Videos

This first FOKU is dedicated to Iñaki Garmendia, whose video work has been referential for many of us. On February 25th 2020, we met with Iñaki and offered him to make do an exhibition in Atoi, which we are finally opening: Ratatatat. This collaboration has granted us a deep knowledge of Iñaki’s work, and we have discovered that its driving force is fragility, be it structural, discursive or emotional. His processes often start from derivatives, versions of cultural objects to which he remains secretly linked and over which he works from a logic of attrition. All this is most clearly revealed in his video production of the last 20 years. We believe it is important to make such a body of work available to the public, and therefore, it will be displayed as long as the exhibition is open
Kanala (1999). Chalet uno y dos
1999

Single-channel video, with sound, colour
20’20’’
DV PAL (720X540)

A group of young people step out of a white car with a Madrid license plate. They put their raincoats’ hoods up, it looks like it might rain. The scene changes immediately, taking us straight to the garden of a private home. The group goes over some notes written on a sheet of paper; Basque and Spanish mix up in an unplanned way. English has crept into the credits at the beginning of the video:

US vs THEM
Trying to get in: Chalet 1 & 2 

  1. 1999 a video by Iñaki Garmendia

The camera makes itself evident with fast zoom-ins on the group, who try to enter Chalet 1 through the gate and windows. They look into the camera and ask “Do you have a pen?”, to which Iñaki replies: “No!”. The crumbling property is not displayed in its entirety. The camera, from a distance, frames all possible points of access. A platform rising on one side defines the entrance area, where they stay for most of the time. A number of elements structure the framing: dark green shutters on white, undecorated walls. A part for the whole a house in the rationalist strand of the “neo-Basque” style, a pastiche projected from the early 30s as an archetype of the bourgeoisie. The garden is unkempt, but the house is tightly locked. US vs THEM. US in the scene, THEM out of it. Time draws on in the entrance to the house in the late 90s, at the threshold between US and THEM. At this, a double portrait, subject and object are part of the representation in equal measure. They sit, smoke, talk, forget why they are there. Basque and Spanish become a murmur and blend into the location’s sound. The image blurs when the voice behind the camera interrupts them again. They have to keep trying to break in. It starts to rain again, and they leave.

The group steps out of the car again. Now they enter another empty house. They soon access the interior, through the first floor balconies and windows. Once again, only the parts: a brick façade with curved angles, large windows, some of them of whimsical circular forms, dark wood —iroko or tali—, mark the style’s evolution through time. Another variant of the Basque repertoire, resembling organic architecture from the mid-twentieth century. The group navigates the property, penetrating its nooks and crannies. The scene, a static shot, flows like a composition between the decisions and interests of each individual. House number 2 could have been built in the late 60s or early 70s. It is now abandoned, but in perfect condition. Perhaps THEY fled somewhere safer. Once inside, in one of the rooms, the group goes through the notes together. Iñaki’s presence in the image clearly shows that the action concerns a planned structure, but even then, we are not capable of delimiting it clearly. They walk in circles, naturally, as if they moved through the space on a skateboard in slow motion. They run across the room, the sound is deafening. THEY cannot hear them.

Taja y sus amigos
1999 - 2001

Single-channel video, with sound, colour
11’39’’
DV PAL (720 x 576)

A “technical image”, as Vilém Flusser called it, is initiated at the meeting point between the lens, the eye, and the scene captured. The High 8 video camera used in Taja y sus amigos had no viewfinder, which made it necessary to connect it to a monitor in order to access the footage. This domestic procedure also made the editing of the recording possible  with the help of a VHS player. This is how the editing was carried out—pressing rec and pause in order to connect the different takes.

This video was finished in 2001, but the shooting was completed two years prior. I remember this when seeing some of the t-shirts, the battered dreadlocks sported by one of them —which he would soon cut off—, the thin frame of somebody else’s glasses. I remember the rehearsal room by the train tracks too, a summer afternoon, even though none of these elements were planned. They just happened, and happened to be there.

