• Updating pages, sorry! STREETWALKER

    Find in detail about street, walking and research

    by Jonna Tolonen



    Insights to street, walking and research

    by Jonna Tolonen


Jonna Tolonen – a streetwalker and a street researcher

"I have never been in this place before. I sense everything of it for the first time in my life: the light, the sounds, the walls, the colours. All my senses are in an extra alert to suck everything in, trying to apprehend this."

As a street art researcher, my focus is on the relationship of street art and society. My interest lies on political street art for the reason that what happens in the society is often first visible in the streets. Therefore I walk and photograph streets. I mostly do this in Spain. Most of my research is based on visual ethnographic work. As a result of my studies, I see most of the street art as a medium of communication. Very often street art is also a part of political participation. My Ph.D. dissertation "Visage of Madrid–Illegal Graffiti as a Part of Spanish 15-M Protests" was released in the summer of 2016. Currently I am a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Lapland in the Faculty of Arts and Design and investigating street artists that paint political street art.

Contact me for lecturing, teaching or writing about street art. I have written and talked (both in Finnish and in English) about political, feministic and social street art but also about how street art can be used as a communication tool in city neighbourhood activism.

Contact me

My photos are displayed here


My research interest lies heavily on political street art

My focus is on Spanish scene. The journey to study Spanish street art began in 2008 when I lived almost a year in the city of Corunna. I was surprised about the variety of pieces I saw and got interested in the Spanish street art. When the financial crisis hit Spain in the end of 2008, I could see a change in the Spanish cities. There seemed to be more political stencils and wall writings written also by ordinary citizens, not just by street artists. I began researching Madrid's illegal graffiti as a part of activism and communication and as as result wrote my PhD (2016)  "Illegal graffiti as a part of Spanish 15M movement" [in Finnish].

At the moment I'm doing a research about political street art in Madrid and Valencia. My focus is on the motives of street artists who produce illegal social and political street art.

Follow my research projects: Academia.edu ResearchGate 


Illegal Graffiti as a Part of Spanish 15-M Protest (2013–2016)


15-M has been the most important protest in the Spanish history since Spain gained democracy in 1977. 15-M began in 2011 at the square of Puerta del Sol in Madrid and spread rapidly into all major cities in Spain. Madrid’s public spaces are shaped through squatting, protest-camps, marches, strikes, manifestations and graffiti. The aim of this study is to investigate the role of graffiti in 15-M protest: on what issues graffiti communicates about and how the communication of graffiti is formed.

Research is based on photographed graffiti in Madrid between 2012 and 2014. Qualitative content analysis and hermeneutical close readings were applied to the research material. The analysis shows that graffiti is used in protest as a strategic communication tool. Most of the graffiti researched indicates that the contents and objectives of graffiti are well planned. Three major themes were analyzed from the research material. Most of the graffiti communicated either on rights, failure of representative politics* or global justice**.

The findings of this study show that graffiti has an important role in 15-M protest. Graffiti exploits public space to communicate and to impact on important societal issues. It re-shapes both physical and ideological city space. Graffiti is a media to communicate without censorship and control and to challenge authorities of city space and state. In Spain, painting graffiti is a part of both political participation and citizenship.

Keywords: graffiti, 15-M, economical crisis, crisis, street art, urban space, public space, protest, visual communication, political participation, citizenship, Madrid, Spain

*Failure of representative politics included graffiti about political and legal system, bank crisis, and reform of public services.
**Global justice included graffiti about anti-imperialism and anti-war.

Where to find it?

jonna tolonen, illegal graffiti, 15M, research, street art reserach, Spanish 15-M

Book can be purchased directly from me or borrowed at Helsinki University libraries.



Research about how political street art communicates in Spain.


This a page about gentrification.

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