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Introducing Lisa Furness: capturing the essence of place and timeLatest News
Fri 19 Oct, 2012.
Lisa Furness is our featured photographer for SomethingDark no. 3, and in this short item for SDk Latest News, she provides a preview of the ambitious project in Spain that she will commence in the new year. She has just returned from a “recce” visit to Barcelona, where she shot a short pilot series of images at a squat in central Barcelona known as La Pansa.
The sociopolitics and economics of squatting in Spain
by Lisa Furness
The economic crisis in Spain was not precipitated by excessive public spending or reckless state borrowing, but through a property bubble. For the last decade Spain’s economic growth has been driven by construction and optimism. Half a million properties were built in Spain in 2004 and the same again in 2005. Almost an entire generation became dependent on the construction industry for work, and the mortgage debt of the population was allowed to grow rapidly, unsustainably and, seemingly, unceasingly.
In 2008 the money dried up. Construction stopped. Jobs disappeared. Mortgages became unpayable. Construction companies became unable to pay their debts to the banks. The banking system teetered on the brink of collapse and was saved by huge government bailouts. By March 2012 Spain’s unemployment rate had hit 24.4 percent – the highest in the eurozone – with youth unemployment hovering near the 50 percent mark, and Spain was reduced to begging for handouts from the European Union and facing the strict “austerity measures” demanded by the eurozone powers, which involve slashing state support for the poor, the weak and the sick and that have led to the massive social unrest witnessed in Greece.
In May 2011 a mass protest movement erupted in Spain with a reported eight million people marching and occupying public spaces under the banner of Los Indignados (the outraged). They protested against unemployment, welfare cuts, the corruption of politicians, the two-party system, capitalism and bankers. They called for the universal rights of housing, employment, culture, health, education and political participation.
Spain has long been a country of political passion, radicalism, revolution and suppression where the state is viewed with deep suspicion and at best a grudging tolerance. It has become a country of poverty and debt littered with the shells of empty and unsellable buildings – a physical manifestation of the blind greed and optimism that fuelled this crash.
In January 2013 I will start an in-depth project photographing the squatting movement and the ghost towns across the country, exploring the relationship between radical politics and the physical constructions of the political system.
Lisa Furness, recently of Bristol, UK, is a fine art photographer specialising in the depiction of empty urban landscapes and the recording of buildings that are “between uses”. She is currently travelling the United Kingdom and preparing for her move to Spain: see her website and blog, Furness Photography, for her “On the Road” series of entries and images (see her blog archives for October 2012). For the economic and political–economic context of the global financial crisis that has been a major contributor to the malaise afflicting Spain and the eurozone generally, see the review article “Documentary exposes the banksters and their grip on government”, and the critical piece “Fantastic economics and the fantasy economy” in SomethingDark no. 2.
Text copyright © Lisa Furness and SomethingDark 2012. All images copyright © Lisa Furness 2012. All rights reserved.