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Wishes’ Piggybank. We are the neighbourhood: ACT!

Date: 2009-2010

Location: Madrid, La Latina

Commissioner: Madrid Abierto Cultural Association

Duration: 12 November 2009 until 27 February 2010

Type of Project: Participatory Public Art Work in La Latina

Stages:

12 November-26 February 2010: Collection of wishes and pesetas

1-26 February 2010: Charcoal Writing on Paseo de Recoletos

27 February 2010: Open Space Decision event in el Circulo de Bellas Artes

After February 2010: Realisation of two wishes by Asociación Amigos de la Cornisa-Las Vestillas and zoohaus

Process Partners: A project proposed by Susanne Bosch to Madrid Abierto 2009-2010 (www.madridabierto.com), selected by the curator Cecilia Andersson /curator and realized in collaboration with zoohaus (www.zoohaus.net), Círculo de Bellas Artes (www.circulobellasartes.com), Aula Urbana / María Molina López and the highschool Sagrado Corazón de Jesús as well as the daycare centres Día Numancia and Paloma; Ignacio Tejedor López / Virginia Lazaro Villa / Mario Leal / Elena Bueno (project assistants) and the entire neighboorhood of La Latina. Partly financed by the Arts Council Nothern Ireland and British Council.

Project blog: www.huchadedeseos.wordpress.com

Book: PDF

Madrid Abierto 2009-2010, a public commission curated by Cecilia Andersson, made an open call in 2008 for public art projects with the intention to investigate the possibilities of a politically concerned work of social and cultural collaboration and to analyse the way in which this work could function as a driving force for change in the city. It further intended to activate processes, which integrated new fields of knowledge within existing ones.[1]

The key coordinates for the commission was the execution of artistic interventions in Madrid city center for four weeks in February 2010, with some form of presence or reference to the junction of the urban promenades Paseo de la Castellana-Recoletos-Prado and Calle de Alcalá-Gran Vía.[2]

My proposed idea was to select one neighbourhood in Madrid to collect left-over and unused money locally, as well as throughout Spain, in the form of old Pesetas,[3] via a public artistic collection site that visibly presents the outcomes of the collective action. The project would also collect site-specific wishes and ideas for realization in the neighbourhood. An Open Space event would invite the neighbours to decide collectively what should happen to the Pesetas and how this would be put into action. In my proposal I highlighted that by concentrating on one neighbourhood only, the project tries to empower people who live in close proximity and have a personal relationship, connectedness to the site and to each other. Further, I made the jury aware that people’s participation depends largely on their believe and historical background in a participatory democracy, where people truly have an impact on decision-making.[4]

The project was realized between 12 November 2009 and 27 February 2010 in the neighbourhood of La Latina. A public multi-media collection site was designed and built by the designer-collective zoohaus in collaboration with me.[5] 512 wishes in and for La Latina and approximately 85,000 Pesetas were collected.[6] The project and object created a lively dialogue among neighbours regarding what they would like to change and better in their common public space. On 27 February, 55 neighbours of La Latina met for a day in El Circulo de Bellas Artes. Together they decided what would happen with the collected wishes and the Pesetas, worth  €513.70.

The Open Space event led to the selection of two proposals. The frequently-voiced wish for more green space in La Latina was realised through planting eight plum trees in Cornisa Park. The Asociación Amigos de la Cornisa-Las Vestillas[7] realised this wish with a collaborative action. The second wish, putting a letterbox in La Latina to exchange ideas and inform each other of events, has been realized at the entrance to El Campo de Cebada. zoohaus realized this wish in form of public black boards.

The educational program Aula Urbana, created by María Molina López, engaged two groups of middle school students from the Sagrado Corazón de Jesús in La Latina for over four months. The students became active participants in the collection of wishes, in interviewing their neighbours, and in the decision process.[8]

From 1-26 February 2010, the 512 wishes were written as a daily action of three hours’ duration, with white chalk on the pavement of El Paseo de Recoletos.

 

Questions that arose in Madrid were how art can sustainably empower one neighbourhood within the given framework of the art commission; especially taking into consideration that I was not present for the entire time and a non-local, operating in a foreign language and context. Other questions were the collaborations with local teams, which was a conceptually appropriate approach yet questionable due to the near impossibility (due to the given time frame) of setting up professional frameworks and developing professional relationships with a joint work ethic.

