Tag Archives: representation

A map of writing on walls


Design collective REDImei are putting together a great online guide to Barcelona graffiti, with photos linked to Google map tags.

UNFORTUNATELY (yes, this is me shouting) I can’t post any of the great pictures here, because all the images on their flickr photostream have an ‘All rights reserved’ Creative Commons licence. Come on, guys. This is street art we’re talking about, our shared urban culture, that laughs at private property and writes on walls.

So the picture above comes not from their otherwise wonderful project, but from my own modest collection. And as all my other stuff on this blog, you are welcome to make good use of it should you so wish, under an ‘Attribution – Share Alike’ CC licence.

At least I can give you the link to their Google Maps page.


What does Barcelona look like? – Los Ojos del Mundo

One of the few annoying features of my iPhone is the question it asks every time I want to use its camera: “Camera would like to use your current location. ‘Don’t allow’ / ‘Ok'”. Being a bit of a surveillance paranoid I routinely ‘Don’t allow’, but thanks to the hundreds of thousands of people who do, and mostly, thanks to those who upload their pictures to Flickr and tag them, the researchers at MIT SENSEable City Lab have come up with a fantastic piece of data visualisation. In collaboration with Universitat Pompeu Fabra and the Barcelona Disseny Hub, they have developed Los Ojos del Mundo, with two projects based on pictures taken by both tourists and locals in Barcelona: Spaces of Diversity maps Britons weaving their path in Barcelona; and Spaces of Activity tracks photos from Barcelona with tags related to ‘partying’.

So, what do tourists go for? No surprises there:

Britons who visited Barcelona in Fall 2007 stayed on the beaten paths delimited by the city’s main elements such as Parc Guell and Sagrada Familia,  with Passeig de Gracia and Rambla acting as artery. The photos also confirm their pleasure for football (Camp Nou) parties (Forum) and the mediteranean sea (Barceloneta).

And what about partying?

tags related to “partying” in Summer 2007 shows that Barcelona confines its fun to the old town (Ciutat Vella) known for its high density of tourists, the bohemian distric of Gracia and the Forum area and its music festivals.

Spaces of activity (where are the parties?) from senseable on Vimeo.

A sad day for branding, a sadder day for brandy – Osborne gets a makeover.

The Osborne group has announced that it will stop using the black bull as its corporate logo. The Sevilla-based group wants to signal its shift from being mostly a brandy and sherry producer to its current emphasis on products such as water, fruit juices and Iberico ham. It has commissioned a new corporate logo from a Madrid design studio, which is still under wraps and will be launched later this year.

While the fearsome 14-meter high bulls will remain dotted around the Spanish countryside, they will be even further divested from meaning. One more nail in the coffin for this iconic piece of Spanish advertising design, created in 1956 by Manuel Prieto of the Azor agency. The first bull, 7 meters high and made of wood, went up near Madrid in November of 1957. From the early 1960s the bulls were made of metal sheet and were 14 meters high. By the 1970s there were more than 500 bulls across Spanish territories, not just on the Iberian Peninsula but also in the Canary Islands, the Balearics and North Africa.

In 1988, new national transport legislation makes publicity billboards that are visible from the roads illegal, and the word Osborne that was written in red across the existing bulls is removed. By 1994 the Spanish government wants to bring them all down, but many autonomous communities, municipalities and pressure groups fight to save them. In 1998, the Supreme Court grants them mercy, stating that the Osborne bulls have moved beyond their original advertising meaning, having become part of the landscape and a Spanish cultural icon.

The Osborne bull has also left an interesting trail of political associations. As an icon of Spanishness it has been taken over by the conservative right, and prompted the design of  an alternative animal national icon by Catalan nationalists, in the shape of the Catalan donkey. No Heritage listing in sight for that one!

It was also used by Spanish soldiers posted in Irak, both on the national flag and to decorate the barracks.

There are currently 97 bulls left. And now that they are one of the great stories of Spanish graphic design, declared objects of National Heritage, film icons (in Bigas Luna’s 1992 Jamón, Jamón, the bull shares screen time with Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz),  Osborne wants to give them up, because they link the group too closely to its past as a sherry wine producer. Would Nike give up the swoosh? Would Macintosh give up the Apple? And all for the sake of branding bottled water and fruit juice?

