Laida Lertxundi’s participation in A L I E N T O has been divided into two moments. Her film Autoficción featured in Beatrice Gibson’s exhibition in November. Now, following Céline Condorelli and June Crespo, her work reappears in a solo exhibition. This discontinuity points to a double interruption. On a personal level, the artist decided to leave Los Angeles and return to the Basque Country after almost twenty years in the United States. One of the main reasons behind this decision was the unsustainable lack of public health in the country. The insufficiency of ObamaCare, Trump’s election, as well as the artist’s motherhood precipitated her return due to the political inability to guarantee any type of care.
A few months later, the pandemic was going to put back on the table the body-state relationship in a cruder version. The break on an individual scale thus overlapped with the one produced by the pandemic on a planetary scale. In November we showed the last work Lertxundi shot in Los Angeles, a movie full of concern for the body-state relationship. The body of work opening now at NoguerasBlanchard is the first made upon her return to the Basque Country. A set of works that accounts for how an artistic practice survives when relocated from one space to another and more generally, of the strategies set in motion as a means to keep functioning within the reduced perimeter of action left by the pandemic.
____ To not be there
The exhibition is marked by a desire to reunite with landscape. However, it is not clear if it is a nostalgia for a particular lost landscape- the Californian desert for instance, which occupies a central role in the artist’s filmography – or a more generic desire to get out there, ignited by the months of confinement.
In Lertxundi’s case, it is difficult to distinguish whether it’s one or the other, but there is undoubtedly an insistent search for ways to facilitate access to what is not there. Landscapes are drawn from memory or projected in front of bodies that want to enter them. Half-transparent, half-absent silhouettes are printed, like projections of desire, on fictional backgrounds. Places are more often representations, reproductions or memories than direct experiences.
Inner Outer Space for example, is a film that comprises a whole series of exercises that have to do with forms of remote, deferred, mediated or imagined presence: telepathic exchanges, hands that travel over printed landscapes, places where you can be but cannot see or, on the contrary, places that remain only in our memory, visible but inaccessible. Distance and indirect presence, however, function as a playful and creative trigger, preventing us from resolving the temperature of the exhibition in terms of nostalgia.
At times the drive towards the environment acquires an almost fusional intensity, like a desire for symbiosis. The background song in Under the Nothing Night, by the British band Complex, speaks of being a hillside, of being a pebble by the shore. In preparing for this exhibition, the artist has been reading the hydrofeminist thought of Astrida Neimanis, which takes the fluidity, circulation and memory of water as a starting ground to talk about the continuity and communication between human and non-human bodies. The liquid images prevalent in Laida’s projects can be read through a hydrofeminist code but also as a consequence of the abrupt confrontation with a humid landscape after 15 years working with the Californian aridity that surrounds Los Angeles.
____ It sinks upon touching
An ongoing movement between drawing and cinema runs through the exhibition. Recalling a game between surface and depth, it is however much more ambiguous than attributing flatness to drawing and depth to cinema. The prints have the physical and temporal depth of added layers of ink and there are filmic sequences of crushing flatness.
The relationship between drawing and cinema is also not that of a consecutive logic according to which the drawings would be sketches for a film. With regards to process, cinema and engraving coincide in many aspects and the way in which Laida talks about the making of engravings is hardly different from what she could say about a cinematographic image: “You can’t imagine the amount of processes and time necessary to get this image ”.
Engraving is an analog technology for the reproduction of images, like the 16mm with which the artist usually shoots. Both require material contact (between light and celluloid or between ink and paper) to make the image appear. Lertxundi shows a predilection for techniques related to (con)tact, erosion or eroticism of the surface. In Inner Outer Space, two people are looking at a set of printed images. When they touch them, the images suddenly acquire depth. The tension between drawing and cinema or between surface and depth is in fact a way of measuring degrees of access, presence or virtuality.
____ The pleasure of going forward
In light of the above, the artist’s recent productions could be interpreted as substitute objects. Like what she did when shoots couldn’t be organized, or single-channel films couldn’t be shown in cinemas. This would be true if any kind of negativity is removed from the idea of substitution. For the artist, assuming the drift towards other paths has been the opposite of frustrating resignation. In her own words, it has been “lysergic”.
Her recent works embrace a joy of what we could call “augmented materiality” that counteracts the increased virtualization of life brought about by the pandemic. The physical manipulation, the textures, thickness and wheight as well as gestural repertoires of direct contact with the material are very visible in the work, and hinder the trespassing of images towards their figuration. Instead we linger in their physical conditions of creation.
