Tags on Metal: Encounters with UFO

Walking to the bus stop on my way to work last week, I spotted the tag, written on a metal surface in Calle del Conde de Romanones, right off Tirso, in the center of Madrid.

photo by @redesycalles of tags near Tirso de Molina

As many other writers, UFO works a street intensely and insistently, producing a series.  He/She inscribes his/her name, in different variations and without authorization, usually with yellow, white and silver crayons and markers against black and grey backgrounds. You’ve always thought there is delicate work, beauty  and thoughtfulness in UFO’s inscriptions. Spotting the first tag on the window frame creates then an expectation, met and incremented as I walked.

This time, UFO has tagged only on metal frames: those of two clothing stores and a garage. The spacing in between creates a certain rhythm, or at least a timing, that marks and alters my walk, and my viewing position. I look, stop, go back, take the camera, frame, move closer, reconsider, change positions, feel happier, keep walking.  UFO’s insistent tags can be thought of in terms of a demand for an interaction, for a relationship between the tags inscribed on surfaces and passersby turned spectators.  All images, observes visual criminologist Alison Young (2013) demand responses from the spectator and spectators are responsive to the images: images and spectators are, so to speak, “co-implicated with each other” (“Just Images?”). This is so, she argues, because “the image is an encountered sign”:  “a process through which we see the image in a way that is as if we are one with the image.”  Considered not as isolated objects but as pieces making up a changing street dynamics and transforming urban space, UFO’s tags can be seen as part of a process of becoming, which according to philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, is a process of flight.  In becoming, “one piece of the assemblage is drawn into the territory of another piece, changing its value as an element and bringing about a new unity” (Glossary, rhizomes.net).  In a becoming, propose Deleuze and Guattari, “one is deterritorialized” (Thousand Plateus  321).

Encounters with UFO’s tags along Conde de Romanones, the commercial and residential short street between Colegiata and Concepción Jerónima, in an increasingly gentrified and touristified center of Madrid. As inhabitants and users of the street: what meanings and what conversations do we open up in and through the in-betweens produced by the tags, the unauthorized writing, as our lives and livabilities are pushed to our very limits by the authorized politics of enclosure of neoliberal governmentality?

View of Conde de Romanones from Colegiata.

You can see more tags by UFO on the internet, using #ufo_madrid, a hashtag I created not that long ago in Instagram.

Madrid, June 11, 2018.

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