During the years 2009 and 2010, within the framework of Madrid Abierto and under the label Unofficial tourism – a project of the artist Iñaki Larrimbe - various cultural agents created a series of unofficial tourist maps that were distributed from a trailer turned into a parody of an alternative tourism office. Shortly after, as a result of the very collaborative work dynamics, those agents turned into a group so as to continue investigating, working on the diverse issues put forth in Unofficial tourism. That is how the Strange tourism project and the Unofficial tourism group were born.
With a do-it-yourself approach, Strange tourism aims to become embedded inside the mechanisms created by the culture industries. Strange tourism does not have the intention of criticism. Rather, its idea, from a nihilistic position, is to be a part of the cultural reality in which we live, attempting to provide a response to the demand for cultural entertainment generated by the new cultural policies, grounded in socioeconomic criteria. Thus accepting that currently, the political administration inclines towards seeing the public sphere of culture as another resource, in detriment of the other ways of approach its comprehension, be it as value or lifestyle. Given that it does not seem to show any interest in this sense, beyond the mere media reflection. And thus we see how in cultural matters, the local agendas empty of content, moving their focus of interest towards cultural tourism, with the aim of attracting visitors who generate economic profits for the cities. Thus culture turns into a mere economic resource.
With Strange tourism, we want to propose other forms of sightseeing, build other Madrid narratives. Narratives that cannot be taken on from the perspective of the tourism industries owing to their scarce economic profitability. And with this purpose, we are now drafting an “alternative” tourist guide and a map that will present diverse strange tourist itineraries created for the occasion. These materials will be distributed through various Madrid public venues, using the recourse of bookcrossing: the practice of taking a book and “forgetting” (releasing)it in a public place so that another reader may find it, read it, and put it back in circulation.
The Unofficial tourism group includes: Guillermo de la Madrid, Mauro Entrialgo, Adriana Herreros, Iñaki Larrimbe, Ana Nieto, Santi Ochoa, Jimina Sabadú, Todo por la praxis, John Tones and Macu Vicente.
Madrid is one of those cities in which tradition and modernity go hand in hand. Traditional items continue to enjoy pride of place in many bars and commercial premises, traditions with a certain hint of fustiness, revealing customs of the not too distant past. Such items include hunting trophies, animals stuffed with more or less skill: owls; blowfish; bull, deer or boar’s heads; tortoises; crocodiles; sharks; Chinese antelopes from the marshlands … a whole range of fauna spread across the city, staring at us out of their glass eyes, from the walls of bars, car parks and even print shops. In their day, they were the pride of the predator; today we consider them to be mere kitsch items. Along this route you will find all types of creatures outside their natural habitat, something that well defines this capital city, which is mainly inhabited by outsiders. A great museum of Natural Science, with no need to get an entry ticket.
Guillermo de la Madrid
Traditionally, passers-by (tourists, visitors or local people) have been bombarded with guides, maps and leaflets on timeless subjects, on things that have remained unchanged for centuries or that are designed or conceived to do so for centuries to come. In this way, visits are made to the majestic remains of the past and to the creations that are set to become part of a city’s present and future attractions. Urban art gets away from the requirements of traditional tourism: it has not been created to astound visitors, neither does it represent the history of the city, instead it is the artistic expression that personifies the everyday world and the daily life of these cities. And, although if you’re not careful you may loose the chance to see something (many disappear at the first signs of change), there are works and contributions that do remain. These are the ones that will be shown on this route: large murals, small contributions in unexpected places, works created specifically for the particular spot in question: all are represented in this itinerary.
Although, as a country and as far as fiction is concerned, Spain is more naturalistic than fantastic (because the Spanish reality has always exceeded our expectations), there have always been some incursions into the realm of fantasy. Perhaps not many, and with a clear foreign influence in almost all of these works. They were not created spontaneously but were the product of new (or old) tendencies coming from beyond the Pyrenees. However these few works do show a strong personality, the fruit of mixing foreign influences with Spanish characteristics (which could also be called defects: defeatism, disenchantment, or downright depression) and a little genuine talent present in most of the authors of the works reviewed. Although some works have not been included here, as they took place in buildings or places that no longer exist, those that are included in the list have two characteristics in common: they are still standing, and are interesting per se. With or without the work that adopted them. Let’s hope that you make the tour and that you awake the spirit (not the corpse) of a Madrid that existed, exists and will continue to exist. However much some are set on burying it alive.
