Archives for category: catalunya experience

August this year turned out to be a lot busier than the last, work-wise, which means I wasn’t able to make my annual trip to the Sants Festival, which takes place just after the one here in Gràcia.

However, I did have some great shots from an outing in July, where I found, among other things, a TVBOY pasteup of the Barça star Coutinho, and a crazy stoned version of the Trix Rabbit.

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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.

Just on the heels of my previous post, imagine my surprise when scrolling through my Instagram feed when I saw that the Postman had made a visit to Barcelona. The artist has placed (according to response to my comment) around 30 pieces around the Raval and Born neighborhoods. Because of the heat, and limited time, I was only able to find the ones below, but I’m hoping the others last long enough until my next trip down.

Here you’ll find some shots from two of the more central, and perhaps easy to find spots for urban art in Barcelona, the Parc de les Tres Xemeneies near avinguda Paral.lel, which is on the border between the ever-gritty (but overpriced) Raval and the recently-hip Poble Sec neighborhoods; and the Jardins de Walter Benjamin, which are just near the bottom of Montjuic, at the beginning of the road which leads to the Port and later the airport.

These are both part of the legal painting walls initiative, so artists have more time to paint, can do so in broad daylight, and have relatively little to worry about in the way of law enforcement interference. That said, the Parc de les Tres Xemeneies is frequently used for neighborhood events and is also a skate park, so it can also sometimes be difficult to work in peace, if that’s what’s desired.

There are also shots from the Arnau Gallery public art project which is on Paral.lel, and is always worth checking out when in the area.

There are various artists and styles in this batch of images, among my favorites are the tribute to the late hip hop star Craig Mack, and Peter Griffin from the Family Guy.

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.

 

I have promised myself numerous times, and have even stated in an interview, that I would post twice a month, no more, no less. That said, I have decided that this January 2019, I will make an exception and post three times. One of the reasons for this is that I have quite an archive of worthy images that is backing up in my cloud storage, impatiently waiting like planes on a runway, to take off into the blogosphere. So, without further ado, here are some images that come from a session in early November, a mix of locations including the Poblenou neighborhood and the more central Paral·lel area. The images speak for themselves, and I’ll save lengthy commentary for the following posts, which will come from this December/January’s visit to New York City. Happy New Year!

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.

 

 

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.