Artists: María María Acha-Kutscher, Theda Acha, Manuela Moscoso y Fernando Rubio.
Workshops: Santiago Cirugeda, Diego Barajas, A PIE - Asociación de Viandantes.
Curators: Tomás Ruiz-Rivas y Raúl Rojas
Support: Fundación Arte y Derecho, Vegap, Medialab
Collaboration: Asociación de Vecinos Valle Inclán de Prosperidad, Red Prosperidad
Prosperidad is a small working-class district founded in the 1920s on what were still the outskirts of Madrid back then. By the 1980s, it had become an island surrounded by high-rent districts (Príncipe de Vergara / Auditorio, Alfonso XIII, Parque de Berlín…). Today it is a neighborhood slated for a profound transformation in the midterm, as it is devoured by encroaching real estate interests. But as its disappearance is gradually consummated, it continues to be a neighborhood with unique qualities, like a small town in the middle of the city, which has been transformed by the arrival of mainly Latin immigrants. But many of Prosperidad's 25,000 inhabitants have always lived there, playing an active role in its development. The life of the neighborhood revolves mainly around the market and the plaza, which is also the location of the metro station and the parish church. Apart from these, the district is totally lacking in other landmarks, such as monuments and historic buildings.
As the product of a citizens' movement during the 1970s, the plaza was an exceptional urban space in Madrid. Its topography—particularly the shade trees and the low hedges that partition the space to create welcoming environments—fostered its use as a leisure area, and the evolution of the neighborhood created within it an exemplary multicultural community.
In 2005, the ACEP (Association of Merchants and Small Business Owners of Prosperidad) presented the Program for Commercial Development on López de Hoyos Street to the Madrid City Council. This program proposes the elimination of the plaza's current layout ("all existing barriers—whether created by plants or other materials—will be eliminated") to create a space where movement will be more important than sitting ("Prosperidad's new plaza will open onto the López de Hoyos Commercial District, without any zones that fall outside the characteristic flow of activity, thus agglutinating many of the area's promotional activities").
Several neighborhood associations rejected this proposal, and Red Prosperidad started a petition against the transformation of the plaza, given that the proposed design would prevent lingering and instead emphasize its function as a commercial zone and a place to pass through, thus destroying a public space that is used for integrating social practices, and as a meeting place for Latin immigrants.
How Do You Imagine Your Plaza? is the contribution that the Antimuseo made to this conflict. Initially proposed as an open workshop, it was redesigned as a series of collective projects and explorations which make up the current exhibition, accompanied by a free publication.
The work was organized as follows: three architects and four artists were invited to develop their visions of the Prosperidad district and opinions regarding issues affecting the plaza.
Diego Barajas, gave a talk on the transformations that the urban space has undergone due to massive migratory movements and the development of telecommunication networks.
The A PIE association explained its research into pedestrian movements in Madrid, with a number of examples from the Prosperidad district and the downtown area. This was followed by a guided tour of Juan Bautista de Toledo Street, which included a discussion of the reforms necessary for pedestrians to recover its use.
Santiago Cirugeda held an exhibition about his recent work: from his first urban interventions in Seville—including the installation of children's parks on dumpsters and apartment expansions consisting of rooms built on scaffolding—to his current plan to turn public property over to private citizens who use it to create parks.
The work was based on each artist's respective discourse, offering personal visions to help viewers understand the social and urbanistic phenomena at the heart of this project. The pieces were presented in a format that could be printed in the free magazine and on the exhibition posters:
María María Acha-Kutscher collaborated with Theda Acha to photograph and interview eight immigrant women who own or run businesses in the district, thus emphasizing the importance of women's work in immigrant collectives, and the increasing frequency with which women are forced to take on a new role, emigrating and finding their way in a new country to later bring their families to join them. The piece was presented as a full-page ad in the magazine, and then in an expanded version on the poster.
Theda Acha photographed many residents of this district to create a collage entitled "The New Faces of Prosperidad", which appeared on the magazine's front cover.
In Bogotá, Fernando Rubio, photographed businesses founded years ago by Spaniards, with names alluding to the owners' places of origin, such as the Guernika pastry shop or the Navarra lunch counter, and their counterparts in Madrid, whose names refer to the places of origin of their immigrant owners, such as Rincón de Bello, named after a Colombian city, or Paraíso Ecuatoriano.
Manuela Moscoso's pencil sketches portray the shadows thrown by the trees and people in the plaza, "as the only way to hold onto this democratic space for the meeting of cultures, which is currently in the process of disappearing."
RESEARCH / SURVEY / INTERVIEWS
Furthermore, research and collective work was presented in the following pieces:
A photographic reserch of the use of the square along one day, five photographs were taken every hour, forming a view of the square, from 7:00 pm to 22:00 h.
A survey consisting of a map of the plaza with all its elements missing except for the metro station. Underneath the map, there is a series of icons so that the people surveyed can choose which elements should be in the plaza. There are also some blank icons so that new ones can be added. Some one hundred surveys were done, with an excellent response from the residents.
Video interviews: as in the previous case, this is a work in progress. Different individuals are asked to respond on film to the question that lends this exhibition its name: How Do You Imagine Your Plaza?
Finally, part of the neighborhood was outlined in tape on the floor of the Ojo Atómico's exhibition gallery, with the plaza—printed on paper in the same way as for the survey—at the center. Scale prints of the surrounding buildings were also made. Prints of the different icons are placed on a table so that the public at the exhibition can fill in the plaza with its different elements.
The free magazine containing the artists' works, texts by the architects and other general texts as well as the survey was widely distributed throughout the district, and has also had an excellent reception from local residents.
On November 19, 2005, an artistic intervention was carried out in defense of the Plaza de Prosperidad as a meeting place. To replace the street furniture that had been removed by the city council, dismountable furniture designed by the architect Marcos Corrales was set up. The public in the plaza was invited to use the pieces, and pamphlets were handed out defending the plaza as a social space.
PLATFORM PATENT No. P200200
Ediciones Despacio. Mobcoop Ediciones.
Notes on the Notion of Place: temporary replacement of public? street furniture for leisure purposes, removed for unknown reasons
The project How Do You Imagine Your Plaza? sheds light on the relationship between people and their city. The connection that occurs in the public plaza between its material construction, social practices and the production of individual subjectivity. In other words, the configuration and development of the public space, or urban space in general, should be understood as an element in the construction of democracy.