Madrid

Ana Laura Aláez

Ana Laura Aláez, a young Basque artist who lives in Madrid, caused a sensation around the time of the most recent arco, in February. Seldom does an exhibition by an artist little known to the general public awaken such interest in Spain. Wavering between surprise and jealousy, many have asked, How did this happen? What was the reason for the long lines at the entrance to the Reina Sofía’s Espacio Uno? Why did a mass audience, little accustomed to attending artistic events, embrace this particular artist?

For one thing, since the early ’90s her work has positively sought out the spectator. Partaking of various disciplines (including photography, environments, and video), it invites us to share an aesthetic that flirts with a world where cosmetics, fashion, science-fiction movies, and futuristic design converge—all of this seasoned with enormous doses of glamour and then candy coated (probably unintentionally). Attentive to the potential of collaboration with other creators, Aláez has invited artists such as Txomin Badiola and musicians like the techno-pop band Madelman to work with her, blurring the individual authorship of her projects and reflecting her desire for a convivial approach to living and working.

One entered the first room of this installation, Dance and Disco, 2000, through a hallway that led to a sort of discotheque dominated by rose-fuchsia tones. It included a dance floor, a bar, bar stools, and a pink chair. During museum hours drinks were served and vaporous music was played in chill-out style. In the six weeks that the exhibition was open, some of Spain’s best DJs passed through this space; there was also a fashion show by designer Carlos Díez Díez. The installation’s second room comprised walls of various heights as well as several small booths. In the back, videos were projected on the ceiling, a wall, and the floor. In one shot, the artist’s face, almost deformed, recalled the work of Tony Oursler; in another, two women, nude but for some very kitschy bows, swung and swayed and hopped around in a scenario tinged with bland lesbian exhibitionism; in a third, shots of masculine legs and backsides evoked a “go-go boy” dance.

At the entrance to the exhibition a sign was displayed warning that some images might “offend” the spectator. But this did not impede the attendance of countless adolescents who danced rapturously to the music. What was Aláez trying to say? Lacking clarity, her message turned out to be innocuous. The booths may have been meant to suggest the back rooms of gay clubs, but here they were just dark, empty interiors in which sexual contact seemed unlikely, given the wan, ascetic surroundings. And yet the prospect was seductive. Perhaps Aláez’s aesthetic boils down to this: managing to remain inoffensive and domesticated while demonstrating an unquestionable flair for seizing on the festive energies of a juvenile public.

Juan Vicente Aliaga

Translated from Spanish by Michèle Faguet.