Another source of pleasure is found in preventing that the fragmentation or provisional stages of work converge into a single overall result. The exhibition is conceived as a single body of work broken up into various elements. On the one hand, this disjointedness expresses the overlap of working time and child rearing during the confinement. Under these circumstances, the results cannot but be fragmented, as they depend on intermittent dedication and concentration. The coincidence of creative and care labour also explains the fact that the landscapes used to make the engravings were taken from cartoons. For a while, they were the only available landscapes.
Besides, this fragmentation also points to the non-resolution of a process, its non-integration into a definitive whole. There will be no more film than its preliminaries, and accepting that has the liberating effect of not wanting to control the processes towards the usual expectations. And that of not wanting to wear oneself out in pre-established protocols. Many of the works are made of elements that would normally have the status of an exercise, a model, a preparation or a sketch but do not have a goal beyond themselves here.
In 1977, Marguerite Duras shot Le Camion, a film in which she appears sitting opposite Gerard Depardieu and together they read the script they are holding. The film is nothing more than their reading interspersed with sequences of a truck traveling through various landscapes. Duras compared the development of her process to the movement of the truck: “I don’t know how to find the words to describe the sleepwalking attitude of the truck through the winter. As if it slept while walking, as if it carried the whole story without knowing it”. The sleepwalking process, is itself the story, like the truck adrift. Not its instrument. Pleasure is not to be found in the destination, it is in being able to keep moving through the winter. “Le Camion” adds Duras, “was made for the pleasure of moving forward, at the risk of breaking my face.”
The exhibition condenses the pleasure of doing despite everything, or against everything, on a light, autonomous, manageable scale in which there isn’t much time between desire and execution. Inner Outer Space exudes the rush and excitement of its filming process. You had to take off your mask, shout “action” and shoot fast behind the bushes. The film doesn’t waste any time, it is concise, even abrupt, without transitions, without ornament. It takes pleasure in action, the pleasure of doing in a climate of excitement halfway between breaking the rules and disregarding results.
Anna Manubens (Curator of the series)
About A L I E N T O 
There are exhibitions that sweat, leak or condense what happens around them. They stem from the opposite of what Ursula K. Le Guin would describe as “working the way a cow grazes”; without any yearn or urge. A L I E N T O is a series that opens with Beatrice Gibson’s voice saying: “I can still feel my body except it’s like the skin has gone. It’s all nerve. Edgeless. Pulsating. There’s intense breathlessness.” It is fairly accurate and sensory image of an adrenaline rush, a hormone that sharpens the senses and tightens the muscles in order to make a reaction possible in extremis.
The development of this exhibitions series overlapped with the global state of emergency and its opening coincides with a month of September that should feel like a return but which, far from looking familiar, is made of pure uncertainty and improvisation. Habit has emptied itself from its recognisable features. Something glitches in this disquieting and slowed down normal. The programme is grounded in the discontinuity; in the break that opened with the state of alert and in the adrenaline that ran through the physical, social and political body/ies. A L I E N T O dwelled and now hosts the urgency to devise a plan for a viable future, in extremis.
The exhibitions are made of strategies for coping, modes to move forward, words to hold on to; forms of imagination and action that help the way out from shock and allow us to catch our breath so as to start thinking about what is to be done. It feels like opening space between the letters of a word. Like lowering the rhythm and surrounding oneself with images, voices and presences that enable an exercise of imagination towards the future. The intention is to wrestle with problems rather than proclaiming solutions. Solutions have a universal vocation that makes them grandiloquent and even oppressive. By contrast, this series is inevitably situated when presenting what is seen as encouraging or inspiring and finds in these adjectives a middle point between innocent trust in the future and a cynical giving up.
The four exhibitions that compose the cycle share first of all the need to think about support structures. There is in them an impulse to summon voices and companions –literal, material or metaphoric– to move on.
Another transversal element in the series is poetry. In the current context of semiocapitalism, in which the accumulation of value and adhesion depend on signs, words and storytelling, poetic writing and thought (applied to language, image or sculpture) emerge as capable of stretching imagination through worlds that speak otherwise or images that think other ways. Poetry is also a space for the analysis and exorcism of the semiotic and somatic load embedded in words, images or materials. The responsibility of handling words is part of the conversations that surround the exhibitions and in this sense it worth noting that there are racial implications associated with breathing that cannot be ignored, and which cannot be diluted in the possibility of thinking about a generalized shortness of breath. I don’t mention this to do something on it –coopting the voices of others–; nor in spite of it – saying it as a means to ignore it de facto -; but with it. That is observing and remaining in the discomfort of the whiteness of my voice and in the awareness of its anchorage in a language in which the connotations of “aliento” are not the same as in its not-so-accurate translation into the English word “breath”.
