Feminist Wheatpastes in Lavapiés: Practices of Memory

Forms of intervention in the city, using the street as a platform: 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 Continue reading


Lavapiés, Madrid: Anarchofeminist Slogans

Streets of Lavapiés.  End of December and the very first day of the year.  But it could be any other month.  Anarchofeminist slogans sprayed in freehand on the walls of the centric district of Madrid, the global city:

redesycalles 7853 rtMujeres Libres: “Neither ladies nor slaves.”  31 Dec. 2015.

redesycalles 7852 rtMujeres Libres:  “Whips against patriarchy.”  31 Dec. 2015.

If writings on the wall may be read as gifts, what would be the gifts bestowed by the Mujeres Libres (Free Women) activists upon the inhabitants of the global city in the midst of the social and cultural crisis unleashed by neoliberal policies in the Spanish state? On the one hand, an exercise in historical memory:  the name itself, Mujeres Libres, refers to the anarchofeminist organization that articulated from Madrid in the late 1930s a double struggle: against the capitalist state and system, and against patriarchy.  An unfinished business.

redesycalles 288 rtMujeres Libres:  “Anarchofeminism or barbarism”.  Unsigned:  “Non violence is patriarchal.”  1 Jan. 2016.

On the other hand, the writing on the wall by  Mujeres Libres and other unsigned writings shown in this post also make present the philosphy and practice of anarchism, its common core despite its many variants: the subversion of the authority of one being over another, and the search for the emancipation of all beings.  Partly, what makes contemporary anarchofeminism attractive–in its struggle against systemic patriarchy at the root of the authority of the capitalist state, class divisions, and culture–is that it constitutes (adapting Saul Newman’s vision of anarchism) an ethical critique of authority and domination in all its forms (in Leonard Williams, 2011: 630).  In that sense, it may be understood as a philosophy and practice of an “infinite responsibility” of  citizens as political subjects to end injustice (Simon Critchley 2007 in Williams, 630);  the responsibility to create networks of harmonic coexistence among all live beings on the planet and forms of organization built on dialogue. Hence the urgent demand to leave behind heteronormative patriarchy.  These might be the gifts on the walls.

redesycalles 7848rtUnsigned: “My girlfriend turned me into an anarchist.” Above:  Curruncho. On the left:  “They leave us without a future.”  31 Dec. 2015

redesycalles 129 rtUnsigned:  “We want no owners but to live in liberty.”  27 Dec. 2015

redesycalles 109 rtUnsigned:  Symbol of transgender equality.  25 Dec. 2015

Lie: Mentira

“Lie, lie, lie, lie, lie …” Like a swarm, the word lie, written in hand-style with black and brown markers, repeats itself covering the glass on a window on a street of downtown Madrid.  Lie, lie.  Lately, the word resonates with particular force within the Spanish state. IMG_4529April, 2014.

Lies, lies, lies.  Hannah Arendt warned us: the modern lie does not limit itself to concealing.  In Políticas y estéticas de la memoria Chilean cultural critic Nelly Richard observes that the modern lie destroys reality, and that practically no one escapes its effects (1989: 35). And this is so because the modern lie questions “common and objective reality itself” and this poses “a political problem of the first order” (Richard, 35-36). And it also poses, without a doubt, a problem for the production of subjectivities within the Spanish state. redesycalles_4528rt

In a conference at the Residencia de Estudiantes de Madrid, Jacques Derrida observed that “What is relevant about a lie is never its content, but the intentionality of he/she who lies.  A lie is not something that is opposed to truth […] what counts is the damage it causes on an other.” Lies, lies, political lies:  institutional assaults to people and to life. And because of that, in response to them,  constructions of common realities from the streets of Madrid.

