Patricia Esquivias, The Future Was When?, 2009, video, color, sound, 19 minutes   51 seconds.

Patricia Esquivias, The Future Was When?, 2009, video, color, sound, 19 minutes 51 seconds.

Patricia Esquivias

Patricia Esquivias, The Future Was When?, 2009, video, color, sound, 19 minutes   51 seconds.

Patricia Esquivias has an unquestionably international background. Born in Caracas in 1979 to a Spanish father and a Peruvian mother, she studied in the UK and the US and subsequently divided her time between Mexico and Spain before settling her practice in Madrid. Her work is nonetheless deeply grounded in a keen interest in Spain’s history and culture. The title of her recent solo exhibition “Todas las tradiciones son inventadas” (All Traditions Are Inventions) refers to the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm’s idea of “invented traditions.” Hobsbawm was known for his skepticism about the linear narratives that tend to define history, and a similar skepticism seems to underpin much of Esquivias’s work. Brilliantly thought out by Agar Ledo, MARCO’s chief curator, in collaboration with the artist, the exhibition showcased her distinctive approach to storytelling, with its emphasis on using digital video to track the forking paths of history. Though her work is still developing, her approach seems to have prefigured many of today’s strategies in the field of narration. Take, for instance, Camille Henrot’s Grosse Fatigue, 2013, widely acclaimed in the last Venice Biennale, in which Henrot employs digital-collage strategies to simultaneously edit information and narrate the work—a practice that seems highly reminiscent of Esquivias’s art.

Although it included works created specifically for this occasion, the exhibition’s main focus was Esquivias’s ongoing series “Folklore,” 2006–, previously shown with great success in “When things cast no shadow,” Adam Szymczyk and Elena Filipovic’s 2008 Berlin Biennale. The series consists so far of four videos that evolve around a particular view of Spain’s recent and not-so-recent history. Thus, Folklore I, 2006, was conceived as a history lesson about Spain’s twentieth century. Esquivias’s voice-over at first seems clumsy as her camera drifts around photographs and handwritten notes that support a discourse based on a pedagogical stance. The artist’s blunt and unsophisticated diction epitomizes the lo-fi aesthetic that characterizes her work, a position that matches her refusal to treat history as a highly abstract and incorruptible discipline. She therefore depicts not only significant actors but also some of history’s most grotesque and pathetic subjects. Among these is Jesús Gil, a fat and sweaty soccer-club owner who became the corrupt mayor of Marbella, Spain, a once-glamorous tourist hub. His acknowledged devotion to Franco and his sheer ignorance made him a symbol of nastiness. In a similar vein, Folklore II, 2008, features King Philip II alongside singer Julio Iglesias as the ideas of “sun” and “gold” are ironically matched to evoke the way in which the infinite wealth that characterized the Spanish empire in the sixteenth century is epitomized by Iglesias’s emblematic yet tacky persona.

A ceramic mural welcomed visitors to the recent exhibition with the words HAY TANTO DESEO EN LA ESPERA COMO ESPERA EN EL DESEO: There is as much wanting in waiting as there is waiting in wanting. The statement read as a clear-cut declaration of intent. In the video Folklore III, 2009–, Esquivias asserted the idea of history as an organism without beginning or end by presenting a new ending to the work, a fictive alternative to her previous fiction that was created specifically for MARCO. The footage reveals a whimsical analogy between certain odd housing regulations via which homeowners in the Vigo region are inadvertently encouraged to extend their houses in unpredictable shapes and the Aztec inverted pyramids, one being the reverse of the other. The idea of the Galician buildings growing organically evokes the subaltern stories of history as well as its unforeseeable nature.

Javier Hontoria