Street art researcher’s reflections: What street art research has given me?

street art researcher, el rey de la ruina, madridstreet art, ethnography

A year ago I defended my PhD. As a street art researcher my role is to talk about street art results to public but I today I wanted to talk about the things that street art research has given me.

More fluent Spanish language

Wall writings, stencils and pieces tend to include words or phrases that were not taught in my Spanish lessons. They often contain slang words and expressions too. Most of the times I have managed to translate them with a proper dictionary or Google Translate. Sometimes I need help from a native Spaniard. Discussions with Spanish researchers and street artists have improved my Spanish. As a result I no longer am afraid to read scientific articles in Spanish either.

Deeper knowledge of the history of Spain

I went to comprehensive school in the 1980’s. I had several marvelous history teachers yet I can’t recall many lessons about the history of Spain. There were plenty of information about French Revolution, American Civil War and British Royal Family. During my field trips to Spain, I have encountered stencils and pieces somehow relating to Spanish history. I read several books about it to get a better general knowledge about the things taken place in Spain.

The stencil below (see photo) is a good example of this. The stencil states: “12th of October, there’s nothing to celebrate!” with an image of a ship. The date is the anniversary of Columbus’ landing in the New World on October 12 in 1492 when he discovered America. This same date is celebrated as ‘Columbus Day’ and is also the national day of Spain. The image of the ship presents one of the ships on Columbus’ voyages. There is a drain of blood under the ship. It refers to Spain’s colonialism history that has traces of exploitation, slavery and horrendous behavior against the indigenous population. Therefore 12th of October should not be a day of rejoicing.

political stencil, street art, 12 octubre, nada celebrar

Getting a glimpse of how street artists work

I always enjoy talking with the artists. After seeing their pieces around the city it is very rewarding to discuss with them about their thoughts or processes behind the works. There are as many motives to paint as there are artists and their works. For example David de Limón has a habit of creating his pieces in the streets of Valencia on the same day every week in order to “give a smile to the passers-by”. Sabek from Madrid paints “because it is a passion”.

Broader (but never fully) understanding of financial crisis

The reasons for Spanish financial crisis were, like in any other crisis complex, in which the real
estate and the banking sector had a key role. When researching the photo material I collected from the streets of Madrid between 2012 to 2015 I saw how the crisis effected on people. In 2012 most of the banks in Madrid were painted with writings or stencils. Spanish bank offices were a concrete target to channel disappointment and anger.

In 2013 and 2014 it came more frequent to see stencils against the Spanish labor market reform (see photo below: “The labor reform kills”). Also I ran into stencils against to the cuts made on public health service and education. The measures to beat the crisis in Finland now seem to be very similar than in Spain few years back: increase workers’ hours, privatization, extend the eligibility age for retirement and make cuts in health care.

politival stencil. reformalaboralmata


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