Tags: Territories

Walking in the city: reading the tags on the walls:  tags:  writing and the breaking up of private identities.  To become a pack.  Tags:  not given, not proper names but pseudonyms.  Presences that dissolve the media signs of the segregationist city. Tags by Smak47: following Baudrillard, we say: they run across Madrid, they cross Madrid, they run from one wall to the next, they inhabit doors, electricity boxes, windows: tags overflow them, ride them, turning them into bodies activated through writing  (“Kool Killer or the Insurrection of the Sign”: 1980: 82).  From that perspective tags do not belong to the realm of private property but of territory:  tags territorialize capitalist urban space: streets and walls become alive and go back to being collective territories  (78).  Tags: appropriations of the streets, resistances to representation:  likely responses to the enclosures dictated by the logics of capital.

redesycalles octubre  20 IMG_9151 copySmak47, calle Zurbano, 20 Oct. 2014.

redesycalles 9538 rt 3 novSmak 47, Farlopa Crew and others.  Madrid, 3 Nov. 2014.

redesycalles 8900 15 octSmak47 and others.  Madrid, 15 Oct. 2014.

redesycalles 11 oct IMG_8814 copySmak47,Ring, Mufasa, Astronaut, Curruncho, Chico Iwana, TIL, and others.  Madrid, 11 Oct. 2014.

Theres is an interview with Smak47 in GoodFellasMagazine. You can also see photos by several people under the hashtag #smak47 in Instagram. Or in this page on tumblr.

In this video uploaded Colectivo Rémora you can see Smak47, El Chico Iwana, and other illustrators producing their work for the exhibition in “Espacio Incendiado” (Valladolid, March 2011).

Ephemeral and transient: tags on Fuencarral

Walking down Fuencarral street in Madrid, looking around and running into public texts whose proliferation make up, in part, the shared space of the city. In the background, to the right, in red and blue, traffic signs informing that parking is prohibited. In red and white, a bank sign, and up above, in white and blue, an ATM sign. Signs of order, signs of capital and commerce, and marks of private property that the state and its institutions have taught us to read, naturalizing their logics.  These signs coexist with other signs that demand from us other methods of reading and an other type of relation with the city: tags:  signatures using a pseudonyn in public space. In the foreground, tags in yellow going around the base, and tags in white going up the lower part of three street lamps on Fuencarral. Yellow and white on black. These signs are persecuted and criminalized.  They do not rely on the “legality” granted by capital.

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redesycalles 3 nov IMG_9527 copyFuencarral, Madrid, 3 de noviembre de 2014.

Coming back to the same street a month and a half later. The signs of capital are still there, but the tags are gone. The have been washed out by the city hall.  There is neither space nor desire here for melancholy or nostalgia.  Tags are meant to disappear:  their very condition of marks on the street, their mode of occupying the street, is signed by uncertainty and transience. They may stay for a month, a day, an hour. In a beautiful text, writer Dumaar Freemaninov (aka Nov York, aka Dumar Brown) talks about graffiti as a “philosophical frame”:  “Just as with the Tibetan Buddhist Mandala, graffiti is not meant to last long but instead its function is wrapped up in ritual and deep understanding that all is temporary and life is but a dream.  This tag too shall pass.  It’s rather freeing to think tagging the walls of your city is a path towards enlightenment” (“Foreword” xvii. In Ornament and Order: Graffiti, Street Art, and the Parergon by Rafael Schacter, 2014.).  It is in uncertainty and transience, in the echoes of their ephemeral and transitory condition, where  the potency of tags resides as a medium for reflection about our own occupation of the city and the planet.

redesycalles IMG_0448Fuencarral, Madrid, 23 de diciembre de 2014.

An Invitation to Laziness: Paste-ups in Fuencarral

Walking down Fuencarral street in Madrid this past Friday, three paste-ups burst out of the walls  inviting passersby to leisure and idleness as basic vindications at a time when work has colonized most aspects of life. In a historical moment that can be thought of as the brutal attack of the accumulation of capital against the rights of workers, the author or authors of these fragile pieces made up of paper and ink echo Paul Lafargue (The Right to be Lazy 1880-1883) who argued for a reduced volume of work and for creativity and laziness as key sources for human well-being and progress.  This paste-up uses G. E. Lessing‘s praise of laziness (1747), with which Lafargue opened his own text:

redesycalles IMG_0263 “Let us be lazy in everything, except in loving and drinking, except in being lazy.”

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The defense of enjoyment and happiness as inalienable rights also guides Robert Louis Stevenson’s brief essay  “An Apology for Idlers” (1877), that has been recently edited in Spain (1).  For Stevenson,  idleness does not consist in doing nothing: to the contrary it consists in “doing a great deal not recognized in the dogmatic formularies of the ruling class.”  He goes on to observe that “perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things.”  These observation and demands emerged in nineteenth century industrial Europe out of the perplexities produced by the alienations of capital. They come back to question and interpellate us through the creativity of these paste-ups on the streets of Madrid.

redesycalles zoom 0260“Travaille jamais”.

