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"Generating contexts in a fragile scene". An email interview with the feminist art collective Erreakzioa-Reacción

Grassroots media in Europe
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"This project is posed as a space for encounter, reflection, debate and resistance around ways of doing that incorporate feminist thought, queer politics and postcolonial discourses in artistic practice."

- Here and Now! New Forms of Feminist Action , exhibition booklet

Can you introduce yourself?

We would like to say that this interview is the result of a conversation between Azucena, Estibaliz -Erreakzioa- and María José Belbel, who has collaborated very often with us.

Erreakzioa-Reacción is a group created in the Basque Country in 1994 by Yolanda de los Bueis, Estibaliz Sadaba and Azucena Vieites; the three of us are artists. The idea was to have a space for projects around theory, artistic practice and feminist activism, with a will to set off reflection and debate, establish genealogies, and create networks.

We started the project when we were in our mid twenties and we have continued until now, for 15 years. The three of us are from the Basque Country, at the beginning Estibaliz and Azucena lived there and Yolanda was living in London. So that was the reason that Estibaliz and Azucena were more directly involved in doing the projects. At present Estibaliz lives in Bilbao and Azucena moved to Madrid in 1999.

We work in the collective project as Erreakzioa-Reacción and we have our own work as individual artists, too. From 1994 until 2000 a great deal of our effort went into the edition of zines; we produced ten issues. Other activities besides the zines are lectures and workshops: we coordinated in the art center Arteleku in San Sebastián: For you eyes only; the feminist factor in relation to the visual arts (1997), The repoliticisation of sexual space in contemporary artistic practices with María José Belbel (2004) and Mutations of feminism: genealogies and artistic practices in collaboration with María José Belbel and Beatriz Preciado (2005). Our last projects have been: Problematisation of femininity: feminist art practices and new body representation (2007), a video program for the art center Monthermoso in Vitoria-Gasteiz and the exhibition and lectures Here and Now! New forms of feminist action (2008) in The Abstract Cabinet in sala rekalde in Bilbao (

Can you tell our readers about your zines?

From 1994 to 2000 we produced ten zines and it was a very representative and emblematic proposal, an activity that defined our work in relation to the needs of that time and our own context. Our aim when doing zines was to spread feminist thought because we were aware that a feminist tradition in relation to critique and artistic practices was very limited at that time.

So we defined a multiple line of work: the translation of relevant contemporary texts into Spanish, since at that moment very little had been done; and the invitation to artists to show their work. We always paid for the collaborations, out of a political determination to pay women artists for their work. We tried to create a network: in our zines we presented similar initiatives from other collectives in Europe and the United States that had been a referent for us.

The topics covered were sexuality, gender, pornography/post-pornography, violence against women, postcolonial feminism, antimilitarism, music, transexual and transgender issues.

Our first zine, for example, showed a series of works about gender and included a list of Basque women artists, in order to make visible the huge amount of women present in the art scene in the Basque Country. The number 7 was a video-zine. The issue number 4 was a collaboration for the exhibition Nowhere in Louisiana Museum in Denmark, 1997.

We got a small amount of money from Emakunde, the Institute of Basque Women. The format of the zine practically changed with every issue and we distributed them ourselves in different feminist and artistic events. We made 500 copies of each issue.

What made you decide to start this project? How did you come up with the idea and the name?

What encouraged us to start Erreakzioa-Reacción was seeing the work that other groups were doing in other countries (Guerrilla Girls or WAC at that time, beginning of the nineties) or, closer to us, Bildwechsel, an audiovisual feminist cultural initiative in Hamburg that we visited before we decided to start Erreakzioa. We had not heard of any similar project around here and we thought it was needed.

The name means Reaction in Basque and Spanish and we liked that it could transmit an idea of resistance and action.

What do you hope to accomplish through your DIY projects?

To bring together people, particularly women, and projects that are working in relation to artistic practice, feminism and queer politics; to create a network, to exchange information, provide support and distribute and produce projects.

What do you love about zines? Are there any aspects you find challenging or limiting in the zine community?

We love the fact that this is very quick, cheap, and direct way to do things, to share information and the idea of empowerment in a collective way.

The normalisation of feminism at present involves its regularisation, in the sense of the acceptance of one type of feminism – white, heterosexual, middle class, western – and the exclusion of others. Our zines production should be alert and critical about it.

Do you consider feminist zines as part of a social movement? Do you think feminist zines can effect meaningful social and political change at large - or do they have significance mainly in individual lives?

We consider feminist zines as part of a social movement. We also think feminist zines can both affect individual lives and promote social and political changes. It can also affect the processes, the way to do things.

Do you see yourself as part of “DIY” or “Third Wave Feminism” and if yes, what does it mean to you? Or, why not?

We see ourselves as part of a genealogy in relation to art and feminisms. We have worked into the idea of the DIY spirit of punk connected with feminist thought and women’s works: if you don’t like what you see around, do it yourself; you do not need big infrastructures in order to do something; change the role of object passivity and become a subject; question technical virtuosity as a fundamental requisite to do a project -musical, artistic, editorial-; question the idea of “professionalism”, of “authority”, use low-fi aesthetic. It is about [continuing] with a tradition of generating independent work contexts and spaces of empowerment.

Third wave feminism, as we have seen it used in certain contexts, has a reason: riot grrrl feminism and a way to separate for second wave feminism simply because we are living in a different time. After all, more than thirty years have passed; the concept of differences among women has been brought up by queer theory’s problematisation of heteronormativity and postcolonial feminism’s problematisation of ethnic issues in a globalised world. In this way, we should be aware of the use of the term “third wave” as a kind of dismantling feminism, third way is used in this context as a middle of the road term, as a matter of individual “choice”, as Angela McRobbie says.

What are the most pressing issues for you in daily life?

Money and the lack of energy we sometimes feel around power games and fragmentation in some feminist contexts.

What would a woman-friendly society look like in your view? How do you think society might be re-thought and transformed to be a safer, better place for women, grrrls, transgender and queer folks? What are some of your personal wishes/visions/ideas/plans for the future, if you would like to share them?

We started when there wasn’t any similar initiative like this around us. We spent the first years doing zines, but also lectures, workshops, videos, exhibitions… Now things have changed and there is a greater plurality of proposals and debates, revealing a panorama that is far less bleak than the one our generation was faced with. Erreakzioa wants to continue as a platform to generate contexts; in this new scene we see our work as involved in collaborations with these new groups. In Bilbao, for instance, there is a very powerful feminist context in relation to the artistic practices, Pripublikarrak, Wiki-historias, Soytomboi, Artissimas, to name but a few collectives, and other agencies that work in this line.

It’s important to say that we have been working on the project for 15 years and it is not very usual for this kind of group to continue during so much time. We have always been aware of the political importance of generating contexts in a fragile scene that often tends toward fragmentation.

Erreakzioa-Reacción, feminist art collective
Affiliated organisation: 
Erreakzioa-Reacción online archive at the Arteleku art centre (San Sebastián):
Red Chidgey & Elke Zobl
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