The scenes are built along the way, following a set of undefined rules. A group of young people step out of the frame and back into it as indicated. Together they develop a confusing composition, an ambiguous still life made of plastic, drinks, aluminium foil, duct tape and plasticine. The arrangement invites us to see it as a blurry form between paint and sculpture, onto which we can project a certain voyeuristic pleasure. Taja y sus amigos unfolds as a still life on a vacant lot by the train tracks and the road. In the beginning, the logic of arranging the elements in close up, typical of the aforementioned pictorial medium, is denied to some extent, as the resulting image is captured from a cautious distance, generating a feeling of alienation. As the video continues, the camera zooms in and a new arrangement of the frame offers a more detailed image. The light bathing the objects also reinforces the idea of pictorial composition. However, the camera’s distance remains contained at all times, despite progressively drawing closer, which prevents us from accepting the conformity of its nature. This might be caused by the composition refusing to be neither painting nor sculpture, merchandise nor footage/weapon. It merely offers itself as an ambiguous image facing the battleground of the TV medium.

A version with a rough transfer of the raw material was screened at the Festival Audiovisual de Vitoria-Gasteiz in 2000. Part of this screening involved broadcasting it at different times on TV. Later on, the final cut was exhibited on a monitor on a large, high stand in the installation Kolpez/Kolpe at the 2002 Taipei Biennial.

Goierri Konpeti
2002

In collaboration with Asier Mendizabal
Single-channel video, with sound, colour
53’35’’
DV PAL (720 x 576)

The work An Artist Who Cannot Speak English Is Not An Artist by Croatian artist Mladen Stilinović —produced in 1992, only a couple of years after the fall of the Berlin wall— helps to situate the difficulty that carrying out a retrospective on the early 90s in the international art context implies. This was a transitional period, as described by the —also Croatian— curator collective WHW as “the narrow-minded local interests clash with the implacable and ever-present logic of capital and globalisation”. Stilinović’s precept, sewn on a pink piece of fabric in the form of a banner, questions the hegemony of English in the capitalist Western art world, hungry for great narratives and reluctant to devote its efforts to listening to specific types of storytelling from the periphery. In the early 2000s, the transition initiated during the 90s brought forth a new process of normalisation in contexts such as Croatia and other ex-Yugoslavian territories. This transformation comes at the same time —as pointed out also by WHW— as “the promise to progress towards the normalcy of late-capitalist Western societies, considered as welfare states in which human rights would be fully respected”.

The protagonists in Goierri Konpeti, a group of young men, build their collective identity in the periphery by customising their cars, celebrating rallies and spending endless days driving at full speed. They communicate randomly alternating Basque and Spanish, drifting along whatever the situation asks for or carrying on in the language in which the first sentence of a conversation is spoken, which unconsciously establishes one language as dominant. The film’s subtitles translate this linguistic negotiation into a uniform English, never indicating the power play underlying the cultural cohabitation of the two languages. The video shows therefore its original attempt: to act as a visual artefact within the contemporary art sphere that may help introduce a highly codified peripheral reality. The simplification carried out for the benefit of English speakers reinforces Stilinović’s thesis suggesting that a worldwide exchange of the contemporary must happen in English. However, some peripheral narratives were more easily assimilated than others during this period. The fact that they were mediated by a perfect translation into English was not enough.

The authors of this work, Iñaki Garmendia and Asier Mendizabal, had obvious motives to be interested in making a documentary about a group of young men from Goierri, being the home region of both artists. This is an area that, in a way, was also immersed in its own normalisation processes at the time of the filming, marked —among other determinant aspects— by ETA’s ceasefire in 1998 and its interruption fourteen months later, in December 1999. The film, however, barely mentions these intentions, which hide behind a “methodology of the minimum possible distance”, as indicated by Miren Jaio in her review of the film En compañía de hombres (1993), published in Mugalari, the cultural supplement of the newspaper GARA.

