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Bilbao Song (2010)
Video, color, sound, 5:53 min., loop, edition of 4 + 2 AP

Bilbao Song was filmed on the empty stage of the Serantes Theatre in Santurtzi, near Bilbao. In static tableaux vivants staged specially for the camera, Friedl’s film captures the process of a phantasmagorical picture production, in this case inspired by Basque history. Those involved in these tableaux included professional actors and special guests, like Julen Madariaga (lawyer, politician, former co-founder of ETA) or the popular clown duo Pirritx and Porrotx.
The starting point was the painting Henry IV and the Spanish Ambassador (1817) by Jean- Auguste-Dominique-Ingres. Other references to Basque history are El Paria Castellano by Juan de Echevarria (1917), El Orden by Gustavo de Maeztu (1918–19), the Tríptico de la Guerra by Aurelio Arteta (1937), and Soldado y Mulata by Víctor Patricio Landaluze, who was born in Bilbao and migrated to Cuba in 1850. The only action that takes place on the stage is the live interpretation of the “Bilbao Song” from Happy End, an unsuccessful musical comedy by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill—a performance with no text, just a local pianist and a woman accordion player.


Exploring the fringes of Modernism, Peter Friedl examines the frequent opposition of aesthetics and politics in an attempt to bring them together. His work focuses on interconnected representations of power, genre, narration, identity, language, and history. For Friedl, images always contain blind spots. His “archive works” are composed of tensions between personal and collective histories, or popular and unknown figures. A world recorded in this manner becomes as close as it is distant: all this is done to give the necessary space for criticism. Bilbao Song (2010) is an installation composed of a film projected in a dark room. The work shows a series of tableaux vivants performed by professional and amateur actors, as well as special invited guests such as Julen Madariaga (lawyer, politician, historic co-founder of the ETA and later member of the Elkarri social movement) and the famous Basque clown duo Pirritx and Porrotx; accompanied by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s Happy End played live on piano and accordion, this theatrical staging is a meditation on the imaginary and its connection to the production of images. What is the hidden story behind Jean-Auguste-Dominique-Ingres’s painting Henry IV Receiving the Ambassador of Spain (1817)? [Short guide of Intense Proximité, Triennale de Paris curated by Okwui Enwezor, 2012, p. 106]

Bilbao Song, 2010 Edition ¼ is in the collection of Museo National Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain




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