Multiverso - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum


2023-03-06 • 2024-01-07


Videoart and digital creation

Room 4

Since 2018, the museum and the BBVA Foundation have been partnering in the call for applications for the MULTIVERSO Grants for Video Art Creation, which promote audiovisual artistic production Spain and its dissemination through different public programmes.

As part of this joint project to support contemporary art, the museum is hosting the presentation of several of the works resulting from the grants awarded in the 2018 edition, most of them premieres. The exhibition programme includes works by Antoni Abad, Toni Serra (Abu Ali), Mabel Palacín, Nadia Hotait, Manu Arregui and Pedro G. Romero, artists from different generations with a variety of orientations who use the moving image as a tool for creation and inquiry, thus offering an examination to video today.

Now on view

Manu Arregui. Harmonies of Senescence / 2020

Three-channel video projection

Sound, 24 min 3 s

Room 4 / 21 November 2023 to 7 January 2024

Manu Arregui’s Harmonies of Senescence (2020), is a sophisticated exercise in misrepresentation of the chorus lines from Hollywood musicals from the 1930s to 1950s. Based on apparently innocuous notions—the ideal of white, athletic youth; the discipline of synchronised choreographies; joy and glamour as watchwords—musical cinema became an exercise in evasion and propaganda for the hetero-patriarchal view of women’s role in an industry driven by male desire. Drawing from the resources of avant-garde cinema, music and dance, Arregui summons a group of veteran women dancers, sometimes nude, who use syncopated rhythms to challenge the strict moral codes established in those decades, which resonate once again today in the prohibitions being imposed in the major digital platforms.

In 2022, Arregui’s video Choreography for 5 Transvestites (2001) became part of the Basque public art collection through the Shared Collection programme promoted by the Basque government.

The starting point of Harmonies of Senescence was using misrepresentation, a parody that would reveal the hetero-patriarchal conception and political contents of the visual codes in the history of film and audiovisual propaganda. It is a remaking to mock and yet celebrate campy aesthetic values with an egalitarian gaze. The main characters in the project are not figures expecting a subject to appropriate them; their bodies do not operate in imposed objectification. Instead, they are women who interact with each other, who look at each other and also train their eyes on the audience, questioning male desire, the fundamental engine driving that industry. The models analysed include Strike Up the Band (called Armonías de juventud or Harmonies of Youth in Spanish, Busby Berkeley, 1940), which has served as the inspiration for the project’s title. 

The piece is a multi-channel installation on three screens, which include the spectators’ bodies as yet another element, forcing them to travel through the interstices of a non-linear storyline. We go through the rooms and sets, participating in the recording and all its ins and outs. The stages, hallways and stairs seem to offer us different ways to travel between reality and the afterlife.

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About the artist

Manu Arregui (Santander, 1970)

Manu Arregui lives and works in Bilbao. He has a bachelor’s in Fine Arts from the University of the Basque Country and has been a pioneer in the use of 3D animation in major video creation and sculpture projects, which seek to reflect on body politics and non-normative identities, as well as their representation through gestural codes and social archetypes.



Unseasonal Autumn / 2020-2023


Sound, 10 min 44 s

Room 4 / 21 November 2023 – 7 January 2024

Through two stories, Hotait addresses questions regarding the meaning of human existence from a twofold perspective: that of the philosopher, jurist and great Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 BC) and that of a group of scientists researching the origin of the world—of matter, space and time—in the nuclear laboratory in Frascati.

To do so, Hotait and her team travelled to this town, located around 20 km from Rome and the headquarters of the National Nuclear Physics Institute of Italy. Near it, the archaeology park of the former city of Tusculum contains the memory of Cicero’s pleasure villa where the philosopher had to go into exile after Julius Caesar rose to power. His adamant defence of the values of the Roman Republic ended up costing him his life.

Unseasonal Autumn connects Cicero’s life just before his death—inspired by one of the ‘historical miniatures’ recounted by Stefan Zweig in his essay ‘Decisive Moments in History’ (1927)—with the scientific community’s quest for the very key to existence by studying what is called the ‘God particle’, the Higgs boson.

