The Question: How (from your experience and perspective) do artistic practices create public sphere?

What I understand by the public sphere is a glass sphere,

which sometimes catches fire,

it is a fire that has different colours that change,

Public enemy!

at times there is purple,

at times there is pink,

a lot of black,

a lot of black,

and it oscillates between the domestic space,

the street,

and the sidereal space.

That is where the public sphere is.



The Question: How (from your experience and perspective) do artistic practices create public sphere?

Potentially, any artistic practice has the possibility of creating the public sphere. From my experience and from what I have been able to contribute as a cultural producer, I can see that there are two very concrete forms: one direct and the other more indirect.

In the indirect form I would include those projects in which I have worked with artists who construct spaces that might favour encounters for discussion and for tackling questions that are related to “the public”. As part of the Donostia 2016 project, two examples could be cited that come to mind especially. One is Tuiza by Federico Guzmán, which was presented in Madrid and consists in an artistic intervention that serves as an agora in which an enormous number of activities take place that enable reflection on post-colonialism, the role of women, etcetera… The work itself generates that space that favours the construction of the public sphere, but that is additional since the artist also creates the context. And along the same lines, another slightly more subtle example is the work Fuentes/Iturriak by Maider López. This is a project we presented recently. Apart from the discourse contained in the piece itself (recovery of memory, etcetera), what it finally generates is a common space where citizens and visitors to the city can interact with each other and reflect on different questions. These range from urban planning and history to other questions that could serve even for speaking about the status as a capital, and for holding debates that could influence the idea of constructing the public sphere.

And with respect to the direct form, I was reading the work of an artist who interests me, Fernando Sánchez Castillo. He would be an example of those artists who practice to the maximum the critical function that art can have. In one way or another they do the direct work of regulating authority, trying to put a limit on the actions of the state. One of the functions of the public sphere is to exercise control over political power and there are artists who work directly from that critical position. I was reading about Sánchez Castillo because I was very interested in the recent piece he made for the Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros in Mexico and I was especially interested in the title of his three interventions on the massacre of Tlatelolco square: Hoy también fue un día soleado (Today was a sunny day too), which was the stratagem of the mass media to hide the dramatic events that had taken place. It refers to the role that the mass media can play at times to eliminate precisely those events that the state doesn’t want, that authority doesn’t want. And closer to my experience, what also comes to mind is the project of the Mexican collective Tercerunquinto that we did for Matadero. This was a really important challenge because it made visible the interactions between municipal power and the shanty town districts where drugs are openly sold. The idea was to generate a link that consisted in collecting stones and using them to block the doors of the offices of different people involved in municipal power, so that what happens in those districts – misery, ruin, deterioration – should be present in the places where decisions are taken.


The Question: How (from your experience and perspective) do artistic practices create public sphere?

People shouting:

– E! E! Bale!

– That’s enough now!

– Son of a bitch! Put that truncheon away!

– Ez! E! Kooontuz!

– …maite zaitugu! Jone maite zaitugu!

– Kontuz!

– E! E! Ee!

– Enough now! Careful! That’s enough!

– E! E! E! Bale! Bale! Bale!

– Nahiko da! E!

– Nahiko da, ezta?

A lot of people shouting.

“Jone maite zaitugu”.

– E! E! E! E! Eeee! Bale! Baaale! Bale e! Bale!

– Bale, Bale! Baaale!

“Jone libre”, “Jone libre”, “Jone libre”.

– Less, eh! Bloody hell!

– What are you up to?

– Hey!

– A lot of noise, applause, shouting, whistles

– Jone libre!

– Eeeeeeeee! Eeeeee!

Shouting and noise.

– Oso ondo!

– Eeee!

A blow.

People shouting and the sound of blows.

“Jone maite zaitugu”, “Jone maite zaitugu”, “Jone maite zaitugu”.

– Careful!

Several people shouting.


– Watch out!

– Aupa ai!

Two loud noises.

Gernikako azoka, 2014-12-15.


The Question: How (from your experience and perspective) do artistic practices create public sphere?

I started young, and up until today / in this Cantabrian region, I have created a lot of humour / although they will bury me, they won’t forget me / in eighty years’ time, they will still speak of me.*

In what way do artistic practices contribute to creating the public sphere? The first thing that came to mind was that verse by Txirrita, which we have just listened to, given that it deals with the mark made on society by a vital practice. At that time, the early XX century, many people memorised verses and they were popularised by word of mouth. Now, in the year 2016, when exactly eighty years have passed since Txirrita’s prophecy, I too have realized that I know the verse by heart, and I was surprised, because, until now, I hadn’t realized that I did indeed know it. And…why do I know it? Because in the 1990s Basque public television broadcast a series of cartoons about Txirrita and during the opening credits they played that song, so, by repeatedly hearing it as a child, in the end I knew it by heart, without intending to. It might be that other people also know the verse without being aware of it, but obviously not the majority of the population, given that the TV channel, ETB1, is not and was not the channel with the biggest audience. You have to know the Basque language, and that in itself is already a great barrier. The cartoons about Txirrita were in the public sphere, just like Txirrita’s verses, but in certain spheres they were and continue to be invisible, somewhat remote.

Art, in some spheres, is practice and discussion, we build a gaze and a common imaginary, the public sphere and the private sphere nourish each other. On the other hand, in other spheres, art is something remote.

*First verse, fragment of “Txirritaren lehendabiziko bertso lagunak”. Extract from the record “Txirritaren bertsoak”, by Xabier Lete and Antton Valverde (Herri Gogoa / Edigsa, 1976).