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.
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.’
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.
The 2011 winner of the £250 (pounds Sterling) prize is Alexander Medcalf, a PhD student at the Institute of Railway Studies and Transport History at the University of York. His submission forms part of his research into the commercial cultures of one of Britain’s best known railway companies in the first half of the twentieth century. The thesis title is “Picturing the Railway Passenger as Customer in Britain: the Great Western Railway, 1903-1939”.