OCAÑA 1973-1983: ACTIONS, ACTS, ACTIVISM
october 7, 2011 - january 15, 2012
Ocaña arrived in Barcelona in 1973, the year when Admiral Carrero Blanco was assassinated in Madrid. He died in Seville in 1983, as a result of the burns he suffered when his sun fancy-dress costume caught fire during a village fete in his birthplace, Cantillana, which were complicated by hepatitis and a lowered immunity caused by HIV, at the height of the euphoria following the election victory of the socialist party. These were the years of Spain’s transition.
His crucial role in Barcelona’s underground scene, and, by extension, all over Spain in the late 1970s, is undeniable. The nature of his character –a professional and eccentric Andalusian who scandalised everyone by walking down Barcelona’s Rambla dressed as a woman—is already part of the imagery of the city.
His work as an artist has left us several known places: popular painter, papier-mache maker, film actor, cross-dressing singer… And the importance of his public life, his festive appearances in musical and political events, the role of his body in the political protests of gays and lesbians, lent him a privileged position as a performer, a truly exceptional example of action arts.
Often, the eccentric relationship which linked him to the artistic work of his contemporaries has contributed to blurring his role in action arts, as he developed his work when their status was not clearly defined. This makes his work even more interesting, and it is on the basis of those parameters that this project is established: to attempt to present, in a way, some of his public actions, his entertainment activities and his political activism between 1973 and 1983.
Naturally, this means covering some of the most important events in these ten years of public life: in 1977, Un poco de Andalucía at the Mec-Mec, and his interventions in the Canet Rock festival and the Libertarian Events; in 1978, the film Ocaña, retrat intermitent by Ventura Pons and his public commitment to the gay movement; in 1979, his performance at the Berlin Wall, in West Germany, and the exhibition `Couleur et fête populaire´ in Besançon (France); in 1980, La primavera in the rooms of La Capella and his performance in the film Manderley by Jesús Garay. These are some examples, which might not be sufficiently explicit, regarding the significance in the public scene of the way-of-life which Ocaña, Camilo, Nazario, Alejandro and many others were building.
Ocaña referred to the construction of his life as his work, something which not everyone understood, and which he himself saw, sometimes, as a fleeting explanation of the reason why he was not accepted as a painter or actor. It would not be very accurate to include his work in the field of performance, that modern Mannerism, however much it defines it. The many appellations with which he tried to describe his own work–“actor”, “showman”, “street performer”, etc.– are also insufficient. So these actions, activities and activisms are presented in a field which is yet to be organised, as materials which are moving around a no man’s land where Ocaña left them.
It is important, therefore, to point out the different forms of mediation offered by the photographs, films, audiovisual pieces, paintings, sculptures and drawings in this exhibition, whether or not they were made by Ocaña himself. The photographs by Tony Catany, Colita and Marta Sentís, the films by Ventura Pons, Jesús Garay and Gérard Courant, the videos by Gaspar Fraga, Juan José Moreno and Vídeo-Nou, the pieces by Pep Duran, Jean-Claude Domon and Miguel Arnal, the documents by Nazario, Xavier Daniel and Pep Torruella, the Pérez Ocaña family archive, all function as a medium so that that way-of-life which we describe with Ocaña’a name can appear and disappear.
In his letters to the young Gennariello, Pasolini –Ocaña often used to say: “I’m a big Pasolinian when it comes to this”– reveals a certain sense of impotence when facing modern “things”, and admires those who, without the acquired critical apparatus, confront it, sometimes violently, as if it were a natural reaction, something to fight against directly, hand to hand. Perhaps the way-of-life which we identify with Ocaña is an important episode in that dialectic struggle between things and bodies.
Curated by Pedro G. Romero