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

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