La Movida at HOME is a group exhibition that takes its name and is inspired by ‘La Movida’, a socio-cultural occurrence that was a response to the rigid social structures of Franco-era Spain. After the restoration of democracy in the 1970s previously forbidden arenas such as sexuality, politics and culture exploded in an experimentation of art, gender, literature and music, with the previously repressed becoming very visible under the title La Movida. It was less an art movement or generation as there was no ideology just, as Pedro Almodobar said, ‘simply a bunch of people that coincided in one of the most explosive moments in the country.’ The exhibition at HOME not only introduces La Movida to those unfamiliar with the genre, but examines the transgressive subjects that at the time broke down the barriers of the definitive social norms of what was acceptable. Like the original La Movida it is the push against mainstream attitudes and uncovering the problems within them that the exhibition aims to explore using contemporary practice.
On first inspection viewers could easily dismiss the exhibition as one that generates the notion of shock due to the subversive imagery and controversial issues; as most pieces are either highly sexualised or contain religious and social comments that generate a social taboo, but this is the very point of La Movida as it questions the social convictions of what we deem to be obscene. Bruce LaBruce confronts this in his piece Obscenity (2012) which takes inspiration from Spanish personalities and religious identity to discuss the idea of the sexual and religion. He draws upon pornographic and religious iconography, blending them together in his photographs to explore the intersection between religious and sexual ecstasy that in his words ‘causes you to throw your head back and fix your gaze toward heaven, a gesture generally reserved for fervid prayer or orgasm.’ It is this question of perception and how often taboo subjects have definitively black and white borders which is something that permeates throughout the whole exhibition.
The exploration into collective societal views is aided by the layout of the exhibition itself which is sub-divided by wall placement and intermixed with film and video installation, making the viewer navigate the space at a slower pace allowing for contemplation of the debates raised. Whilst contextually the artists are diverse the exhibition blends them together due to its curation and the flexibility of the La Movida genre. The exhibition is also further aided by its incorporation of artists who were working within the era of La Movida alongside contemporary artists who explore similar themes. This can be seen in Linder’s work which explores exploitation of the female body similarly to the work of contemporary Raisa Maudit who explores the objectification of the female body within the pop music industry; highlighting the fact that the overtly sexualised female body and its commodification is still a point of contention today. The artists’ works aren’t placed directly next to each other but within different sections of the space, and when seen alongside other artistic relations within the show the viewer is asked to think about certain contexts in relation to both past and present, allowing for a greater sense of cohesion throughout the exhibition as a whole.
The success of La Movida as a movement is its relevance today as it asks us once again to question ingrained societal attitudes on important subjects. As a society we are freer than ever to express ourselves and opinions yet the exhibition brings in to question if we are actually less expressive than we think we are as many subjects broached within La Movida are still firmly in contention within social acceptability and often censored, making the exhibition the perfect antidote to the increasingly politically correct society we find ourselves in.
La Movida, HOME, Manchester, 14 April – 17 July 2017.
Claire Walker is a writer based in Wigan.