Archives for category: catalan culture

As I had expected, after taking on a full-time position, along with some administrative duties, at one of the schools where I had only worked a few hours a week, has turned my old routines upside-down. Add to that a 2-week trip to New York in September (which will be the topic of my next post) The month of October was on fraught with adjustment as I juggled old responsibilities and new, into a new sort of lifestyle. This particular responsibility was one of the balls that got dropped.

It looks like I’m beginning to get my bearings, and I’m currently in a two-day lull before it comes time to start organizing final exams before the winter break. So I’ve decided to take advantage on this chilly Sunday–also the day of Spain’s 4th general election in 4 years–to post a bit of what I captured before I got really busy at the beginning of September.

Most of these shots come from my normal hunting grounds, the Tres Xemeneies Park neat Parallel, and the “free walls” near Poble Nou.

One notable exception is the pasteup work of a previously featured artist, Postman art, a portrait of Karl Lagerfeld, found in the Raval.

Summer 2019 has turned out to be quite a bit busier than I had expected, having taken on a few extra hours at work. As a result, I haven’t been able to get out and about as much as I normally do in summer.

There would be no excuse, however, for me to miss out on the annual Fest Major de Gràcia, as I am pretty much surrounded by it for its 7-day run.

As always, all of my shots are taken early in the day, before the arrivals of the bigger crowds that swarm the neighbourhood every night. Even so, the most intricately-decorated streets had not only converted into one-way passages, but there were also staff at the entrance to control the number of people entering. This meant that even at 11 in the morning there was a block-long line of people waiting to get into some of the streets. That said, the line moved fast, and once inside, it wasn’t nearly as crowded as it had been in past years, making it much easier to move, and to snap a few photos free of people.

The themes this year varied, from Harry Potter, to a tribute to miners, to Halloween, to the library after closing, to a 50s-style American diner.

There were a few incidents however, include a pair of sexual assaults of women on their way home late at night, and a suspicious fire, which destroyed most of a street which had been decorated with an ocean theme. Unfortunate incidents seem to be a side effect of a festival, and indeed a city, which has become a victim of its own success.

As every year, the Gràcia festival is followed by the slightly smaller festival of the Sants neighbourhood. I will try to get a few pictures before it wraps up.

La Modelo was a prison located in the central Eixample neighborhood of Barcelona, and was home to many political prisoners during the Franco dictatorship, and also the site of many executions, among them the killing of anarchist Salvador Puig Antich in 1974.

I used to live just across the street and it was always an imposing structure, though usually strangely quiet, except for the occasional karaoke nights that would echo out from over the walls, which occupied an entire city block.

The prison shut down definitively in 2017, after 113 years in operation. It is now an open space, and is used for tours, civic events, and most notably its walls now serve as canvases for urban art. Below you’ll find a selection from a recent trip I made to the area, which is located here.

 

I had heard and seen photos around the net of some mural work at the Nau Bostik, a cultural center which is a converted factory at the edge of the Poble Nou area, the old industrial center of Barcelona. Due to time constraints, I hadn’t been able to make it until just before Christmas. I definitely recommend the trip, as they regularly have art markets and concerts along with other special events. Below you’ll find some of the art I encountered that day, including a character from Game of Thrones by well-known Barcelona artist Axe Colours.

 

This morning, at 8 am sharp, a number of loud explosions marked, as they do every year, the beginning of the week-long Festa Major de Gràcia, which is the neighborhood bash in which streets are decorated and crowds come to drink, dance, and celebrate the summer. It’s a noisy departure from the quiet which usually reigns in Barcelona in August, which is traditionally the time when many Europeans take their legally-mandated month of vacation, and the Catalans are no exception.

Because my next entry (or two) will very likely be dominated by shots of the decorated streets, I’ve decided to post what I’ve taken around the city so far this summer, starting from mid-June, to now. Most of the pics are from the Poblenou area, as well as the “three chimneys” park near Paral.lel.

As the title suggests, I’m also including a link below to a podcast interview which I did earlier this spring as a part of a project called “All the Brians”, where Brian Alexander travels around the world interviewing all the Brians he can find. In my interview I talk about life in Barcelona, street art, the ongoing conflict between Catalonia and the Spanish State, as well as what it’s like to live as a Brian in Barcelona. It’s long, but I think it’s worth the listen. Here is the link.

I’d like to start this post by giving a shoutout (do people still use that term? Is there an emoji for that?) to Barcelona Segway Tours, who have recently included this blog in the rankings of the best Barcelona travel blogs in English. Be sure to check out the link here, as I am in some fantastic company!

As for today’s images, they come from an artist who makes regular appearances here, none other than TVBoy. Whether it was intentional or not, the Italian artist this time seems to prove the multiple intelligence theory posed by Howard Gardner in his 1983 book. Without getting into too much detail and the debate which accompanies any theory of intelligence and learning (read more here), the two most recent works here in Barcelona, of Antoni Gaudí and Lionel Messi, show two examples of two very distinct types of genius. According to Gardner, Messi would probably be considered a genius in the body-kinesthetic type intelligence, which governs movement and agility. On the other hand, Gaudí would probably fit into the visual-spatial intelligence type, if his masterpieces that punctuate the Catalan capital’s landscape are any indicator. That’s not to say that Messi may not be a great painter, or that Gaudí couldn’t have scored a few goals in his time, but it does show that there can be more than one definition of genius. I have yet to find mine. Have you discovered yours?

