Spanking Projects means giving life to something you believe in, and this new pop-up gallery is all about breaking down boundaries and leaping over the hurdles of convention, to address the real issues of social injustice that matter today.
The ones that touch us deeply inside, that nobody else dares speak about. Controversial, perhaps provocative, but always firmly rooted in the belief that not only is a better world possible, it’s our duty to awaken and take action.
Street art is definitely a theme at Spanking Projects, and the artists chosen will bring their own unique perspective that is somehow aligned with the gallery’s mission. This new art space is located in the heart of Barcelona’s trendy Born district, next to the Born Cultural Centre.
Spanking Projects is proud to announce the gallery’s launch on the 14th May with a powerful reflection on contemporary reality by Barcelona artist Mantteka (Xavier Puerta). A new exhibition, entitled “Contacto-Sintacto” questions the two most extreme ways in which people relate to each other.
We are taken on a journey from the sexual and intimate, to the political, a realm of remote interaction and social organisation that distances us from our own humanity. If the exhibition had a soundtrack it would be percussion. “There’s a pulsation, a rhythm which is perceived visually. Something primordial,” shares Mantteka.
A piece that especially stands out is “Identity Revolution,” an intriguing twist on the familiar iconic portrait of Che Guevara that also speaks of Mantteka’s personal revolution.
“It’s a work which I conceived in Cuba and I prepared the first sketch there, “ he tells, with a glint in his eyes. He doesn’t think it could be shown in Cuba. There are too many taboos around Che’s almost sacred status, which has now become quite a conservative image, loaded with nostalgia. A transvestive Che, with his fluttering eyelashes, mocks the regime itself by reminding us that homosexuality is generally persecuted under communism, which contains an almost religious Puritanism that runs counter to their cry of freedom. It suggests a braver vision of what an authentic revolution should be about. This inverted image is even more powerful in Cuba, where modifying the symbol of the revolution is considered subversive.
“In Cuban artistic circles they are especially sensitive to this kind of transgression. That’s when I though of using an alias to sign my works, because I realised that these pieces I was working on couldn’t be exhibited in Cuba under my name.” And so, Mantteka emerged.
The transition also represented a change in Mantteka’s approach to art. Portraits and landscapes were replaced by more probing works. Art, he considers, must serve as a wake-up call, projecting sensations and emotions that provoke the questioning of society and of our own mental architecture about fundamental issues such as love, the good, the bad…
“For me, art is either subversive and revolutionary or else it’s just decorative. I’m interested in shaking things up, both individually and collectively.”
He is passionate about his vision that all art, visual, music, dance or any other kind of expression enters through a side door to the mind, whilst the front door is our perception of everyday things. It brings a certain light, an impulse, a realisation of the reality of things around us, which often passes unperceived. Art juxtaposes forms, which can make the mind break its usual patterns.
How do the emotion, interactivity and rebellion of street art translate into a gallery? “The street artist generally ridicules galleries, as for them the best gallery is the street, with its open spaces and freedom that feeds their art. Part of its transgressive nature is its integration into urban reality, to deliver a stronger punch and provoke an impact. It’s a bit like comparing a zoo to the Serengeti. On the other hand, the gallery is a space where the street artist can be discovered professionally. They’ve painted on walls, but now they want to enter into the “art world”, with all its inverted commas, so they put together an exhibition.”
“Galleries have something which the street doesn’t,” says Mantteka. “The capacity to concentrate people who are interested. Work is exhibited in seclusion, without the buildings, people, cars, bicycles… It’s like a crypt where you can enjoy the art in a different way. Or like a monk who has various way of meditating… walking through the woods, or in a dojo with its white walls. These are complementary ways of nourishing the human experience.”
What are the social issues that concern him most? “Dignity. The lack of human dignity in the way that society is organised. How we can recover this value for ourselves and others is something to reflect on.” He cites examples of children forced to fight in wars, countless deaths over territorial control, and, closer to home, the lack of humanity we have towards childhood globally.
“Of course, everyone has their precious child who they love and look after. But outside the family it’s a different story. Society doesn’t do enough to help young lives flow along a dignified course. There are kids sniffing glue, cleaning windscreen, working in sweatshops… we know this, but we buy the clothes anyway. It’s all happening in front of our eyes, but we don’t realise it as we’re so desensitised. That’s why this is one of the themes I’ve chosen for this exhibition. We separate our everyday lives from the things that we know and just retain them in the mind as yet more information. Art can reconnect you to those feelings.”
Mantteka has an interesting mix of talents; he is a mathematician as well as an artist. He reveals that these ways of thinking are closer than you might think, and always have been. Whatever you remember about adding and dividing numbers at school is just one aspect of maths. Go deeper and you’ll discover that it is the science which investigates the abstract structures that underlie reality, and their interactions.
“Art has a level of abstraction too,” he explains. “ Even figurative art is the result of a perception of colours and forms that seem interesting, and their interpretation with concrete materials. I don’t use mathematics to paint, and I don’t use painting for mathematics, they’re distinct tools, but for me there’s a relationship.”
A wide variety of tools and techniques have been used throughout these works, ranging from squid ink and bleach in “Life In Three Screams,” to street-style aerosol in “The Best For You”.
Another project which Mantteka is excited about is dynamic sculptures that move with the wind. “What’s particularly interesting is that this movement and dynamic is undetermined as it’s generated by nature and integrated into the art work.” This fascination with kinetic sculptures originated in an engineering project, generating energy from the sea using windmills. “As well as the practical aspect, they had a special beauty since the windmills weren’t rigidly fixed to a base and turning regularly. They move with the waves and the direction of rotation changes with the wind, like a dance on the water and below the sky. I recognised a lot of artistic potential, and from here I developed a few sculptures.” Some of these sculptures will be part of an Off-Sónar show taking place in June at the Reial Club Maritim, Barcelona.
Contacto-sintacto makes no demands on the viewer; everyone is invited to have their own experience. “Total freedom is the main energy that needs to feed art. It has to be a free experience, both at the moment of creating the piece and at the moment of perceiving it, says Mantteka, and Spanking Projects agrees.
The journey is an invitation to examine the social and personal structures we use to interact with each other, a journey of freedom that might take you anywhere… Listen closely to the soundtrack, that steady and rhythmic pulsation, and you might recognise it as coming from your own heart.
We look forward to welcoming you to the exhibition launch on 14th May 2015. Spanking Projects Pop Up Gallery (The Basement of Le RDV Cocktail Bar), C/ Fusina 6, Barcelona.