Feminist Wheatpastes in Lavapiés: Practices of Memory

Forms of intervention in the city, using the street as a platform: Calle de Ministriles Chica, Lavapiés, Madrid, January 2016. Wheapastes with white background, displaying a brief biographical note on the left, a black and white photo on the right, and a statement of intent under each photo: in this neighborhood,  “to exercise a practice of memory…to introduce and to value” the struggles of those “women, lesbians, and trans who have contributed to destroy power.” This practice is understood as an act of recuperation because the social, political, and cultural struggles and achievements of these women have not been registered in the official history:

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Using wheatpastes on the walls, a collective woman subject seeks to produce a circuit of acknowledgement and value for those non-normative lives devoted to freedom.  The posters do not bear a signature, so their weight focuses on the message delivered and the choice of place: meeting areas in public space.  One of them is the small plaza de Ministriles (2007), a space of socialization in the neighborhood, with a playground and benches:

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Below the mural facing the plaza, sharing the wall with several tags, a poster remembers  Jill Phipps (1964-1995), the activist for animal liberation.  Passersby stop, look at the poster, and discuss it.

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Wheatpastes on the walls:  detouring routines, creating the desire to know, to remember, to connect: practices undervalued by hegemonic neoliberalism.

Plaza de Nelson Mandela, right next to the Self-Organized and Occupied Social Center CSrOA La Quimera: another poster from the same series, this time featuring a biographical note about Puertorrican activist Sylvia Rivera (1951-2002), co-founder of the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR), a mutual aid network for homeless drag queens of color, located on 12 Street and 640 East, in the New York of the 1970s.

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redesycalles 279Lavapiés, Madrid, 1 Jan. 2016.

These wheatpastes invite questions.  Not so much about who produced them but questions that stem from their own materiality and presence on the street:  Do they belong to a series in progress?  Are they what remains from a series?  Wheatpastes on the street:  ephemeral artifacts, not meant to last and open to the interaction with rain, dust, passersby.

redesycalles P1000434Lavapiés, Madrid, 16 Jan. 2016.

Are these posters isolated interventions?  Which encounters are enabled by their presence?  What global practices and struggles do they connect in the Madrid that emerges from the neoliberal austericide?  For sure, they connect struggles for the defense of life and freedom that cross borders: alliances for the defense of life, challenging the hierarchy of speciesism (Jill Phipps), alliances for the defense of life, challenging the hierarchies of heteronormative patriarchy, classism, and racism (Sylvia Rivera).

The wheatpastes also open questions about other circuits for these practices of recuperation and circulation of actions for the defense of life and freedom by women, lesbians, and trans.  A similar practice is carried out on the internet by “Anarkoefemérides: mujer y memoria” in the blog Mujeres sin fronteras…y sin bozal.  They also aim to “practice memory” unearthing the history of libertarian women whose actions are not registered in “classic historiography”: a practice of documentation and narrative in cyberspace.

Taking pictures of the wheatpastes on the street and circulating them in the internet:  an effort to document, to narrate, to archive.  In “Archive and Aspiration,” Arjun Appadurai proposes to  consider all documentation as intervention, and “all archiving as part of some collective project”:  thus, he continues, “the archive is itself an aspiration rather than a recollection”:  it is “a material site of a collective will to remember.”  The practice of remembering functions then as one of the bases for imagining inhabitable futures:  seen that way, these wheatpastes, and their different circuits of circulation, interpellate passersby to imagine futures other to the reductive homogeneity and the “there is no alternative” myth of neoliberalism.


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