Cinema, 1999

Installation, Various dimensions

Asier Mendizabal is one of the Basque artists paying the closest attention to the relationships among form, discourse and ideology. Mendizabal’s artistic practice may be described as a critique of ideology by the mise en scène of the structures that shape it, finding in the vernacular a source of meanings. Mendizabal analyses social structures and relations focusing on the difficulty of representing the political – and the connections between artistic activity and the ‘political unconscious’ – present in cultural productions, collective undertakings and mass movements.

Two elements are key to understanding Mendizabal’s work: the micro-utopias that emerged from the music world of the eighties and the practices of popular culture. On the one hand, we find the signs and political and aesthetic attitudes associated with radical aspects of rock and roll; on the other hand, the collective gestures that have become customs in the Basque country, a society that has witnessed the beginnings and the end of industrialisation in the same century. The role of the artist in this context is to create the most complex discourse in order to explore the link between aesthetics and politics and overcome the insufficient notions of either domain.I

The genre of political cinema (from Costa-Gavras to Gillo Pontecorvo) is of particular relevance in the work of Mendizabal. He employs it as paradigm of the difficulty of representing a political act or feeling. His approach centres on the analysis of the different stereotypes and formal aesthetic qualities present in the genre. Cinema (1999) highlights the potential for emancipation that cinema has within the context of class war, from the Russian avant-garde experiments to the first workers’ movements during May 1968. Appearing on a wall in the movie Classe de lutte (1969) by the Groupe Medvedkine, the text hangs on top of an improvised table with bottles of mineral water and glasses. The work evokes the groups of workers that with the help of filmmakers such as Chris Marker and Agnes Varda introduced film as a tool in the factories where they worked. It also reclaims symbolic space and sets a possible stage where militancy, education and didacticism fuse with the cinematographic means at the service of the working class.

On other occasions, both the pleasure and the politics of the collective is found in the organisation of local celebrations, for example in Pabilioia (2002–03), a photographic testimony that documents the preparation of Goats that different groups organise for carnival. This series of black-and-white photographs portrays disturbing compositions of reduced groups of people meeting around construction sites, cars, truck trailers in a closed space, a warehouse or a parking lot. A larger group huddles together in front of a staircase in front of an immense concrete building. Both situations are at first difficult to decipher but involve a group of individuals around an action or negotiation. It’s only later that we realise that the action was centred on the preparation of the carnival Goats in Bilbao: one of the most popular celebrations and completely predisposed to the different types of revolt against the establishment. The negotiation was real and consisted of the debate as to whether a Goat should participate or not.

Technical details

Original title:
Registration number:
Mendizabal, Asier
Date created:
Date acquired:
MACBA Collection. Barcelona City Council long-term
Object type:
Handwritten text on PVC cloth, wood table, wood easel, water bottles and drinking glasses
Various dimensions
MACBA Collection. Barcelona City Council long-term loan
© Asier Mendizabal
It has accessibility resources:

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