Over the last six years seven years I have been doing a PhD all about violence against women. All my work is about that and my current piece, a very simple, subtle piece, is about statistics. It was performed in November at the Ugly Duck Gallery, near London Bridge, to highlight violence against women. I grew up in Spain under the dictatorship of Franco, I was only 10 when he died, but I was still affected by his legacy. I was angry about the position women faced, I had a very strict, patriarchal father and, in some houses, violence was normalized, it was always around, I grew up seeing women being consistently undervalued.
Look at this recycled mattress! It’s still very initial, I don’t quite know what its going to be, but have started using used fabrics, women’s clothes, worn women’s clothes, its part of my work about entrapment-repetition…things that repeat, creating something overwhelming, something that repeats. That could be a sound: A violent repetition. A mattress has connotations of rape, perhaps, the domestic
environment; whilst the material itself is quite aggressive. Bedsprings, with bits of sponge and other parts of the mattress are just elements, something very new, at an early stage, that will become my next work.
I’ve been here for the last 30 years, I studied English in Sheffield then photography at Manchester University, then met somebody, we moved to London. I started teaching photography, did my MA. I’ve lived here longer than in Spain but my roots are Spanish, and all my work references that. I did a project in Atina (Lazio, Italy), with migrant women; it was the perfect opportunity for me, as my family moved around all the time when I was a child. Sometimes I feel I am a migrant in this country myself, and back in Spain my parents moved from the south to the north of the country, and there’s a huge difference. All my life I felt a migrant, not in a bad way, not like those women in Atina, they’ve been through hell. But migration is part of my life and I see it all the time. In Spain people come directly over the sea, when, in Atina, they were talking about their journeys by boat, I understood as the Med is very close to my home in Spain. I can only be an observer when listening to their stories.
I always like to see the practical aspect of a theory and talk to the women. Art is amazing tool to engage with the community. I just decided I would go everyday to the migrant project in Atina – during a two-week art residency – sometimes I didn’t do anything. I just sat there everyday and tried to talk to them, so for a whole week I just went in but didn’t force anyone to talk to me, just sat in there till they got used to me. I’m a Buddhist, and engagement is important, I try to engage, it doesn’t always work, but I try.
London is like an island, most of the people who live here are not from London or even from England, so people from all over the world. That makes it the perfect place for these issues and, in times of crisis, artists become very political. People want to talk more and more about it. Of course money is always an issue, but artists do that all the time, we find community spaces, cafes; bars, even people’s houses, we have to do that to show our work.
I love to collaborate and as a photography teacher encourage it all the time, one of my briefs now is called ‘Collaborations’ and students have to go out and work with someone outside the university. By bringing different perspectives, we are all interconnected, I maybe know about photography, but there are so many things linked to it, so that together we can do so many things.
All the PhD work is interrelated, connected, it goes in cycles, so all the materials I used for one piece go into the next one. This was a piece about poetry on love and violence: ‘Love Me Knot’; I researched all around the world. It was a small room covered with poems, you went in and were surrounded by text. Then in the subsequent piece I took these poems and germinated them with flowers, put seeds inside them, wet the paper, waited weeks, and then photographed them. Then I created a womb, which was three metres in diameter, so you could go inside and read the same poems, some had bled, others had not but you could still read them; then I recorded women reading these poems which played on a loop once you were in there. It became a sort of interactive lottery, as I started playing with statistics and it became a game: People would get a number which represented a statistic, like a card game with random figures, 200 million missing women, 5 women found dead, then it transformed into a ball, which then became an installation, then a performance, then a sculpture. My last piece was a 3 metre massive ball on Femicide. Out of worn women’s clothes, clothes came from charities friends women brought me clothes I took the ball on the International Women’s Day march this year and the work becomes another piece entirely, so it’s very organic.
I did a residency in Canada, I was on an island outside Toronto, before going I didn’t realise there was so much violence against women, especially among Native Canadians. Inashuk are landmarks that they create, made out stones, usually they take a shape or form of a human being, a figure, this group of women marked the violent murders by making their own, as a protest, as it happens so much, so many women are disappearing in Vancouver and Toronto. Inspired by them I started working with stones too, I created a memorial, which I left in a gallery and then put it in the nearest park, leaving it there. I did some work at another residency in Greece using threads, referencing the Three Fates spinning out destinies. Greece has always been an area of great migration; it is all coming round again. I use very simple materials, as it reminds me of the roots of all indigenous cultures.