In the video installation, the script starts at the location of Tusculum/Frascati, where simultaneous stories that address the existential question unfold. ‘I think that the worst tragedy is not existing after having existed’, declares one of the characters at a key point in Hotait’s work.

The installation was filmed in Italy with a wholly Italian cast. Unseasonal Autumn was envisioned as a cinematographic triptych set in three different times in which choreographed actions and dialogued parts succeed one another. They begin in the fictitious retreat in Tusculum, go through the stunning reality of the particle accelerator laboratory in Frascati and end with the staging of a dramatic dialogue in the archaeological ruins of the ancient Roman theatre.

According to the artist, ‘The video installation encourages us to engage in dialogue with a key juncture in our history and with a culture whose heirs we are’. In the age of post-truth and resurgence of the far-right, Nadia Hotait directs the humanist gaze towards a figure and a historical episode in Europe two thousand years ago whose traces and legacy still survive today.

Nadia Hotait

Studied Audiovisual Communication at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and Waseda University (Tokyo), and graduated from the Low-Res MFA program at the Art Institute of Chicago. Her works use video, film collages and photography to depict episodes of history, emphasizing and prioritizing the experience of individuals over the overall historical narrative.

El trayecto and The Track / 2019

Video projection

From th 18th of July to de 17th of September 2023

El trayecto and The Track are part of a series of works in which Mabel Palacín analyses the transformations that the explosion of technology has prompted in our lifestyle, in this case by exploring the possibilities afforded by the complex audiovisual technology used by a real driverless vehicle prototype in the creation of film-based stories. Even though storytelling has been a feature of the human gaze until now, the artist reflects on the role played by the constant creation of automated images in shaping our everyday visual environment and our imagination. ‘The camera is a machine that changes the way we see the world and the way we live, like the car. Cameras and cars are two essential technologies in our recent culture, and their combination in driverless cars opens up infinite possibilities regarding the fictions we live with.’

The vehicle used to record the videos was equipped with nine 4k cameras arranged in such a way that they created two wraparound rings at different heights without any blind spots. Plus, a thermal camera was used to provide another type of data. Viewing all the recorded material led Palacín to formalise this work into two different pieces: El trayecto includes the images from the black-and-white camera and images from the colour graphic reading, while in The Track, the images were eliminated and only the graphic was kept.

Mabel Palacín (Barcelona, 1965)

Mabel Palacín holds a bachelor’s in Art History and another in Cinema, Photography and Video, both from the University of Barcelona. She currently lives and works in Barcelona and Milan. Her artistic practice has been based on intense inquiry into the image, which has taken shape in photographs, videos and installations. Her work seeks to study the image via the image itself, challenging the division between art and criticism. She has been a pioneer in her exploration of the way images shape the contemporary world and her consideration of the problems that condition our understanding of today’s visual landscape. Therefore, her creations have major theoretical implications that go beyond the innocent use of the media, in a constant interrogation of the consequences for the spectator.

Asemanastán. The Land of the Skies (La tierra de los cielos) / 2020

Video installation

From 16th of May to 9 of July 2023

Shortly after he started working on this video, Toni Serra (Abu Ali)  died in November 2019, leaving the project he submitted to the Multiverse grant unfinished.

The work was completed by a team of professionals who were friends of the artist based on his preliminary script, using materials that he himself had recorded on his journey to Iran.  Alex Muñoz, a visual artist and photographer, took charge of choosing the sequences and editing the images, and Barbara Held, a composer of the music in several of the artist’s pieces, oversaw the video’s sound based on the material that Serra had recorded. Given the impossibility of making the same video he would have made, the goal was not to make a linear montage and instead the main piece was envisioned in sets of sequences in a diptych format, so that they appear alternatively on each screen and later melt into blackness. In the antechamber, a screen shows a man reciting a poem in Farsi, while another shows the image of light reflecting on the water, the video’s emblem.

Just as in his last pieces, this Toni Serra work examines the relationship between video and inner experience and visions that traverse that intermediate world—between worlds—between the real and unreal, the visible and invisible, sleep and wakefulness, life and death… as a journey that not only crosses these limits and frontiers but also erases them.

