Exhibition: Queer Carriers: The Double and Repetition - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum


2021-06-22 • 2021-09-05

Queer Carriers: The Double and Repetition

Ana Laura Aláez

Room 32

MULTIVERSO Grants for Video Art Creation
BBVA Foundation–Bilbao Fine Arts Museum (2018 call)

Made within the context of the prestigious BBVA Foundation-Bilbao Fine Arts Museum Multiverso Grants for Video Art Creation (2018 call), Queer Carriers: The Double and Repetition is the latest video creation by the artist Ana Laura Aláez (Bilbao, 1964).

The work (a video from 2020 lasting 15 mins 39 secs) was unveiled to the public for the first time today in the museum's gallery 32-where it will be shown until 5 September of this year- by the artist herself along with Juan Pujol, Assistant Director and Head of Economic, Social and Cultural Communication at the BBVA Foundation; Miriam Alzuri, Modern and Contemporary Art Curator at the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum; and Miguel Zugaza, museum director.

Trained in the Basque Country in the second half of the 1980s, her first works hint at a process of assimilating the issues posed by the previous generation from the 'New Basque Sculpture', while also introducing corrective elements associated with the gender perspective by using materials and processual strategies beyond those traditionally considered sculptural. She herself states that she still doesn't know what the word 'sculpture' means and that precisely this not knowing is what drives her to keep working.

In 2001, she was chosen by the art historian and critic Estrella de Diego to participate along with Javier Pérez (Bilbao, 1968) in the Spanish pavilion at the 49th Venice Biennale, and in 2013 she received the Gure Artea award from the Basque government in recognition of her artistic career. Currently, Azkuna Zentroa (Bilbao) is offering a major monographic show on her oeuvre called All the Concerts, All the Nights, Everything Empty, in which Aláez's current works engage in dialogue with earlier ones.

Produced throughout 2019 and early 2020, Queer Carriers: The Double and Repetition can be classified in different ways, all and none of which are possible at the same time: manifesto, music video, performance, diary, visual catalogue, trailer, etc. The work includes numerous references to dance, drawing and sculpture. The outbreak of the pandemic necessitated a change in the original script and forced Aláez to become more flexible the project and its undertaking, testing other possibilities which in the final edition turn all the chapters into a visual continuum of different sequence shots, with music acting as the nexus and common thread.

Aláez states that she has never been interested in categories like homosexuality, bisexuality, heterosexuality, etc.. She believes that this is not the conflict. This refusal to set one's sexual identity in stone associated with queerness is an innate circumstance. She doesn't see it as exceptional. She finds what is normatively considered 'normal' strange. This work alludes to her own concept of queerness in both life and artistic processes. It appeals to a certain life attitude to make this to-and-fro more fluid.

The sound part of the work is by the German composer Daniel Holc (Hamburg, 1974) known as Ascii.Disko -a benchmark in electronic music and experimentation with a background in different contemporary sounds- who composed and performed the music track 'Stillstand'. According to Aláez '50% of the visual project is based on a specific electronic music project () the perfect medium to underscore reiteration, abstraction, revolution and anarchic energy'.

The inclusion of electronic music in the video revives an element that was very important in the artist's work between 2000 and 2008 but that has been absent from her creative processes since then. Thus, almost all the intentionality of the video lies in the repetitive rhythm that increases until minute 4:48, where the performers start falling -the skater in New York and the performer in Bilbao-. The refrain 'I can't get away from myself' fosters a certain narrative.

The process of editing the video was used to revisit other earlier videos by the artist, such as The Darlings (1999) and Superficiality (2003). Through doubling and repeating everyday actions (walking, driving a motorbike, riding a scooter) or more sophisticated ones (Butoh choreography and performances), Queer Carriers: The Double and Repetition assembles a unique action replicated by all the participants, who ultimately construct a plural female identity, a single person shaped in the spectator's mind.

It is a figure in perpetual motion who walks with decisiveness, proud to be queer, that is, to represent non-binary gender identities which do not pigeonhole them into established gender patterns. A figure who sometimes falls, and whose movement and falling convey to the spectator the question of their gender identity and the uncertainty of their 'queer' condition.

The locations where the actions take place are an essential part of the video. The symbolism of large cities (New York, Tokyo, Towada City), her hometown (Bilbao) and her current place of residence (Mallorca) comes from places where the artist has lived or worked in the past.

In Tokyo, Norihito Nishi, an artist who is anything but conventional, develops a Butoh dance piece lasting an hour and a half (Butoh themes tend to revolve around identity, gender construction, sexual orientation, anxiety, chaos, criticism of post-war society, representations of death, etc.) These erratic movements mix tradition and avant-garde. Editing this part was difficult, according to the artist, because of the large volume of material. She ultimately decided to use short cuts that focus in on the performer's slow movements, with which he seems to be directing the other performers from a distance.

Aláez's pieceBridge of Light, at the Towada Art Center in northern Japan, serves as a backdrop for Sayaka Mitome, a girl wearing a traditional kimono, the rigidity of which stands in opposition to the freedom of movement of the other performers. The act of walking is also seen in Tokyo with Kurasaki Aki and Shen Ye Zhen. In Japan, Aláez got in touch with a small group of women known as the Biker Girls who ride old Harley Davidson Choppers. Asuka Akiyama rides around the centre of Tokyo on wet pavement at night after a major storm.

In a small room in Bilbao, Amparo Badiola, who comes from the field of dance, does an exercise in which she repeatedly falls. The skater Jessica Bailey -found, just like Akiyuma, via the social media- rides around New York on her scooter with the same determination as Lola Jiblazee, Hop Nguyen and Yess Giron, who appear with their own genuine personal aesthetic without any previous styling.

Finally, at minute 9:36 the music track ends and the video changes. The artist Magdalena Planas uses spray paint and a template to paint a bat sleeping upside-down and adds the phrase 'All the Concerts, All the Nights, Everything Empty' (the title of the exhibition at CA2M in Madrid and now at Bilbao's Azkuna Zentroa in an expanded version).

Aláez summarises the work in this way: 'The structure of the video is a sum of repeated movements by the performers. In theory, the movement have no purpose, but because they are repeated, they become essential. The fear of their motions being interrupted given the clear risk of crashing thrums throughout these overlapping images, The road is hard; falling is easy. Negotiation is going to be needed to show those tumbles, or not, and to what extent."

Queer Carriers: The Double and Repetition was the winning video in the category 'Music Video International Audience Award' at the International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen (Germany) in 2021.

Encounter with the artist

Tuesday, 22 June, 7 pm, Auditorium (full capacity)

Streaming on our YouTube channel