Video projection (Digital Betacam and DVD)
Peter Friedl’s work uses a complex, heterogeneous range of references, media (drawing, photography, installations and others) and formal resources to question the continuity or recuperation of the project of modernity in the present day, mainly through concepts like “identity” and “subject”. In Bilbao Song, Friedl uses the image in motion and theatricalisation as a strategy to highlight representational systems used in art, to reconsider the notion of gender and to aim towards the two sides, political and aesthetic, of the gaze. The work was recorded on the stage of the Serantes teather of Santurtzi (Biscay), and was performed by professional actors alongside extras, some of them, such as Julen Madariaga, part of the complex Basque political panorama. Friedl made use of the tableau vivant, a composition belonging to the genre known as “history painting”, used to tell mythical stories, often as a kind of political propaganda. The video is based on the Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres painting, Henry IV Recieving the Ambassador of Spain (1817), but also includes references to other works from the Basque school of painting from before 1939 (which is to say the beginning of Franco’s dictatorship): artistic references that Friedl plays off against other allusions to the popular imaginary. The piece also establishes a dialogue with filmmakers like Alain Resnais, Luis Buñuel, Jean-Luc Godard and Pier Paolo Pasolini, and playwrights such as Bertolt Brecht, who all used the tableau vivant as a political and poetic strategy. The soundtrack is an instrumental version of the Bilbao Song written by Kurt Weill for Brecht’s musical comedy, Happy End, the title of which evokes hope for such an ending for the Basque conflict.