Archives for category: catalonia

Barcelona-based Italian artist TVBoy has struck again, this time in three different locations in the center of Barcelona, for his paste-up series entitled “The Monsters of Politics”. The three “monsters” include three of the biggest names in Spanish politics: President and leader of the PSOE (socialist) party Pedro Sanchez, leader of the Ciudadanos (Citizen’s) party Albert Rivera, and leader of the Partido Popular (People’s Party) Pablo Casado. All three are relatively young, charming, and eager to lead Spain out of the current constitutional conflict with Catalonia. All three are also plagued with their own problems, which are depicted in TVBoy’s portraits.

Pedro Sanchez, who became president after a no-confidence vote ousted previous president Mariano Rajoy due to rampant corruption within his Partido Popular, is depicted as a superman, who has the flag of the Second Spanish Republic, rather than the normal “S” for superman. It seems to suggest that while Sanchez is ostensibly a strong figure, he also represents the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party), which is traditionally anti-monarchist. Sanchez, however, much to the chagrin of many party fundamentalists, and many Catalans, seems to be quite comfortable with the current status quo of the constitutional monarchy. He’s also a superhero whose strength depends on some very tenuous coalitions, especially those with Catalan parties in favor of self-determination, a red line that if crossed would be political suicide.

Albert Rivera is the leader of the C’s party, which is the youngest of the three political formations. The C’s party started in Barcelona around 2006-7 and seemed to me as a newcomer to be an answer to the rising tide of self-determination sentiments among the population of Catalonia. The party represents itself neither left nor right, and is a member of the neo-liberal ALDE alliance. So, on the surface, they would most likely be considered center-right. However, they are also one of the parties who have come out strongest against the idea of Catalan independence, and as a result have attracted many followers who could best be compared with the alt-right ideology in the US. They have organized several pro-unity rallies in Barcelona, and while the majority of attendees are peaceful, there is almost always a notable presence of alt-right and pro-Franco groups, complete with flags from the Franco dictatorship. Cs have also encouraged followers to “clean” the public space of symbols such as the yellow ribbon, which has become the emblem for freedom for the Catalan leaders who remain in prison without a trial for having organized last October’s independence referendum. Many of the clean up squads have been prone toward violence and confrontation, hence the portrayal of Rivera with the aviator jacket and black boots which is common apparel for the far-right in Spain and other places.

The other character is Pablo Casado, who was recently elected the leader of the People’s Party, which is the establishment center-right party which has formed a part of the two-party system with the socialists since the restoration of democracy after the death of Franco. Casado has inherited a party in crisis, which has been plagued by corruption scandals and is often seen by many as having been too soft on Catalonia during the aforementioned crisis. Casado rose to power by taking a much harder line against Catalonia, a contrast to the softer tone of his predecessor, the ousted Rajoy. However, Casado has two big problems: the PP holds only four seats in the Catalan Parliament, which is not enough to even form their own group, and looks set to lose even more, as conservative voters flee to the “clean” Cs party. The other problem is that Casado has been embroiled in a wider scandal which saw a major Spanish public university “gifting” Master’s degrees to various politicians, and others (including current president Pedro Sanchez) inflating their CVs with weekend seminars which turned into Phds. Casado seems to be in the clear for the moment, but the stain on his image remains, hence TVBoy’s having dressed him in the cap and gown. The fistful of cash would be a nod to the millions in dark money the party is rumored to have paid leaders under the table over the last forty years.

No one really knows how the current crisis will play out, but with the trials of the imprisoned leaders set to start early next year, tensions promise to escalate once again. My personal opinion is that the EU should get involved and mediate a solution, however I doubt that will happen unless things come to a critical boiling point, which is still pretty far off.

It’s unlikely that the paste-ups will last too long. In fact, someone had already attempted to remove the image of Albert Rivera, only hours after being pasted up. But just in case you’re curious:

Pedro Sanchez as Superman is at the intersection of Gran Via and Passeig de Gràcia.

Pablo Casado is on a doorway at Carrer d’en Perot lo Lladre.

Albert Rivera (most likely gone) is on Carrer Canuda.

 

 

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In honor of the Halloween holiday, I thought I’d post this recent image I found on the way to a meeting in Poble Nou back in early September. It’s a dragon, monstrous, but not particularly terrifying, perhaps due to its color scheme and perhaps because it enjoys taking passengers. It is a creation of the artist derz, who has quite a few murals around the street art hotspots in Barcelona. I hope to be able to return to my normal postings come November, when I retake my finances, and purchase a bit more storage space from the WordPress warehouse.

