Barcelonan Okupas: Squatter Power! is the first book to combine close-readings of the representations of Spanish squatters known as okupas with the study of everyday life, built environment, and city planning in Barcelona. Stephen Vilaseca broadens the scope of Spanish cultural studies by integrating into it notions of embodied cognition and affect that respond to the city before and against the fixed relations of capitalism. Social transformation, as demonstrated by the okupas, is possible when city and art interrelate, not through capital or the urbanization of consciousness, but through bodily thought. The okupas reconfigure the way thoughts, words, images and bodily responses are linked by evoking and communicating the idea of free exchange and openness through art (poetry, music, performance art, the plastic arts, graffiti, urban art and cinema); and by acting out and rehearsing these ideas in the practice of squatting. The okupas challenge society to differentiate the images and representations instituted by state domination or capitalist exploitation from the subversive potential of imagination. The okupas unify theory and practice, word and body, in pursuit of a positive, social vision that might serve humanity and lead the way out of the current problems caused by capitalism.
UCS 001 Stephen Vilaseca on Street Art in Barcelona Valencia and Bilbao Spain (28 June 2013) Conversational interview inspired by scholar Stephen Vilaseca‘s recent article “From Graffiti to Street Art: How Urban Artists Are Democratizing Spanish City Centers and Streets,” originally published in the journal Transitions: Journal of Franco-Iberian Studies (8, 2012). Topics include: public space, graffiti vs. street art, artists Escif, Frágil and Dr. Case, Valencia, Bilbao, and Barcelona. [LINK TO ORIGINAL PUBLISHER]
WallHunters: The Slumlord Project
[this post follows up on previous posts on artist Gaia posted on this blog]
The project will install 15 large street art pieces with posted info that reveals/publicizes the ownership of dilapidated vacant houses.
Using radical methods, our project will unite three forces to catalyze discussion of Baltimore’s vacancy problem and how to solve it:
- Wall Hunters Inc, a recently created, street artist run non profit organization
- Baltimore Slumlord Watch
- a film being made that gives voice to the ignored on the topic of vacancy and the power of street art.
In short, the project will bring together 15 artists from around the country, each of whom will install a large piece on a dilapidated vacant house. QR codes and text detailing the ownership information that is uncovered by Slumlord Watch will accompany the art. Voices of the people who live in these neglected areas of town, will be heard Continue reading
CFP-edited book on Marxism and Urban Culture
Submissions are invited for an edited book on Marxism and Urban Culture that has received initial interest from an international publisher known for their strength in Marxian-themed series and titles.
While all abstracts using a Marxian framework to approach culture in urban contexts are welcome, it is anticipated that submissions will conform to one of two subtypes reflecting the division of the book into Continue reading
I came across an interesting blog titled PLACEBLOG, with a link to a series of Urbanista columns written by Linda Carroli, begun in 2009 and running through 2011 (not sure it the column has stopped or if it just hasn’t been updated in a while).
I reproduce her column on Istanbul which you can read in the original context here.
Istanbul :: cultural heritage in a changing city
by Linda Carroli
Arts Hub, March 2011
Graffiti in Beyoğlu, Istanbul
During the opening remarks of the Sea of Marble Symposium at the repurposed warehouse Antrepo 5 in Istanbul, one of the speakers declares “the city is being erased right now”. This conversation, which addressed considerations of culture and the sea, repeatedly folded back into anxieties about the state of cities, particularly their waterfronts and ports, encroached upon by ‘neo-liberal’ reclamation of the land for privilege and profit in the name of urban renewal entangled in the rhetoric of creative cities. As another speaker asserts, this idea of the ‘creative city’ is false because the powers that drive these forces of change “steal our imagination”. Istanbul’s mayor, Kadir Topbaş, has said, “Istanbul should shed its industrial profile … Istanbul should, from now on, become a financial centre, a cultural centre, and a congress tourism centre.” Reflecting the wintery sky, the waters of the Bosphoros, buoying a chaotic flotilla of fishing boats, tankers and freighters, are like liquid steel lapping against the shores of the walled city. In the parks and crevices around those walls, the city’s homeless and destitute gather.
Teeming with nearly 13 million people, there is unsettlement in this city that seems perennially jostled in the tensions between destruction and creation, past and future, east and Continue reading
The Journal of Urban Cultural Studies is a new peer-reviewed publication cutting across both the humanities and the social sciences in order to better understand the culture(s) of cities. The journal is open to studies that deal with culture, urban spaces and forms of urbanized consciousness the world over.
Although we embrace a broad definition of urban cultural studies, we are particularly interested in submissions that give equal weight to: a) one or more aspects of urban studies (everyday life, built environment, architecture, city planning, identity formation, transportation…) and b) analysis of one or more specific forms of cultural/textual production (literature, film, graphic novels, music, art, graffiti, videogames, online or virtual space…) in relation to a given urban space or spaces.