As the title suggests, my featured shot for this entry is a work in progress which is being painted on the doors of a street-level parking facility on Ros de Olano street just a few blocks from my home. The artist has also painted another gate on my street, but I’m including this one, as the subject is more exciting to me: the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

The other shots are from various gates, a large mural of a baby from the Vallcarca neighbourhood, a pasteup criticizing the selfie culture, and two large pasted up murals which I think come from the same artist, and can also be found here in Gràcia.

My last set of shots for 2017 here in Barcelona came near the Three Chimneys Park just off Paral·lel, which hosts the “free walls” graffiti project. Be sure to check this article from July, via fellow blogger Barcelona Lowdown. The other photos are from just across the street at the (relatively) new Arnau Gallery, the open-air mural project which has a rotating schedule of public exhibitions. The one in this post was replaced about two weeks ago, but it’s definitely worth the trip if you’re in town. Here is a link to the facebook page with some past work, and some interesting videos.

Tomorrow, the 21st of December is the day that Catalans go to the polls in one of the tensest, most polarized election cycles since Spain’s return to democracy in the late 70’s. There are various parties involved, but really there are only two blocs: the independence bloc, and the so-called constitutionalist bloc, which consists of parties who in one way or another supported the Madrid central government’s seizing control of the Catalan regional government, dissolving the parliament, and calling snap elections. The idea behind the elections would be for non-independence forces to win and form pacts in order to, as Spanish president Rajoy put it, “restore normalcy”. Polls seem neck in neck, and debates have been tense, and no one really seems sure of what will happen, from the paid experts to the man (or woman) on the street.

Italian artist TVBoy has risen to the challenge and during the night slapped up some work which portrays the politicians from the pro-union parties engaged in passionate embraces, which would symbolize the post-election pact magic they would need in order to restore that holy grail of Madrid-style “normalcy”. I rushed downtown as soon as I heard about them, as such political art would likely become victim of the city cleaning squads, or angry citizens who feel their political idols are being mocked.

Added bonus: a rare selfie of your favorite blogger!

 

The last few months have been turbulent ones here in Catalonia, and it’s been nearly impossible not to get caught up in the action, hence the lack of publications during this time.

While the independence issue has been at the forefront for the last 7 years or so, since the Spanish government moved to decimate the “estatut” agreement which gave the Catalans more autonomy, and recognition of their cultural identity, it’s only this summer that things really began to heat up.

The president of Catalonia since 2015, Carles Puigdemont is a lifelong believer in the independence movement, in contrast to his predecessor Artur Mas, who was a fairly recent convert. In June, Puigdemont and the independence-minded majority of the Parliament decided to fulfill their election promise and call a binding referendum on the declaration of an independent Catalan Republic. There had been a vote in November of 2014, but it was largely symbolic, and mostly ignored by Madrid. This time, however, Madrid started using every weapon in its arsenal to prevent the referendum, which was slated for the 1st of October.

Over the summer, there was much back-and-forth between Madrid and Barcelona, which culminated in Spanish Civil Guard (paramilitary police, which evoke images for the Franco dictatorship for many) forcing their way into various Catalan government offices, in search of referendum-related materials. This was accompanied by the takedown (and re-birth) of referendum websites, the prohibition of referendum advertising on Catalan public media. There was also police intervention in public meetings to discuss the referendum. Needless to say, none of this sat well with the Catalan people, and massive street demonstrations, beginning on the 20th of September resulted in the imprisonment, without bail or trial, of two leading independence activists known as the “Jordis” for their share first name, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez.

Adding more fuel to the fire, the Spanish government decided to deploy 18,000 National riot police officers and Civil Guard, who were put up in cruise ships near the port.

The days leading up to the referendum were about as tense as I can remember having experienced since coming to live here, with all manner of threats being lobbed from Madrid toward Catalan leaders, citizens and media. The evening before the vote, people occupied the schools where the voting was to take place, organizing games, classes, workshops, and other activities to pass the time, and protect their polling places. The morning of the 1st was a rainy one, but people began to gather outside polling stations before sunrise, waiting to cast their votes, under the constant threat that the police moored at the port could appear at any time. The police did appear at some polling places, and exercised the restraint one would expect from a saber-rattling Madrid–some reports cite nearly 1000 injured, while others claim numbers in the single digits. The photo and video evidence which is abundant online seems to support the former numbers.

During these last few months, the citizen mobilization in the streets has been an impressive exercise in democracy which, whatever one’s feelings might be on the independence issue, has been unique for its lack of violence. A big part of those mobilizations has been the amount of postering and wheatpasting that has been done all over the city. As a street art blog, I felt it necessary to document some of it for you.