The Emergent Urban Body: The Case of Olivia

Figure 5

As I stated in the previous post, the flows and connections along the continuum going from street artist to world can be reassembled in new ways at any given moment. Street artist Olivia is a case in point. The object of her artistic work, Olive Oil of Popeye fame, drove the choice of her moniker. Olivia felt attracted to Olive Oil because, as she clarifies, Olive Oil was:

una imagen que me encantaba de siempre y el nombre lo tenía muy claro cuando empecé a hacer street art. Me iba a llamar Olivia. Físicamente tengo cierto parecido y me sentía identificada con ella.

[an image that I always loved, and the name I had very clear when I began to do street art. I was going to be called Olivia. Physically, I look like her, and I identified with her] (Dr. Case and Olivia)

The fixed subject/object divide is clearly loosened and obscured here. Olivia, the artist, is radically open to Olive Oil, her art, in such a way that the interaction between the two is a process of unrestricted commingling. Olivia functions less like a body and more like a bundle of networked relations connecting herself with Olive Oil, that is, the organic with the non-organic, and the material with the immaterial. In other words, Olivia is not solely body but also ecology of relations whose subjectivity is in a continual process of becoming. Also, not only is Olivia’s subjectivity in a continual process of becoming, so are the subjectivities of her Olive Oils. Olivia explains:

Empecé a utilizar las Olivias como una base para luego crear con ella otros tipos de personajes. Bueno, más que disfrazarse, lo que hago es que Olivia se convierta en otras cosas. Mujeres que o admiro o me gustan. Pueden ser mujeres que han existido o no.

[I began to utilize the Olivias as a base in order to later create with her other types of characters. Well, more than disguising them, what I do is make Olivia become other women. Women that I either admire or I like. They can be women that have existed or not]  (Dr. Case and Olivia)

Some of Olivia’s converted Olive Oils that have been seen in Barcelona’s Ciutat Vella are Frida Khalo (Frilivia Khalo), Marie Antoinette (Marie Oliviette), Botticelli’s Venus (Venuslivia), Madame Butterfly (Madame Olifly), the Virgin of Guadalupe (Virgilia de Guadalupe), Amy Winehouse (Oly Winehouse), Queen Latifah (Queen Olifah), and My Fair Lady (My Fair Livia) among others.

This is an excerpt from my forthcoming article “From Graffiti to Street Art: How Urban Artists are Democratizing Spanish City Centers and Streets.” Transitions: Journal of Franco-Iberian Studies 8 (2012): 9-34.

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