Alto: Street Art and Spaces of Memory

You walk leisurely on the streets of Lavapiés. You look down, you look at your feet:  skulls, bones that emerge from the walls. They are there, underneath you, next to your feet, peeking just above the sidewalk. They are there, next to you and under your feet, when you leave the building, when you walk down the street, when you walk into a store. You can hear their rumor.

redesycalles 11 oct IMG_8784 copy

redesycalles 11 oct IMG_8783 copyLavapiés 11 Oct. 2014.

The bones belong to the series “Fosas comunes: contra la impunidad de los crímenes franquistas” (“Mass Graves:  Against the Impunity of Francoist Crimes”) by ALTO, a Madrid-based muralist, illustrator, urban artist, firefighter and citizen.  The transition in Spain, notes ALTO, “built a democracy on the base of the impunity of the crimes committed under the dictatorship and on forgetting  for the victims. The official story has buried our historical memory. The right to justice and the recovery of the victims’ historical narrative is key to attain a full democracy.”

As a canvas for street art,  walls can be understood as walls of memory: “places that reflect and register the memory of a given society” (Silvia Nardi, 2006).  The pieces by ALTO call attention to the subsoil of society.  And a mass grave, as Francisco Ferrándiz points out, “abre un espacio de memoria“: “opens up a space of memory” (2011).  Walls of memory:  street art, culture, as spaces to think politically, to produce critical languages with which to articulate discourses and practices that facilitate dialogues that crack official silences and interpretative closures.  Perhaps that’s what Manuela Bergerot refers to when she talks about “trazos como brechas en el muro de la impunidad“: “strokes as openings in the wall of impunity.”

redesycalles 11 oct IMG_8795 copy

redesycalles 11 oct IMG_8794 copyLavapiés, 11 Oct. 2014.

redesycalles IMG_9510 31 octLavapiés 31 Oct. 2014.

Walls of memory and processes of transition.  A message from Santiago de Chile: “Memory is an open process of reinterpretation of the past, one that undoes and redoes its knots so that new events and understandings may be tested.  Memory shakes the static data of the past with new meanings without closure, putting their memories to work, allowing beginnings and endings to re-write new hypotheses and speculations to dismantle the interpretative closure of those totalities too sure of themselves” (rough translation, Nelly Richard, “La cita de la violencia:  convulsiones del sentido y rutinas oficiales”. Residuos y metáforas:  ensayos de crítica cultural sobre el Chile de la Transición.  Santiago:  Ed. Cuarto Propio, 2001.

redesycalles IMG_9931 copy

redesycalles IMG_9933 copy

redesycalles IMG_9934 copy26 Nov. 2014.

redesycalles 9 mayo IMG_5443 copy

redesycalles 9 mayo IMG_5444 copy

redesycalles 9 mayo IMG_5442 copyALTO working on his mural for Muros Tabacalera.  Calle Miguel Servet, 9 May2014.


To see photos of the mural and other images of the process of production, check ALTO’s page in Muros Tabacalera.

To see other images of “Fosas comunes: contra la impunidad de los crímenes franquistas” by ALTO, visit this link.  In Márgenes de la Memoria you can watch “Una brecha en el muro de la impunidad“, a video documenting  ALTO’s intervention in Muros Tabacalera 2014.  This flickr album includes other images of the series.

You can also visit ALTO’s web and his gallery in flickr.

Here is a link forCeAQUA (Coordinadora Estatal de Apoyo a la Querella Argentina Contra Crímenes del Franquismo).

And a link to an interview in Spanish with Luis Martín Cabrera, as part of the project Exhumar una fosa común.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.