Tripas de Corazón [Heart Guts]
Celia Vara, Tripas de Corazón (2016). Camera by Alex Rodes. Music by Vicente Basilio Ortiz Lledó.
© Celia Vara. Courtesy of the artist.
I am interested in exploring through art-based research what types of artwork developed under and in response to the sociocultural situation of the Franco dictatorship. This type of resistance passed under the radar of censorship and repression and mainly focused on subtle body movements. My doctoral thesis argues that Catalonian artist Fina Miralles’ performances during the late years of Franco’s dictatorship explored new corporeal experiences and existences to inhabit bodies in new and possibly empowering ways. Her perception processes through/in their relation to the environment provides the key to a sensorial knowledge that allow for corporeal agency and feminist praxis (Vara 2019a & 2021a). She made use of different materials (sand, stones, soil, etc.) in relation with her body in the natural landscapes of her hometown. Her artwork provides a framework and inspiration for thinking about bodies. She helped cause a momentary rupture in the chauvinist socialization of the Francoist system that reinforced women’s disembodiment, or their inhabiting objectified bodies. This kind of corporeal resistance permits us to explore concrete corporeal movements and their relationship with feminist emancipatory dynamics, and to consider how these practices weaken power and hierarchical structures, or even change political systems, today.
My research on embodiment in performance was experimental in its methodologies (Vara 2021b). I made use of my own performances, re-creations of Fina Miralles’ performances in the sites where they took place, extensive archival work in Spain, the curation of her Super-8 films (Vara 2017 & 2018), workshops on kinesthetic methodology, the use of film and video during fieldwork (Vara 2019b) and in conversation with the artist, as well as a practice of “ways of following” (Kontturi, 2018) with the artist. My training as a psychologist, working with women victims of gender violence, shaped the approach I used in this research. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may result from being the victim of violence or witnessing traumatic events, such as the repressive actions of a dictatorship. I used my skills in interviewing, listening, observing, and empathizing as modes of doing historical research and analysis of performance.
In my psychology practice, I saw the importance of intervention using liberatory practices like accompaniment, which focuses on a sense of body ownership. I approach my work through corporeal practices, including the sense of our body position and movement related to our awareness of the space we occupy (kinesthesia). These practices allow experimentation and creation of new bodily routines and, therefore, agency (Noland 2009; Reynolds and Reason 2012). I argue for an experience/awareness of movement/action/stillness as key aspects for post-traumatic stress disorder processing. This can be done through watching live and recorded feminist and emancipatory performances, experiencing “kinesthetic empathy,” that is, engaging in and with another’s movement or sensorial experience of movement (Sklar 2008) and re-performing/filming some kinds of movements and representations. My work is grounded in situated knowledge (Haraway 1988), which includes my background as a psychologist and my condition as a Spanish woman born in the last year of Francoism: I grew up in post-Francoism and was formed by its effects and afterlives. This conditions my research-creation practice and, in fact, my approach to corporeal emancipatory possibilities.
Tripas de Corazón [Heart Guts] is one of the performances I made while researching the trauma of dictatorship in Fina Miralles’ performances and in my own life. In Tripas de Corazón, I use video as a narrative of the self. I use my personal archives (photographs) and written exercises (diary, dreams, etc.) and transform them in a poetic representation. I provide symbolic images, objects, and metaphors to build a story: brown wool, woman dressed in white, stream, rope, red wool, etc. This work comes from images of myself being a child dressed as a princess (a symbol of gender stereotypes) in the same place where the video performance was made. This place bears several memories: a space where I grew up, where I lived, loved, where I mourned, etc. I am very attached to this place in nature: the color, sound, textures, stones, trees, etc. This is a space to which I belong, a mountainous landscape by the Mediterranean Sea with the biggest mountain on the coast of this peninsula, the Puig Campana. A spring flows near the mountain where this video was shot. This research creation is full of mourning, hurt, sadness, loss, and difficulties... but at the same time hope, magic, and new paths. This imagery tells my own story as a woman who grew under patriarchy, as well as my embodied experience exploring trauma through performance art and psychological practice. The objects, material landscape and my own body offer insight into the manner in which we as artists/researchers/psychologists access and negotiate other’s trauma and our own, offering corporeal ways to overcome and live with our sensed body while creating, working and researching.
 Francisco Franco (1892-1975) was a Spanish general who took control of Spain as a military dictator from 1939, after the Nationalist victory in the Spanish Civil War, until his death in 1975. This period is called the Franco regime (Francoism). On October 16, 2008, Franco was charged with crimes against humanity by the then magistrate-judge of the Audiencia Nacional, Baltasar Garzón. Franco was accused of crimes of illegal detention without due cause, in the context of crimes against humanity. Garzón counted more than 100,000 killings during and after the Spanish Civil War. On November of the same year, the same court decided to absolve him of his responsibility, because his death was certified (Burnett 2008).
 Fina Miralles (b.1950, Catalonia) is a painter, writer, and performer. She practiced widely the 1970’s, during the last years of Francoism. During the Catalan conceptual movement, (1960s and 1970s), she developed new aesthetic explorations often framed under the category of ‘Catalonian conceptual art’ –although her artwork does not pertain purely to any category. The artist had a prominent role creating performance pieces. She was one of the first performers in the international avant-garde scene, along with international and local colleagues such as Yoko Ono (Japan), Gina Pane (France), Valie Export (Mexico), Lygia Clark (Brazil), Maria Teresa Hincapie (Colombia), Silvia Gubern (Catalonia), Eulàlia Grau (Catalonia), Olga Pijoan (Catalonia) and Esther Ferrer (Spain). See her webpage: https://www.finamiralles.com/.
Burnett, Victoria. 2008. “Spanish Judge Drops Probe into Franco Atrocities.” The New York Times. November 18, 2008. https://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/19/world/europe/19spain.html?hp.
Kontturi, Katve-Kaisa. 2018. Ways of Following. Art, Materiality, Collaboration. London: Open Humanities Press.
Miralles, Fina. n.d. “Fotoaccions.” https://www.finamiralles.com/fotoaccions-cv44.
Noland, Carrie. 2009. Agency and Embodiment. Performing Gestures/Producing Culture. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Reynolds, Dee, and Matthew Reason. 2012. Kinesthetic Empathy in Creative and Cultural Practices. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Sklar, Deidre. 2008. “Remembering Kinesthesia: An Inquiry into Embodied Cultural Knowledge.” In Migrations of Gesture, edited by Carrie Noland and Sally Ann Ness, 85–112. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Vara, Celia. 2017. “‘Fina Miralles: I Create New Spaces, I Build Paths. I Walk Through Them’ (1973‑1976).” https://feministmediastudio.ca/fina-miralles-i-create-new-spaces-i-build-paths-i-walk-through-them-1973-1976/.
------2018. “Les Recerques de Fina Miralles (1973‑1976).” https://ccesd.org/evento/les-recerques-de-fina-miralles-super-8-film-1973-1976/.
------2019a. “Dona-Arbre [Mujer-Árbol] by Fina Miralles: Gleaning Corporeal Knowledge.” Arte y Políticas de Identidad, 21 (December): 96-119. https://doi.org/10.6018/reapi.416741.
------2019b. “Embodied Stories.” Documentary pilot video.
------2021a. “Somatic Ways of Knowing: Fina Miralles’ Earliest Practices of Sensorial Perception.” Performance Research 26 (3): 80-87. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13528165.2021.1977508.
------2021b. “Kinesthetic Empathy as Embodied Research.” Performance Research 26 (4): 130-136. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13528165.2021.2005973?journalCode=rprs20.