Impetus from an urban corpse

The tobacco factory of Madrid, ‘Tabacalera’, empty during the last 10 years, should be, (but it is not), the current headquarters for the National Centre of Visual Arts (CNAV). Now on, it is the more active building in the multicultural neighbourhood of Lavapiés.

In its origin, Lavapiés was a jewry that suffered a pogrom. Probably that was the beginning of the distant character that this neighbourhood has respect the city of Madrid. It happened again during the Spanish civil war, where Lavapiés was a republican’s shelter. In both cases, the consequences for losers are abandonment and forgetfulness…

The building closed its doors in 2000, after more than 200 years of activity, where thousands of women were employed as cigarettes rollers, creating an astonishing flow of men coming to see them leaving the factory during evenings.

The building is now, a sequence of free cultural activities. Thousands of people, every week, go into it to create, enjoy or share a kind of specific culture. Everything, but the beer, is free in this place.

You can go from room to room like visiting a surrealistic dream, where different scenarios are set up with no relation between them. And you are just an invisible voyeur, because no one cares about visitors. Big and intimate concerts, chinese language lessons, sewing workshops, skating, theatrical performances, sculptures, installations… all are disposed in a sequence of juxtaposed rooms. It seems that everything could happen in the next room.

Tens of different workshops take place during the week, and all of them are announced in the white billboard at the entrance. On sundays there is a big concert, normally themed, where you can see old couples dancing, dressed with typical madrilian clothes, mixed with scruffy smokers with dreadlocks. Don´t expect to find great talents there.

There have been seen blonde tourists, with cameras, visiting the place. Is Tabacalera bringing international tourism to this neighbourhood where people might only come to have indian food?

There is an important fact to remark. This urban editing, can´t be imagined happening in a new plan building. The fact that time is limited, and the building is going to be rebuilt after it, make people use it in a breathless way, with a fierce behaviour that has more to be with action than reflexion.

The past of these extensive naked walls hit against the traces of these inhabitants, creating a concatenation of strange intimate dark rooms where individuals find the enough protection that enable them to freely act surrounded by the armor of the walls.