Outcomes and Impact

Madrid Abierto did not receive enough funding for new public art projects in 2012, but used the available budget to publish a book, organize a seminar and an exhibition in February 2012 in Matadero. All three elements served to reflect the past development between 2009 and 2012. I was invited back to reflect on and debate the topic of “useful art”. The invitation allowed for follow-up dialogue and reflection between involved collaborators, thus deepening the established network. It allowed the project to be witnessed alongside current civil developments and movements in art, such as the project “El Ranchito”[9] in Matadero. A blog serves as project archive.[10]

Since Spain’s current precarious situation within the Euro Zone[11] arose and the resulting May uprisings in 2011 occurred,[12] La Latina became one of Madrid’s neighbourhoods, which responds to the current economic crisis with weekly neighbourhood assemblies.

The locals took ownership of their public space. El Campo de Cebada, the former leisure center site, is a derelict building site that, since 2011 and in negotiation with the city council, is used by the locals for cultural activities, which proved that my methodology addressed a local and timely need and could be sustained into the future without my continued presence proving that my methodology works.[13]

 

 

 

 

 


[1] They chose ten out of 576 applications.

 

[2] A budget of €15,000 was given to each project including travel, accommodation, production, transport, the set-up of the work, taxes and an authors’ fee (€2,000). The work had to be realized in the given time frame and in close collaboration with the local Madrid Abierto team as well as the curator Cecilia Andersson. All public events organized by Madrid Abierto were to be attended.

 

[3] According to the monthly statistics of Banco de España in July 2008, 820.000.000 Euros in Peseta coins and 956.000.000 Euros in Peseta banknotes still remained in peoples private property. online] Available at http://www.bde.es/webbde/en/estadis/infoest/bolest17.html [accessed 1 August 2008]

 

[4] From my application proposal, September 2008

 

[5][online] Available at www.zoohaus.com [accessed 23 October 2010]

 

[6] Via audio recordings, interviews, postcards, posters, media. They can be read on [online] Available at www.huchadedeseos.wordpress.com [accessed 23 October 2010]

 

[7] This took place on 14 March 2010.

 

[8] María and I also engaged with elderly people from the daycare centers Numancia and Paloma to find out more about the history of the site and their views on La Latina today.

 

[9] This was the initial exhibition about recycling and collaborative public practices, that is set up as long-term workshops over a period of months. zoohaus was also involved. [online] Available at http://elranchitomadrid.wordpress.com/ [accessed 2 March 2012]

 

[10] [online] Available at http://huchadedeseos<cite>.wordpress.com/</cite> [accessed 2 March 2012]

 

[11] “Spain's story illustrates the fact that the Eurozone's problems run far deeper than the issue of excessive borrowing by ill-disciplined governments. Greece, Portugal and Italy all had way too much debt.  But the Spanish government's borrowing was under control - that is, it ran a balanced budget on average - every year until the eve of the 2008 financial crisis. And as Spain's economy grew rapidly before 2008, its debt-to-GDP ratio was falling. Germany's, by contrast, continued to rise. When Spain joined the euro the Spanish government resisted the lure of cheap loans, but most ordinary Spaniards and its banks did not. The country experienced a long boom, underpinned by a housing bubble, as Spanish households took on bigger and bigger mortgages.” [online] Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-17549970 [accessed 25 June 2012]

 

[12] [online] Available at http://www.democraciarealya.es/ [accessed 2 March 2012]

 

[13] Sometimes impact forms come as a surprise, as were the recent developments in La Latina, Madrid, where locals regularly meet in a similar form to that which was practiced during the art project that I staged there, because of fragile and contested living conditions and because responses from political representatives has been insufficient. In La Latina locals have constituted the public platform of debate and they act following collective decision-making. The Hucha project provided the locals with a temporary, playful platform, a voluntary model of engagement, a method of real life rehearsal of mutual support. I am delighted to witness this development, as the alternative response to the worsening conditions could have included violence. [online] Available at austrias.tomalosbarrios.net/[accessed 2 March 2012]. The collective zoohaus and members of the Asociación Amigos de la Cornisa-Las Vestillas are active drivers in transforming El Campo de Cebada working in close communication with the City Council. María Molina López and the groups of middle school students are active users of the public sites and participants in the public debates.