Author: Lauren Klarfeld
You may have stumbled across one on a traffic light around Lavapiés, while using Bodegas Lo Maximo’s bathroom, or even meandering through the labyrinthine corridors of the Tabacalera. Among a confusion of plumber’s adverts stuck to eye-level surfaces, a note shines brighter than the rest, luring you into a clandestine audience of Madrid’s silent poetry slam.
Small, black sticker frames enclose thought-provoking, hand-written sentences in English, Spanish, French and even Korean. They’re signed by Stefano, Jorge, Abel, and so on. These stickers (or slaps as they are called in street art lingo) have been around Madrid for the last year and have only been multiplying as my original project has begun to grow.
The strangers I encounter, who come from all around the world, have become the subject of my artworks. It starts with a curiosity to approach them, which leads to an unexpected conversation and, finally, the chance meeting is wrapped up with a hand-written quote – a reflection of the stranger’s own personal mantra, capturing their essence in a powerful, lasting way.
It’s how I conserve something from the people I meet along my own road, like a photo-less photo album of all the people that give me energy and wisdom. Each traveller, migrant, local – however they identify in this city – has lived their own course of life and has learned valuable lessons that sometimes take an unexpected conversation to unravel. And creating stickers from their quotes is a way to put back into the streets what the streets have taught me.
As a street art guide, I also know what potential the streets have to speak to the people. Most of us walk these streets unaware that almost every corner hides a work of art but also a message from its people to the people. The streets are an open book, able to tell the history of a city in a way that no person can. I look at street art and slaps as artefacts of a generation that wishes to express themselves.
Here’s a quote left by Abel one sunny spring afternoon in El Campo de La Cebada when it was still open…
Abel worked nights flyering for bars around Plaza Santa Ana, encouraging people to come in so that he could redeem his €2 commission. What the people he encountered never knew was that that Abel left his country of origin in search of a better life, and his search for a stable job had been a journey of ups and downs. I like to leave reminders of that in places people wouldn’t normally expect it.
José is an eccentric busker who absolutely owns the character of Madrid’s nightlife. You can’t miss his neon-decorated tuk-tuk and pearly white cowboy hat as he cycles through the streets playing music from his small ghetto blaster. Confused yet amused passersby catch a glimpse of his wide grin and missing teeth, putting a smile on their faces too. “And if they wish to contribute with some change, that’s always welcome,” he told me.
Random encounters feel commonplace in Madrid: park benches become the stage for a fleeting friendship, as do zinc bars, which can leave you cherishing a moment you could never have anticipated. They add magic to the world.
During lockdown, these random encounters are something I’ve missed more than I’d expected, and I’ve enjoyed chatting to shopkeepers more than ever before. These chance encounters and curiosity for people’s stories is what Last Words For The Road is about; to never stop cultivating your curiosity for the people you never knew you would meet, because you never know what wisdom they may pass onto you.
Today, my collection counts over 200 quotes from people from all around the world. And as the streets begin to bustle again with excited children and their parents, a new post-lockdown energy is circulating through Madrid’s paved arteries and veins. Soon, I’ll be out there again too, tapping into the everlasting wisdom of the people on the road, and sharing everything I learn with the streets of Madrid.
- Follow Last Words For The Road on Instagram @lastwordsfortheroad.
- Visit Lauren’s online gallery of 200 quotes: www.lastwordsfortheroad.com.
- Feel free to contribute to her project by contacting her on Instagram.
This article was written by Lauren Klarfeld, who has been following Madrid No Frills since day one. Lauren works as a writer and street art guide and can often found roaming the streets of Madrid in search of its latest art works and hidden gems, but also those human encounters she cherishes so much. She loves bringing her friends on her adventures, which are always rounded off with a caña or two in a no-frills bar.