Julián Álvarez

In AutoRETRATO REDUNDANTE Julián Álvarez records himself in front of the monumental contemporary art museum of Spain’s Castilla y León, the MUSAC, located in the centre of León, and demands, in a performance, that his birthplace be recognised. As he explores his own reflection on the different coloured glass of the building’s facade, he recites the key concepts of his large oeuvre. He looks at himself in what seem like mirrors, his reaction to his reflection oscillating between respect and alienation.

“Born in León and living in Barcelona, working hard to gain recognition as a local artist”. Álvarez defines himself as an iconoclast from León, borderline by choice, individualist and heterogeneous. His self-portrait as an artist is divided into three acts (including a prologue and an epilogue). In the consecutive episodes, he offers himself to the viewer like an open letter. He walks, camera in hand, like an art carrying labourer (the Guernica-cross), before different coloured mirrors around the MUSAC’s facade. He travels on the bus with the word “Emergency” continuously reflected on the landscape (while he confesses in voice-over to being a conscious emigrant and to remaining at the margins by choice). The triptych closes with his coloured reflection (and his hope of gaining local recognition), which generates a narrative loop, turn within turn, with beginning and end in a mirror display where the artist’s image is multiplied into infinite fragments.

Ego-movies have become a ritual for Julián Álvarez, and we can no longer speak of them solely as a series of works. After more than thirty years reflecting on others, the time has come for Álvarez to offer us his meditations on himself. To these ends, he has produced, with annual regularity, a series of selfportraits, starting with "Mañana en la batalla piensa en mí", for which he mentally strips down. Before this, he had started another series in 1999 which wasn’t subjected to the later regularity, with pieces such as "Mi pueblo y yo en bici" and "Frontera sur", to which he has so far added "La sagrada familia" (2000), "Figura con paisaje al fondo" (2004), "Yo Quijote" (2005), and "Belchite" (2006).

Álvarez presents himself as an emigrant in his own land (where he lives happily without any desire to integrate, “a schizophrenic paradox”), who returns to his birthplace (the regular vacational visit), where he is faced with a significant problem of identity: he has lost hold of his role as an artist, positively valued in his host city, and recognised by his fellow-countrymen. In Autoretrato Redundante he shows the frustration and anguish which he hopes to conquer with this therapeutic demanding exercise before the great multicoloured mirror of the local art institution. By recording his reflection on the museum’s visual frame, he replaces his absence from the local culture with his virtual incorporation into the mirrors’ background, “hoping to be rescued from institutional oblivion”. Álvarez here features an interface of contemporary art, where his own face becomes a reflected character watching himself as another.

The author appeals to intellectual stimuli through automatic (visual) writing in a personal manifesto about the act of capturing the expanded instant of video (point, shoot and record). He alternates various voices: the confessional monologue in voice-over (emphasised by the constant sign of “Emergency”), emotional declarations, intimate manifesto and written phrases that, like a futurist poem, are shot at his reflection. As he stands alone, before his different coloured reflections, the background comes into close-up.

Technical datasheet

  • Direction: Julián Álvarez
  • Production: Julián Álvarez. 2005.
  • Team:

    Textos: Julián Álvarez
    Càmera: Julián Álvarez
    Edició no-lineal: Joan Farrés, Julián Álvarez
    Voz off: Julián Álvarez
    Música: Alexanders Dark Band Ménage à trois, Isolee Jelly baby/fish

  • Duration: 00:08:15
  • Languages: Spanish
  • Original format: Quicktime
  • Formats: Betacam Digital - DVD
  • TV systems: NTSC - PAL
  • License: Copyright