GRAF brings you the programme of contemporary art in Catalonia. The agenda that combines all agendas.

August 2018
by Cloe Masotta

Squatting the archive

“I could have sent you something from my phone. See how it extends. How it is invaded by other sequences, many sequences, how it is traced, rearticulated, reedited. Let’s confluence and tear off our occupation scenarios. Let’s break continuity. Let’s juxtapose them. Let’s edit it in parallel. Let’s jump the axis. Let’s build suspense. Pause Reverse angle. Let’s keep looking for spring.”
Hito Steyerl, In defense of the poor image

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This route is drawn from a series of coincidences that lead me to reflect on the accumulation, circulation and availability -without entering into legal considerations- of the images inn the Internet and the configuration of an eventual audio-visual archive, and also in the possibilities of their free re-appropriation. Since May’s GRAF route, which reflects on the configuration of subjectivities in the digital environment, I continue the map drawn by Marla Jacarilla with whom I coincide in The power of archiving and audiovisual remixing a workshop that takes place in Hangar, coordinated by Ingrid Guardiola, and taught by the lawyer Abel Garriga, the theorist and filmmaker Eugeni Bonet and filmmakers Diana Toucedo and Florencia Aliberti.

During the two days of training, when I start to think about this text, it becomes a compass or, even better, a map, that will guide me through the squatting territory of the audio-visual archive of the artist Kikol Grau who has been collaborating for years as a technician in Hamaca, a platform for the dissemination of Spanish video art, which we will approach at the end of this route. In a pause between intervention and intervention in the facilities of Can Ricart, headquarters of Hangar and Hamaca, I meet Kikol. I explain him that I am thinking to write four lines about the exhibition that consecrates him at the Virreina Center of the Image; that the opening of the event coincided with the course on film re-appropriation and with my reading of The wretched of the screen by Hito Steyerl –preparing, on my side, a training for teachers at the MACBA focused on contemporary audio-visual. Kikol replies me that precisely the German artist and theoretician has been a rich source of inspiration for thinking about his own production.

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Is it possible, through the audio-visual squatting of the immense quarry of existing images, to mount a sort of anarchive of the history of transition and punk in Spain, not only through the view of its protagonists but through their images, re-appropriated, or better squatted?

The exhibition Dame Pank y Dime Tonto reviews the trajectory of Kikol Grau from the creation of programs in public televisions, to the realization of documentaries, music video or audio-visual artefacts of various kinds and invites us to think about the archive of images offered by, for example, the Internet , as a space susceptible of being squatted. And in the exhibition, as Kikol had announced to me in our fortuitous meeting, I encounter myself again with Hito Steyerl in the biographical text that I can fully read in the hand-sheet, but that also is fragmented and distributed in different points of the exhibition. Written in first person, in the text Grau appropriates some quotes not only from the German theorist but also from John Berger, another source of inspiration when thinking about his work.

Concerning the exhibition’s proposal, after making quick tour, without stopping yet to watch the different screens and audio-visual proposals, I discover that the exhibition can also be conceived as an archive, in which together with the projection of television programs, music video, hilarious re-montages or dismantling of mainstream films or his trilogy of the history of Spanish Punk, we can see his collection of vintage videogame consoles, comics, fanzines, albums -because music is also an essential component in Kikol’s work-, books or posters of his films.

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I leave the rooms of the Virreina in full heat. At 30 ° in the shade it is too hot to stay on the street. The map that has taken me from Hangar to La Rambla seems to come alive and traces as many routes as there are neighborhoods and houses in the city. A fan, a sofa and popcorn. I connect to the Internet where I can continue watching in Atlantida Film Fest a retrospective of the filmography of Kikol Grau. In Hysteria of Spain (2017) and Hysteria of Catalonia (2018), a collective project coordinated by the Catalan director who presents in the form of collage pieces by: Carlo Padial, María Cañas, Andrés Duque or David Domingo, among other filmmakers, History is upset, it loses its letters. It is no longer a body-document but an infected sick-convulsed body with political corruption, a body that is also disrupted. This is composed, no doubt, of other bodies, it invades them for once extracted from their context assimilate, transform and become a new organism.

Children’s programs, news programs, fragments of Spanish cinema classics, unidentified audio-visual objects from the Internet, Splatter movies … become useful for the filmmakers who have collaborated in the project to set up a stark but not humour-free story about our recent history, and present. Along with these two films in the online film festival, we can see others such as Moctezuma-Grau descendencia mortal (2017), Kikol’s research on his possible Aztec origins, which also introduces us to the fascinating filmography of Jorge Grau. Moctezuma is composed of documentary, fictional and self-made interviews as well as various sequences from the history of fantasy and horror films, a central reference in the career of Kikol Grau. In fact, while I follow the investigation of Kikol in his family tree, reappear in my mind the covers of the fanzines that I have been able to browse at the Virreina, which include the International Festival of Fantastic Cinema in Sitges and the Marathon of Fantastic Cinema and of Terror in Sants.

It’s still very hot in the street. After discovering some filmmakers of Hysteria of Spain and Hysteria of Catalonia I am curious to know better their filmographies. I connect my television to the website of Hamaca, which on its tenth anniversary has just renewed its website, and also to that of Apología / Antología, a co-curated project, available on-line and on DVD of the Hamaca film collection, a broad thematic selection by Gonzalo de Pedro, Eugeni Bonet, Arturo Fito Rodríguez and Neus Miró. After several hours immersed in this audio-visual torrent, the course, the exhibition, and the reading of Steyerl, and the autobiography of Kikol full with quotes about the use of images in contemporary times, seem to converge in a suggestive proposal:

Let’s squat the archive to claim, through the audio-visual appropriation, freedom of expression. Let’s get all the acerbic images that inhabit us, that we inhabit. Let’s respond to the excessively bright with a visual howl that opens cracks to illuminate new senses between one and another appropriated or usurped image. Let’s make circulate those poems, collages, visual detriments from eye to eye. Lets’ film with what we have in hand, the lack of definition can be as much or more beautiful than a dazzling image.

Let’s keep looking for spring.


Text by Cloe Masotta for GRAF. Cloe is a researcher, critic and teacher in cinema and contemporary art.