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redesycalles IMG_0266“Work will make you sad.”

redesycalles IMG_0265On the left, pasteup bt Wolf Street Artist, Calle Fuencarral, 13 Dic. 2014.

(1) Stevenson, R.L. En defensa de los ociosos. Trad.  Belén Urrutia.  Madrid: Santillana, 2014.

Walls of Lavapiés: Graffiti Against Gender Violence

A graffiti series walks with you in Lavapiés this afternoon: graffiti written in purple on the walls on calle Embajadores. You have to stop and read: the first name of a woman and the initials of her last names, gender violence as the motive for her murder, the date and place of the murder. You move on, stop again, read again. You retrace your steps and read again.  There is a pattern in this series: two women were murdered in a single day in different locations: María del Carmen and Yolanda on August 2, 2014, Sara and Verónica on July 29, 2014, Mercedes on February 26, 2014.  The anonymous graffiti remember and honor five of forty-for women murdered by their male partners in the Spanish state this year, up to November 18.

redesycalles IMG_0106“María del Carmen M.C. Murdered by gender violence.  August 2, 2014. Almería.”

redesycalles IMG_0094“Yolanda A.C. Murdered by gender violence.  August 2, 2014. Alicante.” Embajadores, 9 Dic. 2014.

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redesycalles IMG_0088Embajadores, 9 Dic. 2014.

redesycalles IMG_0114“On February 26, 2014, a woman was murdered in Barcelona by gender violence.” Calle Valencia, 9 Dic. 2014.

redesycalles IMG_0051Travesía de San Mateo, 1 Dic. 2014.

The graffiti series makes explicit a repeated pattern and calls attention to the normalization of violences against women in patriarchal societies of the capitalist world-system. These graffiti seek to fracture that normalization by circulating on the streets the names of those women who were forced to leave.  In a clear dialogue with decades of work done by feminist organizations to raise public awareness on violence against women as a systemic problem, and with the turning point that came in the Spanish state with the murder of  Ana Orantes, these graffiti take the histories of these women out of the sphere of private, “domestic,” relations, and place them right into the public space, where they belong.  In this way, these inscriptions invite passersby to reflect on gender as systemic violence: norms, values, patterns, expectations, desires that inform a “common sense” taught in the majority of schools and through the media, a “common sense” that is internalized and naturalized on a day to day basis and enforce men and women to fashion themselves in inequality.  If public policies for the protection of women in situations of vulnerability are as urgent as ever, so should be the work of undoing gender.

Faced with a systemic violence of gender and patriarchy that claims women’s lives, other anonymous writers from Lavapiés leave us with two more pieces, placed on those same streets:  a clear statement and a warning:

redesycalles IMG 108 2014-12-10_0848 rtMiguel Servet, 9 Dic. 2014.

redesycalles IMG 0118 rt“The witches are watching.  Machos to the stake.” Calle Valencia, 9 Dic. 2014.

More about the witches on the streets of Madrid in a future post.

For an account of the origins of the term gender violence in the Spanish state, see this interview (in Spanish) with Lucas Platero.

For photos of a similar inscription of names of women murdered by gender violence, see this post by Nacho Goytre en Demotix (April 2014).

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.

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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.”

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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.

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redesycalles IMG_9934 copy26 Nov. 2014.

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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.

