One doesn't post on their own blog for a while, and suddenly there's so much to write about! So much happens in life!
Let's see here... I will start with a brief discussion on the topic of motorcycles...
Let me start by saying that I miss my babies back home!
As I mentioned previously, I can't really consider getting a motorcycle here in Spain until my residency papers are more in order. That is looking like it will be sorted out within 4-6 weeks from now, so... the idea is creeping in again. However, after having lived here a while now, I'm actually no longer sure it's worth it to get a bike.
• Public transport in this city is excellent; fast, easy, and good coverage.
• Bicycling is fun and even faster than public transport, unless you are going a long distance.
• I rented a moped (as mentioned here in this blog a while ago) and that was an illuminating experience. What I learned is that a two-wheeler is not a slam-dunk in the city. Badly-timed traffic lights, congestion, unruly pedestrians, difficult parking in my neighborhood, cops who love to ticket everyone for everything - all this makes for a sub-optimal riding experience. (And that doesn't even touch on all those issues I did not have to deal with when I had the moped, such as registration, fees, inspection, and insurance)
The flip side of the equation is that I think a bike would be excellent for getting OUT of town once in a while. I did ride up a mountain road when I had the moped, and although it was freezing cold, it was good for the soul. I am still considering a little 250 enduro-type bike.. something not too expensive that Christina could ride too, something I could ride out of town and on some dirt if I could ever find any dirt.
So, who knows. We will have to see what happens.
Now, on to the art.
I'll start with some more street art. There's so much good stuff!
Here's one in the Poblenou district by the relatively famous Miss Van. I find it slightly sad, but also slightly funny, that something like this gets defaced by other, later "art", if you could call the weird crap that's painted over the face of the central figure "art". I guess it's a known risk that artists take.
A few weeks ago, I saw a great little piece of street art hiding in a doorway and I thought to myself "I've got to photograph that, one of these days." It was of a poor-looking (refugee?) young girl looking out from behind the corner of the architecture, and there was so much detail, so much expression. Well, the next time I passed that doorway it was gone, painted over in flat black. This piece, above, is definitely by the same artist, so when I saw this one I wasted no time in getting out my camera. At first I thought it was a wheat-pasted print, but it's actually several layers of overlaid stencils. To the right of it, under all that pink and blue lettering, is another stenciled face. It's of a woman, and its difficult to say if it might be by the same artist. I wish I could see it better. I'm not a huge fan of the lettering, the "tagging."
Back at the zoo... or rather, the wall behind the zoo, which is a place that is apparently sanctioned for graffiti / murals. (I posted a few pix from this same wall several months ago). I love the skull.
And this is from the outside wall of a warehouse / art space called Nau Bostik. Nice color, nice narrative, I'm a fan.
OK, moving on. OPEN AIR MARKETS. Barcelona is full of them. I love them. and, they're big. To give you an idea of the sort of scale I'm talking about, here is a pic of a weekly book market which I just discovered. (books only - although amusingly there is a seller of toys prominently shown in this picture; I believe it was the only non-book seller in attendance)
But the most unique market in Barcelona (or perhaps it's the biggest? Or the weirdest? Or the sleaziest?) has got to be Encants.
It was quite hard to take a decent picture of Encants. The upper two levels, where I am standing as I take this picture, are full of established sellers with fixed locations and stalls. The downstairs area, what I like to think of as "the Pit", (shown here) is just a big asphalt slab, on which different sellers stake their claim. The market is open EVERY Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, and I learned the hard way that there are no fixed "claims" for these guys in the pit; they move around, they come and go. When I say that I learned the "hard way", what I mean is that I went there a few weeks ago looking for a mannequin head, but all I could find was a whole mannequin. After bargaining the price down about 50%, I paid in full and, knowing that I could not take the whole mannequin on my bicycle, I arranged with the guy that I would take the upper body "today, and come back for the legs on Friday".
Well, I went back on Friday and, guess who wasn't even there! I went back days in a row and those sellers never reappeared. In fact, I'm going back today, although not to look for my lady's legs. I've given up on seeing them again.
The mannequin head was for a mock-up of a new large-scale sculpture for a proposal to a festival here in Europe. Christina and I are slowly accumulating small tools, and doing more and more art projects here in the apartment. Of course I'm not ready to splash pictures of the proposal around just yet, but I'm excited about the possibilities.
Oh, jeez, I've got so much more to blog about, but I've got to go over to Encants to buy a barbie doll as partial reference for a new sculpture, and you might be getting tired of all this by now. There's more street art, LOTS more sculpture (including more Frederic Mares, my new favorite Catalan sculptor Jassans, market and gallery objects of desire, Swedish nudes, funerary monuments, and more!), my new clay work (yes I'm being reasonably productive), and snapshots of this and that (including Sweden in Winter!)
It seems I've been ending my last few posts with random thoughts about city living, so why not start a pattern! (But don't hold me to it... I might not have anything smart to say one of these days). One thing I have noticed is the huge difference between Spain and many other "western" cultures I've visited in the cultural norms around eye contact on the streets between genders. I think I really first became aware of the enormous range of eye contact behaviors amongst humans when I was in college in New York City. I noticed that some people make eye contact, some don't, some hold it for a long time, and for others it's brief. In the USA, it often says a lot about the psychological state of the "looker." Confidence begets more eye contact, and the opposite holds true as well. Well, in Spain, you can't infer anything like that, because there is essentially no eye contact between genders on the street. I've looked online to find the reasons, but really the best explanation I've heard was provided by my friend Grey. Women, he explained, must not make eye contact with men for fear that this might be interpreted as romantic or sexual interest, thereby unleashing a torrent of unwanted attention. If true (and I see no reason why it wouldn't be) this certainly says a lot about the lack of boundaries on the part of Spanish men. In my online readings about culturally acceptable levels of eye contact, it has become clear that the norms I am observing here adhere more closely to those in the Muslim world than anything I've seen in America, England, Australia, Russia, or even Brazil. In that same conversation with Grey, he told me what a strange sensation it was for him, what a surprise and even a relief it was, to step off a plane in Holland and have a woman look at him. The few women who have looked at me, here in Spain, were either foreigners or prostitutes. And yes, it was jarring.
Prostitution... that's another interesting topic. I don't know much about it, but what I'm able to observe is interesting. Basically, it's legal here, and it appears to be centered mostly here in our neighborhood of the Raval. The Raval seems to be the last part of the city center (perhaps with the addition of adjoining areas of Sant Antoni) which is still "gritty", not yet completely gentrified. But the forces of gentrification are moving in, slowly, inexorably. So you've got these little boutiques selling hand-printed t-shirts and greeting cards next to run-down bars, next to upscale new hotels, next to marginally legal phone-hacking shops and busy north-african fruit sellers. On the streets in front of all these places you've got street people, nice-looking Japanese tourists, homeless, police, thugs, drunks, couples out on dates, bicycle messengers threading through it all, and prostitutes. On some blocks, lots of prostitutes. And they are looking for eye contact. The Raval is an interesting place.
So, until the next time, good night from the Raval. (Ha ha, it's not really night-time, but look at that sunset!!)