If you walk down the streets of Lavapiés paying attention to its walls, you will most likely run into Yipi Yipi Yeah‘s urban interventions. A number of them are strategically located stencils that dialogue with their social and urban context in ways that comment on the social effects of the neoliberal and neo-conservative economic projects in Madrid. Take the stenciled figure of a life-size nun, walking on air as if in a dream, reaching out to a condom dispenser in Calle Sombrerete:
According to Yipi Yipi Yeah, the stenciled nun seeks to call attention to the astonishing fact that it was only in 2010 that the Catholic Church declared that the use of condoms could be justified in some cases. The powerful image also reminds passers-by of the status of the Catholic Church as a “special interest group” in democratic Spain.
A couple of blocks down, take the long line of people stenciled on ground level on Calle Argumosa in “¡Madrid hasta nunca! Migramos” (See you never again, Madrid! We’re emigrating), which evoke the long lines of unemployed people standing outside INEM, the government-run job center. As Yipi Yipi Yeah has pointed out to me, the stencil refers to the vast emigration of people, young and old, forced to leave the country due to the precarization of work conditions, the destruction of work and education incentives, and the bleak outlook for the futre:
Argumosa, 25 May 2014. The faded red rectangle is an intervention on the banner of the Comunidad de Madrid.
And take the menacing stenciled figure of Nosferatu on Calle de la Magdalena uttering “Wait, young man. You can’t escape unemployment by running away” in a country whose youth unemployment has reached an infamous record high of 57,2% during the first quarter of 2014, according to INE.
These are just a few interventions. In a recent interview Yipi Yipi Yeah defined itself as an independent two-person collective that seeks to contribute to street art produced in Spain. Indeed, its website reads “Arte urbano de Madrid para Madrid” (street art from Madrid for Madrid). While the local referents for the stencils are evident, it can be argued that the pieces address global concerns. More specifically, while the neoliberal state and the media system join efforts to produce a culture of fear and silence and circulate euphemisms that distort reality, Yipi Yipi Yeah’s stencils prove the capacity of street art to address pressing concerns for citizens and to create spaces for critique on the streets of the European periphery.
On a final note, the stenciled nun has been recently washed up. It wasn’t there anymore on June 1: