I have just completed my short five day stay in Madrid, España and am now in Alcala de Henares to begin my actual studies.
Though I usually write about transportation, I am interested in anything remotely related to urban form and development and this topic is definitely related.
During my adventures through Madrid (by foot and by Metro), I noticed a large amount of paint on the walls of the buildings around me. Some of it was quite ugly and would be considered vandalism by most:
Other examples were more colorful, but would be considered “tags” by many:
However, a “tag” is a pretty negative term to describe the colorful work posted above.
There were many pieces that had tags on top of art on top of tags and onward. Everything became a multilayered piece of work:
And then there was this piece. It is obviously a tag but it made me laugh (value of positive emotional response) due to the resulting geographical juxtaposition of a boutique clothing store + the symbol of anarchy:
Then there were the residents/store owners: some mornings, they would be cleaning the scribbled text off the walls in front of their storefronts. Other retail establishments seemed to embrace the work done on their facade, or maybe they encouraged it in the first place. The store I saw with the most creative solution had a portion of their sign that said “Please do all graffiti here” with an arrow to a portion of the wall.
In the end, this entire situation leads to a question: How do authorities and governments pursue the issue of “street art”? Do they promote some of it and condemn other parts of it? Who makes that judgment call about what should stay and what should not? Does allowing paintings on buildings lead to “taggers” thinking they can mark the walls of the city as well? How much money is the Madrid police spending every year to “clean up” the ugliest of the tags?
In these specific neighborhoods (specifically Malasaña and Chueca), there seemed to be a good balance of the authorities respecting what looked like art and cleaning up the uglier tags.
In my personal opinion, the street art really enhanced the neighborhood. The vivid colors really brightened the narrow streets. It provided me with insight and perspective about the residents of the area. In addition, it helped me to understand the culture in existence without going inside a single residence.
However, I do not live in these neighborhoods; I am simply a visitor. I have a feeling a lot of the residents hate the graffiti, especially the older residents. I also thought about my parents house in Albuquerque; my parents would probably be appalled if any of these colorful forms of expression started popping up in upper-middle class Glenwood Hills.
This whole discussion goes back to the events that occurred just a few weeks ago in Albuquerque.
A few months ago, this beautiful piece of work popped up on the side of a Downtown building.
A couple more similar works popped up around town, but no one talked much about it. The small amount of local discussion I heard about it (through the comments on this post) was mostly positive (Why can’t he paint my house?).
Then, the artist, nicknamed the “Rainbow Bandit” for his colorful pieces of self expression on private property, was arrested by APD. This occurred days after a great anonymous interview about him ran in a local “alternative newspaper” called the Alibi.
While I understand the motivation behind his arrest, I have no idea why APD was focusing on him. There are so many other taggers in the ABQ metro area that do some really ugly, crappy work. His colorful drip paint rainbows all over town were beautiful; one of them appeared on a post-crash half-build ugly skyscraper, making this eyesore that much prettier.
So, art or graffiti?