Stencils & Graffiti: Making Systemic Violence Visible in Madrid

Walking by different districts in Madrid on my way to work I run into several stencils,  graffiti, and interventions that focus on the cuts in social budgets and on the labor precarization that have been imposed on the people living in the Spanish state.  With the potency inherent to non-authorized cultural production, these pieces make visible what Slavoj Zizek calls systemic or institutionalized violence. In Violence:  Six Sideways Reflections (2008) Zizek argues that it is in the circulation of capital–in the “self-propelling metaphysical dance of capital”–where the “fundamental systemic violence of capitalism” resides  (11).  Depressingly, this is nothing new: the interests of global capital take precedence over the needs of people and of life on the planet. The icons, declaratory texts, and figures that compose these stencils and graffiti on the streets of Madrid confront the passersby with the devastating effects of systemic violence on people’s lives and interrupt the aseptic official discourses of neoliberal capital and its Newspeak (in Spanish, neolengua): structural reforms, salary moderation, mini-jobs, mobility, flexibility, advantageous loans, to mention just a few.  In the unexpected encounters with the spray-writing on the walls, an ephemeral and public writing open to all, there emerge spaces for reflection, as well as questions about rights won arduously after decades of struggles and that are being swiftly taken away, questions about writing as a cartography for possible worlds, about the several neighborhood projects that are creating models of life sustained by solidarity and social justice.

redesycalles 2j pfPor Favor and Dos Jotas: Equation. Apodaca, 1 Oct. 2014.

redesycalles_4928_rtAnonymous stencil: “Earning 600€ [a month] is violence”.  Santa Isabel, 22 April 2014.

Yipi Yipi Yeah  IMG_5935Yipi Yipi Yeah: “See you never again, Madrid! We’re emigrating.” Argumosa, 25 May 2014.

IMG_5491El Rey de la Ruina:  “I’m looking for a job”. Lavapies, 11 May 2014.

IMG_5722“We’re Not Invisible”, Tetuán, 20 May 2014.

redesycalles Otono 2 2013“Public health services up for privatization”. Avenida Reina Victoria, fall 2013.

IMG_5730Anonymous intervention: Las Cortes–>LosReCortes [Courts –> Cuts]. Buruclín Borrasca: sticker. Las Cortes, 20 Mayo 2014.

redesycalles_4440_rtAnonymous stencil:  “We don’t owe anything, we don’t pay anything”. Lavapiés, 28 March 2014.

redesycalles quien debe IMG135 copyAnonymous stencil: “Who owes what to whom”. Avenida Reina Victoria, fall 2013.

IMG_4929Anonymous stencil: “Fear never won you any rights”.  Santa Isabel, 22 April 2014.

To see pieces by Por Favor, visit his gallery on tumblr.  You can see Dos Jotas‘ work here. You can find Yipi Yipi Yeah’s work in their webpage.

You can read about the campaign Invisibles de Tetúan here.

To see more pieces by Rey de la Ruina, visit his gallery on flickr. And his archive in tumblr. You can also check this post by Madrid Street Art Project.

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Yipi Yipi Yeah: Stencils in Lavapiés

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:

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yipi IMG_5532Calle Sombrerete, Madrid, 20 May, 2014.

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:

Yipi Yipi Yeah  IMG_5935

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Yipi Yipi Yeah IMG_5933

Yipi Yipi Yeah  IMG_5937Argumosa, 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.

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Yipi IMG_4897Calle de la Magdalena, 22 de abril de 2014.

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:

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To see the more of Yipi Yipi Yeah’s work, visit their Facebook page.  In this link you’ll find a short video by BEAT-TV on the making of “¡Madrid hasta nunca!

Alturas de Madrid / Heights of Madrid

When walking in the streets of Madrid, make sure to look up.  The sections of the walls beyond hand reach are  spots favorited by street artists to put paste-ups, plates, and posters,  eluding this way the Ayuntamiento’s zeal for removing sprayed street art.  Here is a brief selection :

redesycalles IMG_6636Yipi Yipi Yeah: hot dog.  Wolf:  space invader.  Malasaña, 20 June 2014.

redesycalles IMG_6688From left to right: above: Seven Logos: Seven/Siete; Jonipunto: Heart; Por Favor: Yo; Edge Guitar; Balu Art.  Ribera de Curtidores, 21 June 2014.

redesycalles IMG_6700Wolf:  mosaic.  Por Favor: Tiananmen Surf . Mercado de La Cebada, 21 June 2014.

redesycalles IMG_6620Pasteups in the middle:  Por Favor:  Silence / Nurse.   Wolf: Space Invader.  Calle de la Madera, 21 June 2014.