Just as in his last pieces, this Toni Serra work examines the relationship between video and inner experience and visions that traverse that intermediate world—between worlds—between the real and unreal, the visible and invisible, sleep and wakefulness, life and death… as a journey that not only crosses these limits and frontiers but also erases them.

Toni Serra (Abu Ali) (Manresa, 1960 - Barcelona, 2019)

Toni Serra earned a bachelor’s in Art History from the University of Barcelona and was trained in video art at CUNY Brooklyn and other schools in New York. For two decades, he used his work to reflect and experiment on the relationship between video and inner experience. Morocco, Tangier and the Atlas Mountains were just some of his usual landscapes. His most prominent creations include Midnight Sun (2016), 7 Contemplations (2016), Life in Harmony (2018) and The Way of Bees (2018). He was a founding member of the OVNI Archives (Observatorio de Video No Identificado, or ‘Unidentified Video Observatory’), where he served as a researcher and creator (1994–2019). He won awards such as the Nam June Paik (2006) and the Ibn Arabi al Barzakh Award of the Muyyiddin Ibn Arabi Society. In 2002, upon the birth of his first child, he began to sign his works as Abu Ali, or ‘father of Ali’.

Oídos sordos (Deaf ears) / 2019

Video installation

From 6 March to 7 May 2023

Fourteen deaf people speak with each other in sign language about various topics of their own choosing: jobs, associationalism, art, utopia, humour, autonomy, communication, depression, sex, urban and rural areas, love, inclusion, happiness and sadness, truth and lies, anarchy and dictatorship and deaf culture. Infiltrated in the hegemonic hearing crowds, they generously share their gestural-spatial eloquence to build a choral story about their expectations and opinions. The project—made in conjunction with the Catalan Confederation of Deaf Persons—addresses social inclusion, and in contrast to the dominant verbal communication, it gives the word to the community of people with auditory diversity. Oídos sordos reveals the extraordinary vigour of deaf culture.

The video installation includes 16 videos and audios distributed in three large-sized projections. The videos are subtitled (Spanish), and the audios reproduce the sounds emitted by the people speaking in sign language in the recordings. At the entrance to the gallery are transcriptions of these conversations in Braille (for blind persons) and macro-characters (for people with vision difficulties). To Abad, all these materials form an ‘intense amalgam of codes of expression, to shape an environment where the participants’ dialogues can reach that yearned-for place called eloquence’.


Antoni Abad (Lleida, 1956)

With a Bachelor’s in Art History from the University of Barcelona and a European Media Master’s from Pompeu Fabra University, Antoni Abad started his career in media like sculpture and sequential photographs, which he worked on in the 1980s and early 1990s. Since 1994, he has focused on expanded video and the Internet, which serve as the raw materials for his current practice with different groups at risk of exclusion. Between 2004 and 2014, he made several Internet-based audiovisual communication projects whose point of departure was the use of mobile phones by vulnerable groups in Mexico City, Lleida, León, Madrid, Barcelona, Costa Rica, Geneva and New York. The project made in Barcelona in conjunction with persons with reduced mobility earned him the 2006 Golden Nica Digital Communities award from the Festival Prix Ars Electronica in Linz (Austria).

Abad’s projects have been displayed in numerous venues and settings, including at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid; the Centro de Arte Santa Mónica and the Fundación Suñol in Barcelona; New Museum and P.S.1. in New York; Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin and ZKM in Karlsruhe, both in Germany; MUSAC in León; Centre d'Art Contemporain in Geneva; Museo de Arte Moderno in Buenos Aires; and Laboratorio de Arte Alameda and Centro Cultural de España in Mexico. His work as also been part of the Venice Biennale (1999 and 2017), the Ibero-American Biennial of Lima (1999), Seville (2004 and 2008), Mercosul Porto Alegre (Brazil, 2009), the Photobiennial of the São Paulo Art Museum and the Biennial of Art of Curitiba (Brazil, 2013) and the Berlin Biennial (2016).