2008. Todo por la praxis. SPECULATOR + EMPTY WORLD (2008.01 / project review / theoretical data)

Todo por la Praxis: PROJECT LAB

When in 1999 “Todo por la Praxis” ( was created, its motivation was located in the disillusionment of a heterogeneous group of anti-system subjectivities with the existing practices in the realm of the public space critic. With individuals coming from heterogeneous theoretical and disciplinary backgrounds, the group was formed as a “collective intellect” and an active political individual: Like a Project Lab which’s main goal was to instruct a wide territory to practice – as a transforming agent- in the symbolic field of artistic practices.

A Lab that produces and amplifies aesthetic projects for cultural resistance, a Lab to design efficient visual communication tactics, to test tools, organizational models and unconventional artistic actions. A place to develop projects that intervene in/on urban public space; activist aesthetic practices or confrontational activities – as a means to represent the social conflict in an aesthetically effective way – and artistic actions in/on public space (and their repercussions on the social context in which they inscribe themselves).

One of our most recent themes is personified by Speculator, manifested thanks to the creation of an archetype-character. Speculator is a multiple identity that assumes different roles in the diverse contexts to which he belongs. It is focused on an urban question, the public sphere and the real estate market. In this sense, any action oriented against ruling structures will be absorbed by Speculator’s potential projects. Speculator’s specific goals are: a) Unveil the net of existing relations between real estate speculation and gentrification, b) Analyze which segregation mechanisms and social control devices used in today’s trans-symbolic gentrification processes.


In Madrid there are approximately 300.000 empty homes that create a posturban reality. The abandonment of real estate patrimony that is reflected by these empty houses indicates the role of the house-product as a speculative practice that increases its value. That is, in our current real estate market houses are mainly empty because more profits are obtained from the house-product without doing anything, than by putting the product in the market as rented house. Therefore, there is an unused patrimony because by its simple accumulation and speculative revaluation more profits are obtained than by using them socially. EW intends to show these activities, so abundant in our cities and, specially, in the neighbourhood of Malasaña.

The neighbourhood of Malasaña is in the centre of the city and has been subject to real estate pressures throughout history. First – in days of Franco – they tried to devastate the neighbourhood with a haussmanian strategy. This initiative wanted to create a great avenue to connect Bilbao with Gran Vía. The existence of an important real estate patrimony in the imaginary line to be constructed stopped the project. The disappearance of the neighbourhood’s University created some expectations but the hippies came along, and were later substituted by the movida’s extravagance, and slowed it down. The rehabilitation plan of 95 was a great challenge for the neighbourhood for it ended up with the expulsion of great part of its residents with the excuse of eliminating substandard housing. And the process has ended by introducing new tenants in “luxurious substandard housing”. Right now there is a model created by the administration and private companies that intends to turn the city into a theme park (Disneyfication), creating consumer oriented places. As it already happened to Chueca in the nineties, Malasaña is subject to a similar strategy in which fashion and leisure are the parameters that define its future scenery. A scenario of gentrification in the Madrid fashion that we have labelled post-urban.  The logic of this pos-turban plan consists of emptying in order to fill. To empty urban spaces of their symbolic landmarks and unproductive inhabitants, transforming them into post-urban spaces, initiate a trans-symbolic gentrification; to redefine new urban space that fits the productive/reproductive subjectivities of the global city-factory. These “ethnic-class cleaning” operations are camouflaged beneath the “rehabilitation” rhetoric, a concept that is functioning as nucleus of the new fiction capitalism. This social control model implies a complex alliance between different interests. On the one hand, public Institutions, pressured by the private sector and their own economic interests tend to favour private investment on areas that must be “recoverable”, while they have to deal with the social conflict that these agents of gentrification create. On the other hand, the residents of some specific area become divided and oppose each other, those who feel favoured by the gentrification process and those who become “victims”. The post-urban scenario manifests itself on all social levels; the neighbourhood networks of mutual support become fragmented, the symbolic elements of belonging are delocalized (work ties, family, etc), social communication channels are reduced due to the fragmentation of common interest among residents, and, last, the relationships between owners and tenants become polarized.

In this context the Empty World project, included in the Todo por la Praxis Project Lab, is created.

Empty world in four movements. (Programme)

 1. EW is a multi-centred and multidisciplinary artefact that works upon the symbolic and social field as a tactic to connect different dimensions in which gentrification agents operate.

2. We have defined EW as a re-appropriation strategy of inactive space that represents the three million empty homes that exist in the Spanish State. Our general objective is – from the artistic field – to provide theoretic-methodological tools for the antagonist group.

 3. EW as an effective social and aesthetic project emerges from the need to develop a series of social and visual communication mechanisms that served to achieve a double goal: to chart the new posturban scenarios – analyzing weak spots; empty houses in the area -, and also, evaluate the level of gentrification risk to which these zones are exposed – how the social fabric was structured in that specific area, which elements of self-defence could they count on and which was their weakest flank or potential for urban conflict. To answer these questions with certain methodological efficiency we carried out an ethnographic investigation of one of the areas that seemed to be at high risk of falling under gentrification; the neighbourhood of Malasaña.

 4. EW intends to provide resistance tools – tactics and strategies – to the people’s movement in the neighbourhood, and Physical Signs are a way to make oneself present in terms of gentrification. EW is an action programme. 

 (January 2008)