Arbusto Ardiente (Burning Bush) was conceived after Amaia Urra’s artist residency in the landscape garden of Parc Jean-Jacques-Rousseau, Ermenonville, Oise, Paris, where the philosopher lived in the final weeks of his life. The piece, one of the artist’s latest works, sets out from the reading and re-writing of different botany manuals, putting forward a new classification of plants that elude objectifiable categories of science and are classified with links to popular culture and other semantic, formal and affective logics. Similar to other works by Amaia Urra, this piece focuses on language and the act of naming things — and the difficulty this entails.
Her first performance, El Eclipse de A. (The Eclipse of A.), was first rendered in 2002 in Arteleku, inside the Mugatxoan programme of artistic creation. The work reflects on waiting as a mental and bodily state that subscribes to a daily temporality but is separated from it, thus causing a suspended general rhythm, advocating the appearance of different relationships. The work is followed by others which explore language’s capacity to determine reality and awaken in the artist an interest in what happens on the margins, whether in non-productive temporalities or words no longer in use. Writing, repetition, list creation and the search for and comparison with different official definitions accepted by dictionaries or encyclopaedias feed into a survey in which writing, reading and action are joined to song, wanderings and other forms of drifting, presenting situations that reveal — from a poetic slant — that which is not seen or heard, that which is not considered.
A common thread running through all of Urra’s actions is the synthetic use of language, whether it be spoken, sung, read or hummed. In some, such as Una vuelta-ta (2013-2016), Calles (2012-2014) and Ahora (2015-2016), this is improvised through highly specific rules of play, with minimal variations that work inside previously defined limits. In others, which the artist calls ‘synonym drifts’, the text works as a score written beforehand, where lists of verbs such as ‘disappear, appear, renounce, inaugurate, walk, wander, hum…’. channel literal actions shaped by the meaning of words in the most updated official dictionary, whilst also leading out into unexpected actions, forcibly improvised in a particular place.
In 2012 the action Renuncio, devised for the festival In-presentable in La Casa Encendida, began with the artist intoning the word ‘renuncio’ (renounce) in one of the rooms, before leaving both the room and the building, like someone following the trail of a melody. She continued walking and singing out in the street until she got into a taxi under the watchful eye of the audience, who witnessed how her presence and voice faded into the distance. Since then, she has carried out actions in site-specific contexts: institutions such as museums, galleries and theatres, or open spaces inside or outside the city.
More than an action, Arbusto Ardiente is offered as a situation or landscape, with the sound of the voice intervening and camouflaging with the vegetation, evoking scenes that would be at home in romantic novels, while the perception of the voice is transformed via repetition to trigger displacements of meaning.
Más que una acción, Arbusto Ardiente se presenta como una situación o un paisaje. El sonido de la voz interviene y se camufla en la vegetación, evocando escenas propias de las novelas románticas, mientras la percepción de la voz se transforma gracias a la repetición, provocando desplazamientos del sentido.
Amaia Urra (Donostia / San Sebastián, 1974) is an artist with a degree from the University of the Basque Country, where she specialised in Sculpture in 1998. In 2002 she presented her first performance, El eclipse de A., produced by Arteleku in the programme Mugatxoan.
Between 1999 and 2009 Urra lived in Paris, Brussels, Madrid and Berlin, where she worked with different choreographers, including: Jérôme Bel, Cristina Blanco, Blanca Calvo, Juan Domínguez, María and Cuqui Jerez, Xavier le Roy and Ion Munduate.
Her pieces have been performed in spaces and at meetings and festivals such as Art nomade, the international meeting of performance in Saguenay (Quebec); Axeneo7 & SAW Gallery in Gatineau (Ottawa); Líneas de acción in Casa Maauad (Mexico City); the festival In-presentable in La Casa Encendida (Madrid); the 2D2H festival (Fuenterrabía, Hendaya); the space Bulegoa z/b (Bilbao); the series Ecolalias on the Museo Reina Sofía’s RSS Radio; Zarata Fest (Bilbao), in the Azkuna contemporary culture centre (Bilbao); the 15th edition of the Picnic Sessions at the Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo (CA2M, Móstoles); and the Héctor Escandón gallery (Mexico City), among others.
Amaia Urra currently lives and works in Donostia / San Sebastián, where, between March of 2017 and February 2018, she directed the space Alkolea Beach with Sandra Cuesta and Larraitz Torres.
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