The “embedded” camera crosses the valley in Arkaitz’s car, becoming invisible as everybody shares drinks, cigarettes and dinner; it captures the work of assembling and disassembling the pieces in the ground floor garage they rent in a baserri, filming the aimless comings and goings without cuts. However, as Miren Jaio points out in her text, it turns out that distance zero is not possible in this context. It becomes clear as we see the artists holding the little pet that accompanies the group at all times, designing the paintwork and patterns on one of the cars, and sharing unforeseen experiences in the desire to challenge the line demarcating the road across the well-known landscape.

Kolpez/Kolpe
2003

Single-channel video, with sound, colour
24’ 29’’
DV PAL (720 x 576)

November 2002. Members of the Taiwanese band Le petit nurse undergo five consecutive days of intensive rehearsals in order to learn the songs from the Basque Radical Rock scene’s punk repertoire. This “radical translation exercise”, as described by Carles Guerra in the catalogue of the Gure Artea award, which Garmendia received for this piece in 2003, takes place on a stage built specifically for this purpose and designed by the artist in a spacious exhibition room of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, a venue of the 3rd Edition of The Taipei Biennial, titled Great Theatre Of The World (curated by Bartomeu Marí and Chia Chi Jason Wang).

Kolpez/Kolpe consolidates a filming style that Garmendia practiced in his previous works, while also inaugurating new interventions in the montage that would soon become his signature. On one hand, the shooting is articulated around a group of texts (songs by the bands Zarama, Kortatu and Eskorbuto) which the Taiwanese band members must internalise in a short period of time. On the other hand, the resulting film is assembled following a logic that brings together fragments of lived time during the filming, which are connected by fades to black and abrupt cuts. A “hatchet” editing that attempts to escape the documentary format which was ubiquitous in the art of the period.

The elusive nature of this work’s recording, nevertheless, facilitates the intersection of multiple temporalities: the recent past, spectrally present through the sound of the songs; the action’s present, which reinterprets said past from a different place and time —a present that becomes absent at times, due to the sound being taken off certain scenes—, and lastly, the time of the shooting echoing in the museum space during the days of the exhibition setup. The video even proposes a wider intertextual connection: the portrait of the spirit of a period mediated by the Basque Radical Rock scene as the remains of the Basque context’s paranormal reality, as Joseba Zulaika would call it. Next to it, a global image, a blue-glitter and Union Jack pastiche typical of the early 00s post-MTV generation.

The text emerges from the margins, at its own pace, following its own slow and incomplete logics of the exchange between copy and original. The image has its own cadence, marked by the unstable assimilation of a homogeneous time, constantly accelerating, as it seems, but which will actually soon be forgotten. This is even more evident now, almost 20 years since the making of Kolpez/Kolpe. In the light of the present —a present in which, as Mark Fisher said, the sense of future shock has disappeared—, this work demonstrates the sound repertoire from the 70s and 80s remains an icon, whereas the defiant insolence of some forms of artistic and exhibition production from the beginning of the 2000s has disappeared.

Harder, Faster, Better, Stronger
2004

Two-channel video, with sound, colour
16’ 30’’
DV PAL (720 x 576)

Two night scenes light up a room in the old Ziriza factory in Pasaia Trintxerpe, one of the spaces hosting Manifesta 5 in Donostia-San Sebastián. They belong to the installation entitled Harder, Faster, Better, Stronger, which premiered in the context of this European biennial.

The installation joined two images together via a soft montage, in search, perhaps, of a less affirmative, more essay-like assembly of images, as noted by Harun Farocki. Mark Leckey’s Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore (1999) was being screened in the same building, on the floor above. A compilation of moving gestures, a collage of images accounting for an atomized social choreography by the collective erosion that the Thatcher era would leave behind. In the soft montage of my memory, traces and images of both works mix in a sort of visual archeology which, in those days, appeared already in decay.

