"I'm trying to recreate some of the feeling that the works once generated in these spots"
July 2007 - When Phoenix, Arizona native and urban cowboy/artist VADR, as he likes to be known, arrived here for the first time in autumn 2004, he was excited and inspired by the vast array of graffiti and street art that Barcelona had to offer. He started snapping photos of his favourites and still does so, even as graffiti becomes more and more difficult to find.
VADR thinks this scarcity is a result of the new civic ordinance, or civismo doctrine adopted by the city. “Once, graffiti here was embraced by the city’s residents and visitors alike. You could easily spot works of graffiti from internationally-known artists on every corner, but now they just want to shut it down.”
In fact, the city has increased the resources allocated to rubbing out graffiti. The size of the public works ‘cleanup’ has grown rapidly since 2001 when there were only six crews removing, or whitewashing, illegal paintings. Today there are 28 of them.
The increased municipal efforts to clean up graffiti are mainly due to a profusion of ‘taggers’, according to an Ajuntament spokesperson, and the large increase in ‘tags’ (stylised signatures) around the city over the past few years. Taggers simply scrawl their street names (tags) in indelible ink or paint on any surface they can, leaving their marks even on painstakingly created pieces of graffiti. The graffiti artists maintain they have been unfairly lumped into the same category as taggers.
Since the city’s graffiti ‘cleanup’ began blanking out the colours of the city, VADR hasn’t been seeing enough colour on the walls. He decided to get back into the graffiti world and do something about the city’s loss by creating ‘The Teardrop Project.’ VADR creates wooden plaques to which he affixes his photos of long-gone street art, accompanied by poetry bemoaning the disappearance of art on our streets and alleys. Each plaque is placed directly in the locations where he took the photo and where the graffiti once brightened up the streetscape. “I’m trying to recreate some of the feeling that the works once generated in these spots,” he said.
One day recently, after working long hours to put up all the plaques and launch a website with a detailed map of his installations, he already saw a few of them had come down. “I know they are going to come down. That is part of the project, some will stay and some will go, I just hope their absence makes people think about what is missing from our streets nowadays.”
VADR is unsure how long the project might last, but after coming across one misguided fan of his work, he decided it could be a lot shorter than he had anticipated. Cycling home, he spied someone taking down a plaque, only three days after it had been installed. After asking the guy what he was doing he noticed six more of plaques in his backpack.
“He was going to ‘save’ them before the cops got them. The thing is that this guy still didn’t understand that he was working against the whole point of the project, to make people aware that something is missing from our streets: art and colour.”