Spectator of Spectators - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

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Spectator of Spectators

Equipo Crónica

(Active between 1964 and 1981)

Paint on papier-mâché

127 x 49 x 82.5 cm


Third quarter of the 20th century


Acquired in 1990

Bearing in mind the problems of public order that were affecting the regime during these years (five States of Emergency were declared between 1970 and 1975), it seems evident that the authorisations issued by town councils and provincial authorities that were required for holding an event of this type would have been impossible to obtain in cities such as Madrid, Barcelona or Valencia. This was a period of hardening of the regime and any street gathering of university students or any concert of protest songs that brought together a few dozen people (not to mention more overtly political or union-led demonstrations) was systematically broken up by the police. In Pamplona, however, authorisations had been issued and the first question to be asked by anyone with even minimal political experience was why?

This was certainly the first question asked by Equipo Crónica when it received its invitation. The most likely answer was that the organisers, counting on the political connections of the Huarte family, had previously explained the project to the relevant authorities in the regime and had convinced them that the activities
planned had no political relevance. The apparent freedom that the Encounters programme seemed to concede to artists was, in reality, a controlled one, and this is precisely what Equipo set out to reveal. Solbes and Valdés produced a papier-mâché multiple of the type that they had made for some of their exhibitions at the Val i 30 gallery, but represented this one as a police agent from the Political-Social Brigade. They sent it with the intention that these figures should be sited sitting among the audience at the festival¿s concerts and activities. To make its purpose entirely clear, they entitled it Spectator of Spectators. An edition of 100 was produced that was distributed as intended, although perhaps not with the efficacy that might have been hoped for had the organisers been more enthusiastic.

From a certain perspective, Spectator of Spectators was in fact successful. Participants in Encounters and the attending public (at least the Spanish part of it) fully grasped the allusion to the Political-Social Brigade. The reaction was light-hearted. Some of the dolls were thrown around and others destroyed. The rest rapidly disappeared as members of the public took them home as souvenirs. Overall, it seemed like one more happening among the many taking place in Pamplona during the festival. The authorities had the sense not to interfere; after all it was better not to let on that they got the reference. This, in fact, was where Equipo's failure lay: not in the reaction of the authorities, which was to be predicted, but in the fact that a work they had sent with a critical, political intent ended up fitting easily within the festival's programme. [Tomás Llorens]

Selected bibliography

  • Equipo Crónica : catalogación y obra gráfica y múltiples : 1965-1982 [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao, Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa-Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 1988. p. 142, n° cat. 13.
  • Equipo Crónica : retrospectiva [Cat. exp.]. Pamplona, Ayuntamiento de Pamplona, 1994. p. 36.
  • Laboratorios 70 : poéticas, políticas y crisis de la modernidad en el contexto vasco de los setenta. Bilbao, Sala Rekalde Erakustaretoa, 2009. p. 191.
  • Equipo Crónica [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao, Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa-Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2015. pp. 193-195, 200, n° cat. 115.
  • Equipo Crónica [Cat. exp.]. Valencia, Fundación Bancaja, 2016. p. 163, il.