The scenes composing the single-channel version of this piece were recorded in Berlin on the night of May 1st, 2004, in the clamour of the riots that had been taking the streets of the great metropolises from the end of the 90s to the beginning of the 00s. These protests were not only a way to raise awareness of the rejection of globalisation, but also a symptom of the progressive deterritorialization of power and the masses.

In one of the scenes, a mass of bodies sits and waits for the start of a concert of the punk band Terrorgruppe. The camera has been placed at the back before the concert, in centre stage and somewhat elevated. Once the concert begins, the camera is right at the front, also centred. One of the microphones, installed before the appearance of the band, indicates the central position of the takes. The room fills up, the camera remains static, capturing the lights bathing the gathering of bodies. In the other scene, we can see a field at night, with the remains of plastic cups and other rubbish, as well as police officers and a few arrests, small groups of people leaving. As the footage continues, we see the dancing mass, mostly male, as if it were its inherent form, a complete entity, moving in perfect sync, especially when the sound and the image match. When the sound is off, the distance increases and the illusion of this uncracked reality disappears. The raw image makes us more aware of the device structuring the scene. In parallel, the field keeps emptying out as the night draws on and police presence grows.

In the context of this night-time filming, a collection of images came up, which were taken as random portraits prior to the show. The camera infiltrated the crowd in order to access a more fragmented gaze. The resulting close-ups break from the notion of mass to pause at the style details on which this generation constructs its identity. These images were used in the cover of the book Only Kids Love Other Kids and the poster Orain bihotzak inoiz baino gehiago daude sutan for the exhibition Beste Bat! (a retrospective account of the Basque Radical Rock Movement) (2004) curated by Miren Jaio and Fito Rodríguez at Sala Rekalde (Bilbao).

Izarra
2005

Single-channel video, with sound, colour
18’ 53’’
DV PAL (720 x 576)

A group video. On this occasion, the instructions are directed at the camera. The spotlight’s white brightness intensifies the shadows on bodies that remain almost static against the darkness of the violated space. The building, an old school for the elite, is abandoned. The opacity and inaction create a strange sensation of otherworldly sluggishness. Once again, the video features Nadia alongside some other people. Some images return from previous works; others burst in from someone else’s footage. An intersecting grammar of self-referential and external elements indicates the way in which culture modifies the life of groups. A scene taken from Adam Small and Peter Stuart’s documentary Another State of Mind (1984) is synthetically reinterpreted. Repetition and difference. A body reproduces the gestural codes of slam dance, a collective form derived from the hardcore scene, as a kind of ephemeral rewriting on the floor of one of the classrooms. The image suggests the link between subculture and class culture, while also evidencing a structure of meaning of  its own.

Izarra premiered alongside Red Light/Straight Edge in the individual presentation of the Gure Artea Prize as part of the exhibition Iñaki Garmendia, Ibon Aranberri, Azucena Vieites, Artium, Vitoria-Gasteiz (2004).

Red Light/Straight Edge
2006

Two-channel video, with sound, colour
6’ 29’’
DV PAL (720 x 576)

Two studio scenes, confronted once again in a two-channel projection. Two professional lead vocalists (Nadia and Josetxo) attempt to memorise two songs: Red Light by Siouxsie and The Banshees and Straight Edge by Minor Threat. The atmosphere is bathed in red light. The camera, too close to the performers, takes their acting to its limit as it breaks apart the conventional visual grammar of music videos. In this case, the shot-reverse shot has been replaced by a soft montage of two sequences filmed separately. An unexpected way of joining fragments á la Bresson, also a strategy á la Godard; that is, allowing the presence of the non different within the different.