It is said that “time doesn’t exist, that time is the things that happen to you”, however humanity has always needed to measure it. For centuries, the shadow cast by the sun was the universally-accepted form of measurement and its original standard was the “gnomon”, a stick perpendicularly embedded in the ground, whose shadow indicated the different hours of the day. In the city of Madrid, there are some 50 gnomons located in parks, on fountains and buildings. These gnomons are of different types: vertical; horizontal; cylindrical; equatorial … and they often go unnoticed. Even in our high-tech times, they are still a reality, given the fact that the majority were made in more or less recent urban renovations.
NEON COMMERCIAL SIGNS
Adriana Herreros y Mauro Entrialgo
When talking about the Madrid neon scene, there is a tendency to limit its scope to the half a dozen signs displayed by the large companies. Signs which are repeatedly reproduced by the media and which were also reviewed in our first issue of this route. Signs which the municipal authorities have decided to leave out of their aesthetic witch hunt, thanks to public pressure.
Having said this, the bulk of the city’s neon lights is made up of simple signs which, although on a more modest scale, have personalised their surroundings just as strongly, and are unconsciously registered in the minds of the passers-by. If the new regulations are strictly applied, it is highly unlikely that all these signs will survive. Furthermore, all the signs we’ve selected pertain to busi¬nesses which, although renovated, have existed for decades with concepts of times of old, making them unique in this quagmire of franchises and designer stores in which we are immersed.
Madrid is full of streets dedicated to Catholicism, whilst hardly any are dedicated to cultural and natural values. There are none dedicated to Mozart, Beethoven, Shakespeare or Voltaire, in contrast to many other capital cities within Spain. Instead, there are a great many street names of shame, a reminder of the worst of the Franco regime. Over the last few decades, an attempt has been made to correct this anachronism, with a historical review that has only just begun and which has dedicated new nameplates and monuments to some key figures from the Spanish and European enlightenment. There are also nameplates dedicated to historical monuments in our cities that have nothing to do with politics or power. Today these are hardly noticed, such as the first cinema projection or the first time the Basque anthem was performed, as well as others which are more remote, from centuries past, which are now seen with a certain irony.
LAND PLOTS. A LOOK AT SELF-MANAGED PLOTS.
Todo por la Praxis
Abandoned or empty land plots represent new frontiers of opportunity in consolidated urban centres. In times of property market stagnation, like the situation we are now experiencing, these abandoned areas become unexpected infrastructures for temporary activities.
Until recently, the use of land plots was centred on public occupation, as in the case of Olivar 48. However there is now a trend towards experimenting with processes to provisionally assign public land to associations and social movements.
We are interested in retrieving and looking at these sites in which the urban use of the land runs parallel to the planned use. Despite the differences existing with regard to the contents, history and dynamics of these sites, they all have one common denominator: Self-management. We are therefore going to use this thread as a criterion for mapping the route around these social centres.
It will therefore be possible to take a look at a number of self-managed sites in different points of Madrid.
Ever since the audiovisual quality of home entertainment has been in a position to compete with that offered by cinemas, theatres and concert halls, and whilst the city’s nightlife is invariably cut short by municipal regulations, bowling alleys continue to survive as leisure centres which have not yet encountered a worthy counterpart at home (not considering the virtual versions available for senior citizens. Bowling allies continue to need spacious premises, with specific conditions and, above all, with that kind of atmosphere reminiscent of a pagan temple that has always surrounded this type of sport-come-hobby, for teenagers trying to get rid of their hangovers. The bowling allies present in Madrid still conserve some of this antiquated American-style dignity, which makes them special.
As can be seen, the route is not particularly long: only a short while ago, bowling allies were prolific in Madrid, however, the appearance of more sophisticated leisure activities has put an end to what were actually meeting places for young people, in the style of amusement arcades, and these have now replaced by gambling houses in many cases. The bowling allies left in Madrid are no longer “neighbourhood allies”, with rudimentary lanes and quaint parishioners, but are located in shopping malls outside the Madrid city centre. As it was precisely these malls that were responsible for putting an end to neighbourhood entertainment, it is paradoxical that all the Madrid bowling allies but one are now located in these shopping centres.