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A few weeks back I took a walk through the old city centre and found some pieces by the French artist Guaté Mao, whose instagram is @guate.mao. As mentioned in my last post, my data allotment is quickly running out, so there will only be a small number of photos. These pieces were found in the Born neighbourhood, near the famous Cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar.

On another note, as I mentioned earlier, an ex-colleague of mine has started a Youtube channel James Waylon, and on the same day when I took the photos in this entry, we went to the Hotel Brummel in the Poble Sec area, and had a chat about street art and some other experiences we’ve had over the years living in Barcelona. You can find a link to the video here. Comments and feedback are welcome!

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.

The artist Joel Arroyo has been decorating surfaces around my neighborhood of Gràcia (see the Frida Kahlo entry below) for nearly a year now, and just a few weeks back he painted the shutters of the “co-working” which is on the bottom floor of my building, and occupies the corner of Bruniquer and Montmany streets. The portraits are of Mandela, and two women, and appears to be a nod to activism, refugees and first nations/indigenous peoples. The other image is a bit more satirical in nature and is of ousted, disgraced Spanish president Mariano Rajoy with a clown nose, which was also found here in Gràcia, on Llibertat street. This one appeared not even a week after Rajoy lost a no-confidence vote provoked by innumerable corruption scandals and was forced to leave office by opposition parties in Congress, much to the delight of probably my entire neighborhood, which is decidedly left-leaning.

On another note, this blog was once again listed by the travel website Spotted by Locals as one of the best Barcelona blogs for 2018. Here is a link to the article.

In addition, Spotted by Locals has also developed an app, which puts their fantastic, tourist-trap free travel guides to various cities in your pocket. Here’s how to get hold of them.

May has been an exciting and busy time for the last couple of years, as it coincides with some of the busy exam seasons at the various schools where I work, as well as my annual trip back to the US for family reunion, and some days in New York City, which is where I am writing from now.

The photos from my trip here will be spread over a few posts, as there are various places I have visited and plan to visit before I head back across the ocean.

In the meantime, here are some photos from my latest trip to the art areas in Poblenou, with some interesting large-scale portraits, similar to the entry from 30 March, as well as some cartoon characters, and some wide-angle shots. I have to say, I’m really happy with the quality of photos from the new galaxy phone, though I have limited experience with other phones such as the Iphone and Pixel.

 

I’ve been toying with the idea of trying to make videos for quite a while, and I decided that my recent phone upgrade to a Galaxy S9 was the perfect opportunity. Perfect opportunity, but far from perfect video. I’m happy with the resolution, however I don’t think the video would be watchable for people who suffer from severe motion sensitivity. So, it looks like the next investment, should I decide to continue dabble in videos, I think my next investment will be a gimbal. However, as they seem to run for, minimum, a few hundred dollars, I may wait just a bit. In any case, here is the link to the video, in case you’re interested.

As for the shots in this post, they come from a city about 10 minutes outside Barcelona, called Mollet del Vallès. It was found on the walls of a secondary school on the Rambla de Balmes, while I was on my way to one of my rent-paying gigs, working as a Cambridge English assessor, which often takes me outside the city. If you’re interested in seeing these, here is a link to the location.

The other shot comes from none other than TV Boy, and features an impossible kiss between two arch-rivals from the world of European football, Pep Guardiola (with the yellow ribbon) and Jose Mourinho. While the two have moved on from the posts where their rivalry was most heated, as managers of Barça and Real Madrd, respectively, the memory of their entertaining jabs at one another lives on.

In the heart of Gràcia, on the corner of Verdi and Asturies streets, you can find the Pastisseria Verdi, a pastry shop which is quite popular with locals, known for its red exteriors and delicious, sweet baked goods.

Recently, the Catalan artist Rice has installed a new project on the red exterior of the corner bakery. All of the work are portraits on which there is a baked good somewhere on the faces of the subjects. Interestingly, there is also a QR code which takes you to a site where each work is accompanied by a text. Here is the link, in case your QR code readers are not cooperating.

Here are a few shots from the latest visit to the 3 Chimneys park near just off Paral·lel Avenue. While the work I find is sometimes hit or miss, I like the way the park itself has evolved into a sort of street art oasis in the middle of the city. It also seems to be attracting more and more tourists with increasingly professional photography gear, though much of it is being used to make skate videos.

The other shots come from the interior of the old city centre, where new work continues to become increasingly rare. I can only hope the summer will bring some surprises.

As the title suggests, the majority of images from today’s post were from a quick trip to the Poblenou area, which resulted in the discovery of a number of large portraits. The largest of them, the sleeping woman requires the perfect combination of no parked cars, and a lack of traffic in order to capture just right, as its proportions make it difficult to take a picture without crossing the street, and shooting with your back against the warehouses facing her.