We do not fight with guns or with swords, but with songs.
Latvian Voices chamber choir
There are ideas, thoughts, actions that never materialize. We don’t know why, but they end up unfinished on the back burner. Not this project. It has become a perceptible reality and highlights parts of a daily routine. In a way, it’s a reaction to the enactment of the Ley Mordaza (Gag Law).
For 15 years, I have been living on the edge of the notorious San Francisco neighbourhood in Bilbao, a culturally diverse melting pot, but also an impoverished part of the city and a stronghold of cheap rents. On my daily walk to my atelier, I began to notice the recurring presence of a particular item that is both intimate and workaday: the mattress.
On one hand, as a point of intervention, the mattress metaphorically represents a place to drift off; the place where the system tries to lull society to sleep. So I intercept this object and turn it into a banner, spraying ‘wake up’ on one side and ‘dream’ on the other; dream your own dreams and ideas, but also ‘join the fight’.
On the other hand, and from a legal point of view, the mattress represents a vacuum when it comes to criminal consequences, making it the perfect place to fire gunshots, shoot poison darts, swat, scream, puke and inflict literary wounds; it becomes a medium, a wall, a bulletin board, a journal, a canvas, a cluster of moans, a container of tears and pestilential fragrances, etc. That’s how I saw it: a space to be appropriated within the public space.
When the absurdity that is the Ley Mordaza was enacted, I thought that inaction meant accepting, submitting, giving up. So I began to connect ideas and put steps in place to randomly track down these ‘mediums’ to send ambiguous messages. I’m aware that the mattresses don’t last long in the street so I photograph them in order to have documentary proof of the ephemeral action that may -or may not- make sense when you see the photographic series in its entirety.
The texts used come from different sources. At first, I let myself be influenced by nostalgia – by songs from the so called Basque Radical Rock (R.R.V), bands I listened to during my adolescence – as well as other current groups from any genre. Then I began looking for my sources in literature, movies, television series, everyday slang, the internet, social networks (especially Instagram), and even in personal conversations or social expressions.
Of special influence is my reading of ‘King Mob: We the Party of the Devil’, which explains the Situationist or Dada movement that arose in the late-60s in England that led to the rethinking of art strategies ruled by the dictatorship of market trends, artists, gallery owners, collectors, etc.
Likewise, when studying William Burroughs’ ‘The Revised Boy Scout Manual’, which for a long time was not published due to its violent proposals inciting subversion and, ultimately, disobedience, I realised that, without being so radical, I could reach a layman public, not specialized in art but more real, one that doesn’t remain indifferent to such statements. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone wants to express it.
I jot everything down in small notebooks and on my mobile, which helps me remember what to tattoo on each mattress and in each moment. The formula is: spray paint + statement + mattress + write + photograph.
The advantage of amputating, cutting up or extracting phrases out of their context is that they usually lose their original meaning and get magnified when written in a such a poetic place as a mattress – a metaphor for dreaming, resting, loving or for loneliness. The ambiguity offered by the chosen statement allows for multiple interpretations. The website is an opportunity to see these interventions in the public space occupying yet another public space, like the internet. As a complement, the web links offer references to the origin of the phrase: to writers, filmmakers, visual artists, composers, theories, conspiracies, films, documentaries, online games, illustrators, musicians, painters, hackers, hypotheses, symbols, shamans, physicists, chemists, mathematicians, etc.
The languages used are predominantly Spanish and English, although I have also incorporated statements in Basque, French, Catalan, German and Italian. I never intended to take the medium (the mattress) with me, since, from the beginning, my goal was the ‘street action’. So, I carried along different equipment to be able to photograph it once it was finished. Most of the interventions have been done in Bilbao, although there have been some in other places that I have visited (Ibiza, Formentera, Lekeitio, Durango, Madrid or Hamburg.)
The fuchsia fluorine colour choice correlates to the idea of defining an identity or a tag – my own personal footprint – that identifies it as part of my project.
Streetfighter has built up a network of connections with friends and strangers who currently help out with the project selflessly sending the locations of abandoned mattresses they find. At present, two people collaborate with the spray painting: Maider Gelabert in Biscay and Paula Vincenti in Malaga. They send me the result afterwards.
“LET THE VIRUS SPREAD” W. Burroughs
More than 450 statements have been spray painted over the last 3 years. The Ley Mordaza was the motivation for a project that has now evolved into different territories and interests and that has led to the realization of the current project through this website: http://mattressesofbilbao.com/
SOBRE HUELLAS EN UN COLCHÓN, TEXTOS Y ACCIÓN Laura García-Borreguero Gómez