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La Movida: An Exhibition for Viva 2017

The underpinning theme of this year’s Viva, ‘La Transicion’ to democracy, finally amassed in the opening of its new mixed-modal art exhibition La Movida. While the exhibition doesn’t directly explore La Movida itself, an unofficial movement in Spain which liberated sexual freedoms and expression following the death of General Franco in 1975, it has married the strange, contemporary world in which we find ourselves with that of the La Movida period of Spanish history.

The exhibition was, quite frankly, breathtaking, juxtaposing comedic, youthful meme culture with the most sombre oppression of sexual rights through pieces such as Raisa Maudit’s ‘Space Nihilista’, an homage to Geri Halliwell’s departure from the Spice Girls, and Derek Jarman’s spellbinding ‘Black Paintings’, detailing the suppression of AIDS victims in the 1980s and initiating a curse on the homophobic former police commissioner James Anderson. The cross-section between adolescent hedonism, visible in the simple yet idyllic images of Alejandria Cinque’s ‘The Disposable Generation’, and the defiant voice of the ostracised, evident in Stefanos Tsivopoulos’ ‘Glow in the Dark’, guaranteed that nothing was off the table in the discussion of individual freedoms and the fight against censorship.

Almost in a classic Manchester way, the exhibition became an inviting, communal space. The artists were simply part of the crowd, no one artist was favoured over another and each of them admired the other’s work. This warming display of covert solidarity provided the perfect undercurrent to the entire festival. Upon looking at Jarman’s ‘Black Paintings’, Paul Heyer, whose work ‘Large Spiral’ and ‘Time Isn’t Real’ has been featured previously in the gallery, stood silently by my side before taking a picture, saying “it’s just so beautiful, and I know I’m never going to see it again”. Such was the nature of the exhibition, bringing together global forces, each with incredibly diverse, poignant extensions of this idea of identity and what the identity is permitted by governing bodies.

In a very well curated exhibition, I initially thought the highlight was Puppies Puppies’ ‘Shrek’ video/performance, in which the viral meme ‘Shrek is love, Shrek is life’ played on a loop while a live Shrek performer watched you. It was in equal parts irresistibly hilarious and morbidly disturbing, signifying the sheer brilliance of Home’s newest installation. But finally, coming to Bruce LaBruce’s ‘Obscenity’, the most arresting image of the exhibition shone through: Alaska Vaquerizo acting as the accepting, alluring mother of the movement against boundaries, conjoining the classical Latin references to La Movida itself and the present day concept of divine lust, making this one of Home’s strongest curations to date.

Although I’m never disappointed by Home, the Viva festival has, without doubt, shone through and entirely outdone itself. The harbinger of outstanding Spanish and Latin American creations, the festival breathes a manic, hungry life that brings together an enthused community in the way that Manchester never fails to do. Sitting outside the music tent that evening, with Spanish trance blaring out on one side of me and an artist’s meeting happening on the other, I couldn’t imagine a more fitting place to celebrate the exploration of human identity.

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