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


Spanish 15-M was the most important protest in the history of Spain since 1977 when Spain gained democracy. 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 were shaped through squatting, protest-camps, marches, strikes, manifestations and graffiti. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of graffiti in 15-M protest: on what issues graffiti communicates about and how the communication is formed.

Research was 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 showed that graffiti was used in protest as a strategic communication tool. Moreover, most of the graffiti researched indicated that the contents and objectives of graffiti were well planned. Three major themes were analysed 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 had an important role in 15-M protest. Graffiti exploits the public space to communicate and to impact on important issues on the society. 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 the 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?

15-M, ptrotestBook can be purchased directly from me or borrowed at Helsinki University libraries.

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