Here, too, sound and image are not always in sync, undoing the submission of images to text within the cinematic narrative. The literalness of the red colour on the bodies is intensified, whilst the rhythmic sound of the photographic camera shutter, together with the electric whipping of the flashing light in the original Siouxsie and The Banshees music video, has been replaced by a silence that strips down this operation of visual transcription. The camera becomes a brazen voyeur on Nadia’s body. Josetxo offers us the text devoid of Barthes’s pleasure, resistance and ritual, as forms of confronting the hierarchical existence of culture.

S/T Orbea (Orduña)
2007

Single-channel video, with sound, colour
DV PAL (720 x 576)
40’ 58’’

A 40-minute lab video devoted to recording a manufactured object: an Orduña model racing bicycle, produced by the Basque company Orbea during the 70s and 80s. This work explores the specificity of the object by applying a structural, let’s call it materialistic, type of approach. The process avoids a narrative, focusing instead on using the technical features of the camera, which transforms the filming into a formal operation. For this, the artist uses a macro lens. Through it he reduces the distance to the object examined to a minimum, creating a dialogue between its presence, the time of its filmic exposure and the moving image.  The latter moves forward down a chain of sequences in which parts of the bicycle occupy almost the entire frame, which grants  it certain monumentality. A long series of close-ups carefully studies every detail before drawing away to reveal the whole in some wider shots. The image fluctuates between the abstract and the figurative.
In S/T Orbea the historical narrative has no place, there is only room for the phenomenological aspects produced in the encounter with the object. The sound contributes to this reverie effect. Lacking space for external narratives, image destroys the possibility of text. The camera recreates the pleasure produced by gazing at the assembly of the elements that make up the nature of this technological object.

No R.S. (99 Red Love Balloons)
2007 - 2008

Four-channel video, with sound, colour
5'58''
DV PAL (720 x 576)

A series of lab videos make up this four channel work produced in a studio setting in which certain objects are the protagonists. These “black videos”, as the artist also calls them, were recorded with a Tyco toy camera purchased in 1997. The use of this camera in this context can be read as a reference to the faktura of films (such as Living Inside, 1989, or If Every Girl Had a Diary, 1990) shot by Sadie Benning with a Fisher Price PXL-2000 camera that her father, James Benning, gave her as a Christmas present when she was 15 years old. Unlike the Fisher Price camera, the Tyco does not use tape, and therefore Iñaki uses a beta video recorder to preserve footage. The editing takes place, once again, during the recording, by using the camera’s on/off button.

The coarse texture of the black and white image in Sadie’s and Iñaki’s videos accounts for an exploration via the medium of film that emerges from the intersection between narrative experimentation, performance, and cinematic syntax. The Tyco records image only, lacking a microphone. During the filming the same jack plug is used for the video and audio inputs, which produces a series of sonic interferences as the camera moves. The sound generated comes from the feedback at its contact with different elements. The camera functions as an electric guitar, albeit a soundless one. On the other hand, the capture of light is also restricted, since its performance is limited in terms of how it responds to darkness or to an excess of light, generating a visual error that translates as the appearance of a black band. Finally, the result is a sort of haphazard composition between sound, image, and the elements.

The first video in the series, 99 Red Love Balloons, was exhibited integrally on a monitor in the exhibition 1, 2, 3… Vanguardias: Cine/arte entre el experimento y el archivo curated by Łukasz Ronduda, Florian Zeyfang and myself at Sala Rekalde in 2007-2008. Almost simultaneously, NO R.S. (99 Red Love Balloons) was presented as a complete series in 2008 at Moisés Pérez de Albéniz Gallery (Pamplona). In the catalogue for the exhibition 1, 2, 3… Vanguardias, Iñaki intervened on the pages with images taken from the recording and also from a perforated photocopy containing Robert Morris’s text “A Method for Sorting Cows” (1967), a scanned image showing also its own faktura, originated in this case in the wear due to the use of this studio document. The reference to Morris’s piece, a set of instructions for an impossible action, offers points of connection with the epic tension of Iñaki’s videos as they attempt to capture a sublime image produced by the balloons bursting. However, as the title suggests, these blasts are not comparable to the explosions shot by Roman Signer.

