barcelona

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…

Enric Sant at work. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

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.

Reskate . Enric Sant . Txemy. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

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.

The patio with Enric Sant in the background at work. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

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.

Javier De Riba at work. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

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.”

Javier De Riba at work. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

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.

Fullet at work. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

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.

Werens at work. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

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.

#nocallarem

Fullet, Werens and Javier De Riba at work. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Milvietnams at work. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Franco Fasoli AKA JAZ at work. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Franco Fasoli AKA JAZ at work. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Twee Muizen at work. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Enric Sant. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Reskate . Enric Sant . Txemy. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Reskate. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Txemy . Joan Tarragó . Twee Muizen . Franco Fasoli AKA Jaz. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Joan Tarragó. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Twee Muizen. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Franco Fasoli AKA JAZ. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Fullet . Werens . Javier De Riba . Milvietnams . Reskate. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Fullet . Werens. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Javier De Riba. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Overview. La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

La Modelo, Barcelona. (photo © Fer Alcalá)

Los Borbones Son Unos Ladrones. feat, FrankT, Sara Hebe, Elphomega, Rapsusklei…


The guys behind Delabrave @delabrave have filmed a parallel clip about the creative process of these pieces.

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