Inhabiting the Street: Creating Life: La Enredadera in Tetuán

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“La Enre is a good place to feel you’re a human being,” “La Enre allows us to dream…make it grow!”: testimonies of social and creative practices written on colorful post-it notes placed on the window of the Centro Social La Enredadera de Tetuán. Or simply La Enre (“enredadera” meaning “vine” in Castillian).  Running into these notes on the street, early in the morning, on the way to work. Small squares of paper: daily reminders:  they tell the story of a making:  a making of a life anchored in place and in social practices.  A collective story told through several voices:  one that reminds those who read it that it is possible to produce forms of life that are not functional (the term comes from Gayatri Spivak) to predatory neoliberal capitalism. It also reminds us that these forms of life are created, to a large degree, inhabiting the neighborhood, inhabiting the street, producing an interconnecting world.   “To recover public space, to remind ourselves that the streets belong to everyone and that is is worthwhile to inhabit them and get together with other neighbors … to find a place where we could keep on getting together, talking to each other, playing, watching movies, and thinking how we could transform Tetuán in a more livable place”: this is how the members of La Enredadera narrate the desire that drove them to create this Social Center in late 2008  (“Cómo empezó todo esto“).  The mutual-aid and joyful languages, practices, and doings produced on the street by the several collectives working at La Enredadera–Invisibles de Tetuán, Banco de Alimentos 15M Tetuán, Stop Desahucios, among others–produce civic life, affects, solidarity, a life that is worthwhile living.  In a post titled “Qué queremos conseguir” (loosely, what do we want to achieve) the neighbors pose the following questions: “Because if it’s not ourselves, who will do it for us? And if it’s not now when we start this, when will it be?  And if it’s not here, in our neighborhood, where we spend a good part of our life…where then?” It’s as clear as that.  I’m not aware of a better way to start a morning.

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La Enre keeps on clarifying any doubts there     We fight for a mestizo and solidary neighborhood!! may be about social struggle.

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La Enre is the world.  The world is our neigh-      La Enre is the place where practice is done. hood.                                                                         Proximity opens the way.

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La Enre is the place where we organize to            La Enredadera is my place!                                  start a Batucada.

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Full global support.                                                 I support La Enredadera! Love to all.

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This Center does great work. May it stay that way!

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Anastasio Herrero, Tetuán, Madrid, 16 October 2014.

Here’s a link to watch “Presentación de la Enredadera de Tetuán” (Enredadera de Tetuán Introduces Itself), a brief documentary (07:07) by Colectivo Manglar.

Banks and Benches on the Streets of Madrid

A new entry in the Diccionario de las Periferias (Dictionary of the Peripheries) explores two aspects of the word “Banco” (bank, bench) in relation to life. “Vida de los bancos”–Life(blood) of banks: a phenomenon through which the life of a family ends up depending on a bank: in other words, lives that belong to banks through indebtedness. Its antonyms: mutual aid and networks.  The Dictionary also elaborates on “vida de banco”–life on a bench: a way of spending time,  a coexistence that may produce friendships and may allow to imagine other possible worlds.  To these explorations we add the hypotheses on and about banks and benches opened by different writings on the streets of Madrid, and also the social and political practices that produce, on the streets, other understandings of banks.

redesycalles IMG_6530Curruncho y Mufasa Mordiscos (La Banda del Rotu) : “Fuck Bancös”.  Palma, 10 June 2014.

redesycalles IMG_6532Astronaut (La Banda del Rotu): “BankA (circled)”, Palma, 10 June 2014.

redesycalles 2 Anonymous graffiti on the window of a bank: “Don’t let them turn you into a slave!” Paseo de Recoletos, March 24 2014.

redesycalles 4 Anonymous graffiti on the wall of a bank: “Assassins”. Paseo de Recoletos, 24 March 2014.

redesycalles IMG_4374 copyAnonymous graffiti on an ATM.  Paseo de Recoletos, 24 marzo 2014.

redesycalles 3Red paint thrown anonymously on the window of a bank.  Paseo de Recoletos, 24 March 2014.

redesycalles IMG_7796 copyRBN’s icon (La Banda del Rotu) on bench in Tirso de Molina, 8 Sept. 2014.

Collage 3 agosto BdA15MTCollage of images of one of the solidary and self-organized food drives by Banco de Alimentos 15M Tetuán–Food Bank 15M Tetuán  Collage and photo by: Banco de Alimentos 15M Tetuán. 1 August 2014.

To read about and collaborate with Banco de Alimentos 15M Tetuán, visit their webpage.

To see pieces by La Banda del Rotu, here is a link to their webpage.  Click here for an interview with a number of photos in La Mezcla Magazine. You can also check out their page in Facebook, among other sites.

To see pieces by RBN, here is his webpage.  Here is a link to pieces by Curruncho.  Here is a link to pieces by Mufasa Mordiscos. And another to works by Astronaut.