Finally, A L I E N T O looks at the claim for a viable future from the eyes of the mothering subject. The need of horizon that an incipient live demands makes the urgency to devise futures all the more pressing. The series is also an attempt to take on the creative and intellectual blush related to maternity, which does not enjoy artistic or discursive sex-appeal, which seems a cluster that can only interest those involved in it and which seems almost like what Bourdieu would call a “fault of taste” according to the distinguished cultural patriarchy.
A L I E N T O reclaims what Maggie Nelson ponders as an inherent queer trait of pregnancy “insofar as it profoundly alters one’s “normal” state, and occasions a radical intimacy with—and radical alienation from—one’s body. How can an experience so profoundly strange and wild and transformative also symbolize or enact the ultimate conformity?”
The artworks that compose A L I E N T O relate to each other poetically rather than analytically and together function like a survival kin, in the Harawayean sense –urging to “make kin”. The artists were brought together as a chosen tribe to face dystopia.
Anna Manubens (Curator of the series)
 The Spanish word “aliento” translates into “breath” and more importantly here, it is also the root for the adjective “alentador” which translates into “encouraging” but literally means “that which gives breath/air”. Maybe a translation that would be more attuned to the Spanish original in that context would be “inspiring”. Half way between trustful naivety and cynical despair, this series of exhibitions finds in “alentador” the tone from which it speaks. Wrestling with problems rather than intending to solve them.
 Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Fisherwoman’s Daughter”; Moyra Davey (ed.), The Motherhood Reader (Seven Stories Press, Nueva York, 2001)
 “encouraging” and “inspiring” are standing for the Spanish word “alentador” (See footnote 1)
LAIDA LERTXUNDI (1981) is an artist and filmmaker who lives and works between Los Angeles and the Basque Country. Combining conceptual rigor with sensual pleasure, her films establish parallels between the earth and the body as centers of pleasure and experience. Her work has been exhibited at the Whitney Biennial, New York, Hammer Museum, LIAF Biennale Biennale de Lyon, Frieze Projects New York, and in museums and galleries such as MoMa in New York, Tate Modern London, Whitechapel Gallery London, Angela Mewes Berlin, Joan Los Angeles, Human Resources Los Angeles, MAK Schindler House ICA Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín Colombia, CCCB, PS1 MoMA, Museum of Contemporary Photography Chicago, Baltimore Museum of Art, Kunstverein, Hamburg and the Havana Biennial, among others.
She has had solo exhibitions at Matadero Madrid (2019), LUX London (2018), Tramway Glasgow (2018), FuturDome Milano (2019), fluent Santander (2017), Tabakalera San Sebastián (2017), DA2 Salamanca (2015), Azkuna Zentroa Bilbao, (2014), Vdrome London 2014 and Marta Cervera. Her films have been screened at numerous festivals such as Locarno, New York Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, London Film Festival, BFI, TIFF Toronto, Gijón, San Sebastián or Edinburgh among others. She has received the Jury Prize at the Ann Arbor Film Festival (2011) and the Basque Cinema Grand Prize at ZineBi (2007).
Her work is distributed by LUX in London and is part of the collection of the Museo Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. In 2020 she received the Gure Artea award for Basque art.
ANNA MANUBENS (1984) is an independent curator and producer with a preference for hybrid roles at the intersection between writing, research, programming, project development, institutional analysis, and exhibitions. She was Head of Public Programs at the CAPC musée d’art contemporain in Bordeaux until 2017 and previously combined her independent activity with teaching at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra with regular work at the artist-run organisation Auguste Orts (Brussels). Her recent exhibitions include Wendelien van Oldenborgh. tono legua boca (CA2M, Madrid, 2019), ), entre, hacia, hasta, para, por, según, sin (EACC, Castellón, 2019); Visceral Blue (La Capella; Barcelona, 2016); Hacer cuerpo con la máquina: Joachim Koester, (Blue Project Foundation, Barcelona, 2016); and Contornos de lo Audiovisual (with Soledad Guitiérrez, Tabakalera, San Sebastián, 2015).
With many thanks to LUX, London.