Following yesterday's anti-austerity protests in Madrid, Spanish writer Begoña Gomez Urzaiz's reports on her country's lost generation, published in the October issue of Dazed
Things that used to be very Spanish: getting too many calls from your mother, obsessing over ham, pulling off the sockless look. New things that are very Spanish: writing blogs about how penniless you are, sharing angry political memes on your Facebook wall, not having a job. If you are Spanish and under-25, it has been statistically more likely that you are jobless than not since the youth unemployment rate climbed to 52 per cent in July.
One of the most dispiriting consequences of today’s catastrophic economic situation is the birth of a new underclass: the young. There are actually several tiers to this lost generation: firstly, the already demoralized 20-somethings, entering the job market with a pretty clear picture of what they are not going to get any time soon, i.e. the fabled steady job with 14 months pay (a remnant of the country’s Francoist era, when workers used to get an extra month’s pay in summer and at Christmas). Then there’s their older siblings, the 30-somethings; some of them briefly enjoyed the boom years, when renting was for losers and banks would give anyone a generous loan to buy a house, no questions asked (and why not a bit extra for nice furniture and a car?). Now they sit in bars nursing their only beer, reminiscing about the good old days of 2007, when they had disposable income for online shopping and New York mini-breaks. Remember when the dollar was weak and Europeans used to raid the Apple shop in Manhattan, buying iPods by the dozen? Many of them were Spanish.
For the curious, creative young Spaniard, there are essentially two options. He/she can emigrate, as more and more are doing with mixed results – for every successful but slightly bored engineer in Düsseldorf, there are two overeducated waiters in Rio de Janeiro – or stay, cope with the gloomy mood and try to shake things up. Some undefeated optimists are even seeing the bright side. Didn’t someone once say that if you have nothing, you have nothing to lose?
[The crisis slogan] defines our generation. There is a before and after. We’ve inherited it but it’s up to us to perpetuate it or face it with a regenerating spirit. Art has never been so democratic
Neko, street artist
Neko is 28 and has been tagging the streets of Madrid since he was 13, often with his preferred method, a fire extinguisher loaded with paint. Though he’s enjoying a sweet time with the publication of his book, One Name Army, he’s not optimistic about what the recession is doing to the street-art scene.
Dazed Digital: In the last ARCOmadrid (the most important contemporary art fair in Madrid) you were almost arrested for spray painting the word ‘crisis’ over a wall.
Neko: The newspaper El País asked me to paint their stand right there in front of everybody. I loaded my old fire extinguisher and tagged all over the only untouchable wall: the one with their logo. Immediately, I was surrounded by security guards. But at the same time people, realising it was a performance, started to clap.
DD: Why did you choose ‘crisis’ as your slogan?
Neko: It defines our generation. There is a before and after. We’ve inherited it but it’s up to us to perpetuate it or face it with a regenerating spirit. Art has never been so democratic.
DD: Is all this anger and frustration helping street art?
Neko: Quite the opposite. A lot of people can’t even afford the proper materials and in today’s society there are bigger fish to fry. This panorama might not make the scene more active but it will make it more raw. I’m hoping for more impactful actions.
Jimina Sabadu, writer and filmmaker
2010 should have been a great year for Jimina Sabadú (b. 1981). After all, she won a prestigious award for her first novel, Celacanto. However, around the same time she was making a move that has become common for her generation: from her own flat back to her parents’ home, trying to make ends meet with odd jobs
DD: What’s been the hardest part of the recession for the people around you?
Jimina Sabadu: It has taken the joy away from us, pretty much. In the cultural environment in which I operate nobody ever got rich, but now things are getting dramatic.
Those who are involved in self-produced culture usually live off other jobs, their ‘serious’ jobs, and they’re all affected by the recession, naturally. I expect the short movies, fanzines and bands coming out of these awful times to be more radical, more combative
DD: Is low-cost culture the only answer?
Jimina Sabadu: It shouldn’t be, but who is going to invest €3 million in a film if nobody is going to watch it? There is a reason nobody is going to the cinema; besides piracy, people prefer to spend ten euros on alcohol than a cinema ticket. Booze is more effective as a means of escapism.
DD: How would you describe the situation in those circles?
Jimina Sabadu: Those who are involved in self-produced culture usually live off other jobs, their ‘serious’ jobs, and they’re all affected by the recession, naturally. I expect the short movies, fanzines and bands coming out of these awful times to be more radical, more combative.
Miguel Noguera, comedian
A fan of artists such as David Shrigley, Miguel Noguera (b. 1979) soon realised his mischievous style wasn’t much appreciated at the art school he attended in Barcelona. But now a generation of (mostly broke) 20-somethings and 30-somethings “get it” and are happy to buy his surrealist books, Ultraviolencia and Ser Madre Hoy, and flock to the theatre to witness his wonderfully bonkers Ultrashows.
DD: Ironically, the recession years have been the most successful for you.
Miguel Noguera: Yes, I gave up my job in telesales right before it all went bust and now all my ex-colleagues have been sacked. I feel lucky and privileged, but you never know how long it is going to last.
DD: Now your art is also your job. Do you worry about monetising what you do?
Miguel Noguera: It’s now a job, a means of life. So I do feel ‘bohemian guilt’, creative anguish and all of that neurotic crap. Now I have the same worries as anyone who owns a business.
DD: Some say it’s a blessing in disguise for Spanish culture that there is no more money for subsidized art, making things more interesting and independent.
Miguel Noguera: I don’t agree. If you know what you’re doing, you are not going to lose perspective just because you have means and money.
DD: What was your take of the whole Indignado movement?
Miguel Noguera: I did sit in Catalunya Square (Barcelona) and Sol (Madrid) for a while. I was curious but I admit I’m not politically engaged. My head is as empty as my art.
Text by Begona Gomez Urzaiz. The intro and Q&As appeared in the October issue of Dazed & Confused. Read our interview with Gomez Urzaiz about yesterday's protests HERE.
Come back tomorrow for more interviews with young Spanish creatives, some of them from the October issue of Dazed & Confused, others unpublished.