Barcelona in the Domestic Interiors Database

Interior - Dining room. Enciclopedia de la Decoracion, Centro de Estudios CEAC, Barcelona, GERSA, 1963, vol.4, p.25

Interior - Dining room. Enciclopedia de la Decoracion, Centro de Estudios CEAC, Barcelona, GERSA, 1963, vol.4, p.25

I mentioned in my previous post the forthcoming symposium on turn of the century interiors in Barcelona. If you’re interested in that kind of thing, I thought I might also point you to the Domestic Interiors Database, DIDB.

I coordinated that project over three years while at the AHRC Centre for the Study of the Domestic Interior, based at the Royal College of Art in London.

You can see part of my own research contribution to the database here, in this case a few pages of results with many images coming from the photographic archives of the Amatller Foundation, which have never been published before. There are some spectacular 1900 Barcelona interiors for you to enjoy. There’s also, should you prefer technicolour to black and white, some really cool pictures from a 1963 Encyclopaedia of Interior Decoration published by CEAC in Barcelona.

The online DIDB offers over 3,000 representations of domestic interiors from 1400 to the present day, in Europe and North America. It was one of the major collaborative research outcomes of the AHRC Centre for the Study of the Domestic Interior. Textual sources in the database cover novels, poetry, manuscripts and inventories, diaries and correspondence, accounts, trade literature and advertisements, periodicals and advice manuals. Visual sources extend from Renaissance paintings to eighteenth-century graphic satire, from nineteenth-century design books and popular magazines to dolls’ houses, from twentieth-century photographs and computer stills to interior design drawings.

Have fun!

Pixels catalans

Pixelscatalans.cat takes up Alex Tew’s Million Dollar Homepage idea and turns it into a concerted exercise in nationalist propaganda. ‘A promotion of Catalunya’, states their manifesto. They aim to provide international projection for Catalan production and graphics, to push up the search engine ranking of Catalan websites, to ‘make the country’: ‘Fer pais’. Only my second post on BCND, and already the frustration of coming face to face with localist pettiness is raising its head. Will it become too much to bear (again!)?

The original Million Dollar Homepage was set up by Alex Tew, a cash-strapped student about to start his first year at university in Nottingham.

The index page of the site consists of a 1000×1000 pixel grid (one million pixels), on which image-based links were sold for US $1 per pixel, in minimum ten by ten blocks. The purchasers of these pixel blocks provided tiny images to be displayed on them, a URL to which they were linked, and a slogan displayed when hovering the cursor over the link. The aim of the site was to sell all of the pixels in the image, thus generating one million dollars of income for the creator. (Wikipedia)

The result: a young millionnaire who had to drop out of uni to keep on top of the site’s success. Most importantly, though, Tew’s open-ended agenda created something really special, a graphic, interactive snapshot of internet history – now on sale as a limited edition print.

Tew’s million pixel grid is vibrant, brash and loud, immensely varied in tone and content. In it one can find skater gear and online gambling, language lessons, business reviews, personal messages, high street retailers and domain hosting, dodgy job offers, e-publications and baby gifts, quick miracle diets and Jesus. It’s a perfect representation of cyberspace. While mostly Anglo-based, clickthroughs will land you in France, Italy or Hungary.

And what about pixelscatalans? All I can hope is that it’s not a perfect representation of Catalunya. What it shows is a fairly desolate landscape, still pretty empty three years after it went online. The pixels are mostly of corporate and institutional brands, some local, some global. At the very least, the pixel-sellers at Catalanpixels could have stood by their catalanist principles and denied access to international corporations.

What it is a perfect representation of, unfortunately, is the dead weight of identity politics on all fields of endeavour in Catalunya, the idea that we have more than enough with what we have ‘at home’ to create a vibrant cultural landscape, that the aim is not to open up to external influences but to preserve and project what we are (and what is that??) to the world.

Personally, I couldn’t care less what the world thinks as long as what is going on near me is entertaining and stimulating enough. If it is, the world will take notice. And being lazy by nature, I’d rather have the world come here so we can party.