We arrive in Bilbao: it's the first time in the SO IT IS project that we can materialise together, with our bodies, in the same space-time, making contact, meeting other artists, meeting other practices, in a space surrounded by a community, exchanging experiences and points of view live. The previous night, we wandered around Casco Viejo and its narrow streets, the bridges over the river and the railway, the sun extending into the night. In the morning, we go to Bulegoa b/z, where Leire is waiting for us: it's an open space, spatially located onto the street. It was founded in 2010 by Leire Vergara, Beatriz Cavia and Miren Jaio. It's a space that deals with critical pedagogical practices, situated knowledge and collaborative methodologies, feminist and decolonial perspectives, and social transformation related to the arts.
We see the poster created by Itziar Markiegi, a.k.a. Jana Jan, and Myriam Rzm, performers and sound artists, who imagined a double, multiple, collective body in transformation. They altered the shot both analogically and with Photoshop. The poster is placed in front of a speaker and printed on lightweight paper, which vibrates in contact with sound waves. After the sound action, we will remove the poster from the speaker and stick it on a wall in the city.
In the afternoon we have the meeting: 𝕤𝕔𝕒𝕧𝕒𝕣𝕖𝕓𝕦𝕔𝕙𝕚𝕕𝕚𝕟𝕠𝕥𝕥𝕖 ("digging holes at night") has a map-conversation format, it’s a muddle of entangled things, in which, together with Paola, we explore performative practices and wandering research made with others, starting from sound fragments and images: the nomadic project SO IT IS, with all its spatial and relational cores; the transfeminist movement of Non Una Di Meno in Italy and what kind of questions and activism it has triggered in the artistic world we inhabit, such as anasuromai (2017) and the action on Montanelli's statue (2019), in public spaces; we go back to the voices, fragile and still emerging, of the first feminist demonstration in Campo de' Fiori in 1972, the luminous presence of Mariasilvia Spolato, the first act of lesbian visibility in Italy; and then from voice to voice, narrating the cultural occupations in Italy in the 1910s (Teatro Valle, Macao and others), starting with the cry of Silvia and Judith Malina inside the occupied Teatro Valle in Motus' The Plot Is the Revolution, making our way through a decomposed map of the struggles of artists and performing arts professionals, until we get to the occupation of the Globe Theatre in Rome in 2021, at the peak of the pandemic; then we look at how performance creates and rewrites public spaces, and consider the amorous and affective investigation of the ephemerality of queer lives and archives.
It's a nocturnal collection, made while wandering, as flowers slowly blossom. The meeting happens within Material Voices: Feminist genealogies of the work of making exhibitions, a programme created by the group at Bulegoa b/z that investigates curatorial practices and women's work from the 1970s to the present. There is listening, care, attention. We discuss similarities and diversities between Italy and the Basque Country and the intensity of radical movement politics that have crossed both countries. Now, in Bilbao, it's impossible to think of occupying since only a few of many spaces still resist.
We finish, and the sound action of Itziar and Myriam begins. We stand between Bulegoa b/z and the street, beer cans in an ice bucket, between Italian and Castilian, while, in another bucket, Silvia and Leire are melting the glue for the poster, and Miriam and Itziar discuss where to stick it. We set off, bucket and billboard in hand, about thirty of us going down the stairs of the barrio. And after the bridge, we choose a wall by the water.
We go back up to the bar together. The girls at Bulegoa b/z organised drinks and comida. We eat tortillas, drink wine and cervezas. We feel the vibrant air of the Bilbao scene while they tell us how it works and its political transformations in recent years. They tell us that arts and culture are highly endorsed and financed, even though Bilbao is governed by the right, a moderate right, which grants something in terms of civil rights but is entirely liberal with regard to economic and welfare policies. After a period of deindustrialisation, a lot was invested in culture. In the 1990s, there was not much at all, terrorism was still active, and many of them went abroad - to London, to Berlin - to study and work. When they returned, they opened spaces, shared the knowledge they had gathered and brought their relationships and networks back to the city. They tell us about the transition from Francoism, which was slow and incomplete. As in Italy, there were strong continuities within power systems - according to them, Spain is a radically right-wing country. They tell us about the independence terrorism of ETA / Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, what it was like to live here then, and how until the 2006 truce - though not without many contradictions - this presence had somehow contained the capitalist hold over the city. We tell them that for us in the Italian movements, the Basque struggle was a symbol, that there is a community centre in Turin called Askatasuna. Here, they have the political myth of Italy and conflict, while we have that of the Basque Country. We laugh. Now it's a little different, everywhere.
We talk about the death of migrants in Melilla on 25 June, the externalisation of the frontier and border violence. We also discuss how the presence in the government of left-wing parties like Podemos has not even slightly affected repressive migration policies and deportations. Once again, we feel all the similarities. The day is very long, and a gentle, endless twilight extends our time together.