CCC/MT (All the measures are taken)
2011

Single-channel video, with sound, colour
25’18’’
HD Video (1920 x 1080)

Cairo, 2011. This timely video was recorded in the C.I.C. (Contemporary Image Collective) Library a week before the Youth Revolution —also referred to as the White Revolution—. CCC/MT is structured as a script-performance using parts from the prologues to two plays by Bertolt Brecht: The Caucasian Chalk Circle, an epic written between 1944 and 1945, during the author’s exile in the United States, and The Measures Taken, a didactic piece written between 1929 and 1930.

This piece confronts us, once again, with the dual relationship between two artefacts that were not necessarily previously related. In this case, the artefacts are prologues to two plays written by the same author, but very distant in time. The preface to a play normally offers context, displaying the author’s position and the text’s didactic intentions. At times, it filters other, more mundane references, which have  the ultimate effect of provoking life to break in, affecting the reception of the art form. In this work by Iñaki it is not possible to neutralise the interruption of art by life, nor to identify the assertive Bretch from the doubtful one, the young convinced Bretch from the acclaimed one who doubts himself.

A group of six young people, with Arab as their mother tongue, read aloud the prologues to the aforementioned plays in English. The reading flows as a didactic process of internalisation, in which misunderstandings and spelling mistakes occur. Time functions as a material condition of production, undoing this incorporation process. On one hand, the chronology is inverted: CCC is presented before MT —a work published over a decade earlier. On the other, the action also flows backwards, since the texts are increasingly reduced with each reading, constantly becoming simpler until they lose their meaning, thus slowly complicating the internalisation process. The reading is broken down further with each take. Witnessing this disintegration, we clearly sense a circular timeline. The action seems depleted within this circularity. The city, the traffic, the sirens ring repetitively in the background from the beginning of the recording. Towards the end of the video, the dynamic sound of the street deafens this feeling of exhaustion.

 

Bolueta
2011

Two-channel video, with sound, colour
24’20’’
DV PAL (720 x 576)

Bolueta. A two-channel nighttime video. A field recording made up of footage simultaneously captured by two cameras that record the events unfolding in a specific area; namely, the entrance to a renowned Bilbao night club. A time sequence, from 4:00 to 4:55 AM, marked by the camera counter visible on the lower-right corner in the projection on the left-hand side. As the footage plays out, we realise that the action portrayed does not match the time on video, having been altered by almost imperceptible cuts that ultimately reduce it by half. This structural form warns us about the representational frame to which we are subjected as voyeur-spectators; meaning, that the anthropological quality of the recording device is not offered as a means to posit any kind of truth. On the contrary—all the elements that make up the device indicate that the images actually seek to bind us in the rules of a whimsical game of tag.

Bolueta/. Both cameras are concealed far from where the action takes place, as if they wanted to protect themselves with the maximum possible distance for a better extraction. One of the cameras, a High 8, shows the time and a series of grainy zoom-ins. The texture of the captured portraits is analogic. The other camera, which is digital, can be more precise in accessing the target; however, its sharpness seems more artificial, due perhaps to its colour saturation. We are introduced to two recent recording methods from different time  contexts and which are now exhibited in comparison, as if they were the remains of a nascent visual archaeology. Led by a homoerotic gaze, a game takes place between the images, recruiting involuntary actors as it unfolds, take after take.

Bolueta/Front 242. The night club’s electronic music bathes the images in the background as the night draws on. The music sounds more like prerecorded noise, an effect caused by the distance at which the cameras are placed.The sound distancing makes the music work as a  sort of quotation over the images, revealing once again the collective construction of subculture as a possible act of ambiguous resistance. Nevertheless, we are hardly able to build a new mythological style out of the digital faktura of the images of the present; their nature navigates instead within an order of rejection/assimilation.

Bozo
1997 – 2013