Gonzalo Rodríguez Gómez interview with artist Nora Aurrekoetxea
Hi Nora, thanks for joining us. First of all, can you talk a little bit about your aesthetic concerns and how they have evolved in your artistic career?
My aesthetic concerns have changed a lot. When working with Laura Ruiz, our practice was a response to the social and political context of the Basque Country so Narrative had more presence somehow. Over the years my interest in form, space and material research grew. That is what I consider to be the art´s field.
How has your relationship with the Royal College of Arts community strengthened your artistic process in developing new projects? What is like being based in London as an artist?
Being based in London is very hard. London as a city is not easy by itself, and being an artist by itself is not easy either; so to have them combined is a bomb. But it gives a lot of input and you meet wonderful people. Is a love hate relationship where is easy to have frequents up and downs. It’s a completely different environment with different ways of understanding art. I started collaborating with performers and working with text here while reconnecting with previous interests in sexology.
The interplay of “falling” is prevalent throughout your projects, in particular The fall to fall or/and falling (2018), Tomber ou/et tomber (2018), or Jausi erori amildu (2019). What drew you to this idea?
In “Radicality of Love” by Sreko Horvat, there is a line where he and Zizek say there is no love without the fall, and that falling in love is one of the most violent actions. This brought an interest on me in how language affects experience itself. The verb ‘to fall’ in relationship with love exists in English and French but not in Basque or Spanish.
I´m eager to know about the helmet you showed in your exhibition “Jausi erori amildu” at Centro Botín. It is a head protector but it could be analyzed as well as a doppelgänger or lookalike object at the moment you cast the helmet in order to create new relationships between the space and these molds. I remember that two of them looked like the same object reflected by a mirror due to their proximity and the large and rectangular frame standing in the middle. When is the object still the object and when does it transform into another piece?
I was interested in objects related to the fall; after interviewing skydivers and scaffolders, I chose helmets and cast the negative space of them and the mattresses to embody the space between object and body.
For me, the object is always the object, though it has to be understood contextually, in relationship. I wanted the pieces to be understood as an interdependent system, so perhaps more related to psychological idea that we are conscious of ourselves because we have another in front of us, that reflects us.
Which artists from the visual or performing arts have you come across in recent years and have influenced your art career?
We are continually seeing art and being affected by others’ practices, so it’s difficult to name a list, it could be long. But, seeing Anne Imhoff’s Faust in Venice blew my mind. I wasn’t close to performance then and being there for hours, with the performers interacting with objects in the installation, and how their certain movements were so strong, that impacted me strongly.
How do you start or end your day? Do you have any rituals or routines?
I used to have more routine. Now I organise my week on a Sunday so I have a plan for each day of the week, being flexible according to what I need so I don’t get frustrated or overwhelmed. It’s important for me to balance work and personal time, which has been a big fight in London - it was easier in Bilbao.
You once wrote, “[my artwork] starts from the analysis of how language affects and/or alters the perception of experience from the concept of to fall in love/tomber amoreaux, a verb that it only exists linked to love en English and French”. It seems there are many intimacy expressions which meanings become specific in Germanic languages. How would you say “kiss away” in Basque or Spanish? Sendatu muxu batekin? You have to look for a roundabout way. How does language influence your work?
I’m interested in exploring language and words as a form, but not in order to describe or represent. My aim is not to translate from language to language or from a formal to a verbal/written language. They belong to different worlds. My interest comes from a more psychological or emotional sphere, where depending on how you name things your reality changes.
You are founder member of OKELA, an artist-run space based in Bilbao. Can you talk to us briefly about the beginning of this space and how did you get started the idea to integrate gallery space and workshops?
Irati , Izaro and I found this old butcher shop for a studio. During the six months we fixed the space, we built up the project that is now OKELA. We wanted a space for dialogue between different generations of Basque artists, while instituting good practices in art so that everyone was paid. OKELA was very enriching for me as an artist - my first MA.
According to your statement for Touch me tender or touch me not, “[…]even though touch is the way through which we start exploring and discovering the world around us, it seems to be the most restricted of the five senses”. Do you think the process of your work would be perceived in a different way if the performers were blind people? Could it be a way to reconsider or transform what intimacy is?
Perhaps, yes. We started with the look as the first touch. But my interest was to show quotidian gestures of affection in a slow rhythm, allowing the viewer simply to look at these caresses without guilt or discomfort. Following the feminist idea that the personal is political, I think intimacy is a political matter.
Let´s talk about your upcoming solo shows at Juan Silió Gallery and Aparador Monteleón. Will you combine your sculptures and pieces with the involvement of performers or will be both exhibitions composed of your latest objects? What´s next for you on the horizon?
Working with performance is new for me and it’s happening in parallel with my sculptural work, and naturally they intersect or cross. I’ve just combined performance and installation once, and I’m looking forward to combing them again. I will test that first in another show in june in London. Towards the shows in Madrid, I will see how the process evolves.
Thank you so much for your kindness!