Essays of 7,000-10,000 words (including works cited and notes) should be sent by attachment to the Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. JUCS is also open to proposals of special issues by guest editors working individually or in teams of two. All citations in other languages should be translated into English for the journal’s international reading public, in addition to including the original text.
While the journal does not publish book reviews, we do publish review essays—which should discuss 3-5 recent books on a shared topic or theme (or place) and run from 2,500 to 4,000 words. Review essays of urban-themed installations or other works of art are also welcome. These essays will be reviewed in house. Given our visual focus, we are interested in original, unpublished artwork on the topic of cities and in publishing articles accompanied by images where appropriate.
We encourage a variety of approaches to the urban phenomenon—the strengths of the editorial board run from urban geography to literature and film, photography and videogames, gender and sexuality, creative economy, popular music, Marxist approaches, fashion, urban planning, anthropology, sociology, Deaf culture, built environment, philosophy, architecture, detective fiction and noir, and more…
Antonio Bellón Uriarte was an artist from Jaén. He was born in 1904 and lived in Madrid for almost his entire life, until 1991 when he died. Witness to the life of the [Spanish] capital, he drew – exhaustively and down to the most minute details – scenes that depicted the life of the urb, always with an exaggerated and playful touch, caricaturing the everyday.
In this sequence from ‘Madrid’s Gran Vía’, as if it were a photo taken in the early morning, Bellón illustrates a wild and chaotic summer weekend that might just as well have taken place in 2012. One sees all of the typical characters of that era, which was so modern and so close to our own. The image draws together the early-risers, the daytime folk, the nightowls, and the melancholic seeking an elusive happiness in the early hours among the shadows of the sordid and prohibited. Packed together tightly on the pavement and the sidewalks all manner of imaginable and unimaginable characters walk along in a fantastic snapshot.
The perspective of the vignette published here shows us the Carrión building in the background and following along the slope of the avenue with the doubled lamps of the lightposts in the middle of the road, almost in the foreground, the La Adriática building (1928), the Avenida cinema (1928), the Palacio de la Música (1928) and, finally, at left, the [mixed-use] housing and office building in which one would find the Regente Hotel (1926). Closer to us, still, we see a multitude of people mixing with one another. Sailors and blouses carousing from dusk until dawn; morning cyclists moving at top speed along the Gran Vía; excursionists in search of the Cañada Real that will carry them to the Castellana, toward Chamartín or Colmenar; lost skiers with their winter gear heading for the slopes; stunned country bumpkins, ristras of seasoned pork; families with small children passing through in search of a park’s fresh air; sellers of recently made churros; hot-churro thieves; tourists who are spent, recovering, aboard buses and ready for it all; pairs of guards, with loaded rifles, their minds wandering; motorists leveling and deafening others with their powerful machines; armed hunters pursuing cats or pigeons; milkmen bored from such bad work; sentries with keys and stick on their backs; musicians playing or else taking a break, but no less animated; the accidental injury, a car propped up against a lamppost, itself in good spirits; city streetwashers using the hose to spray soldiers who happily shower naked in the middle of the street; resigned prostitutes; happy young drunk ladies; women who are also drunk and also happy; men who are quite content; ruffians taking advantage of the happiness of others; children selling newspapers; men with smiles who are hanging from the lampposts; fishermen with their rods, baskets and bait, heading for the high river basin of the Manzanares or toward the Henares or the Jarama or the Alberche or the Perales, which sometimes boasts its own fish. Many people and much happiness in this summer of 1934, 78 years ago. It might have been like the summer of 2012, or perhaps better said [if only the summer of 2012 had been like that summer 78 years ago].
Following up on a post here (reblogged below)–that got me thinking more about the work of art (and a project I’m working on regarding Henri Lefebvre’s thoughts on what he calls ‘the work’ combined with his thoughts on alienation) and its potential, I looked more into the street artist Gaia’s work in Baltimore on Howard Street. Images that form part of the artist’s “legacy series” are above–large images of Robert Moses and James Rouse.
The artist states that ‘I am calling this series Legacy and it is a very basic attempt to reinscribe the figures who have shaped our landscape back onto the surface of their legacy, the infrastructure and policies that we have inherited and must navigate.’
Images taken from: http://www.unurth.com/filter/Baltimore#ixzz1vt2t4qHj
It seems to me that art realizes its potential–Lefebvre talks about the “creative capacity” of the artist, by which he means something quite specific–when it “starts with experience,” and when it brings together what are normally seen as separate, fragmented areas of experience (social, political, economic, etc.). Only in this way can it serve a disalienating function. Gaia’s work is such a great example of what Lefebvre points out.
Street artist turned corporate artist Shepard Fairey had a name for himself before the Obama poster with the iconic “Obey” image of Andre the Giant (above–the 80s performance artist/wrestler [which is it again?] whose face was “both sinister and goofy” as Fairey explains in the video below). There are plenty of these stuck up over town in Charleston, SC (and likely in your town?), and he’s got some more recent work as well, such as this image on Spring street in Charleston which I’m told was just outside the historic-district zoning or it would have been taken down/painted over)