Ana Pérez-Quiroga, ¿De que casa eres? Los Niños de Rusia. Episodios de un cotidiano #2
Ana Pérez-Quiroga is one of the most relevant contemporary Portuguese artists. An activist by vocation, her art is political and focused on gender issues. Her work also delves into everyday problems and the mapping of objects and routines. ¿De que casa eres? Los Niños de Rusia, Episodios de un cotidiano #2 is the outcome of an artist residency in Madeira, as part of the third season of MudaShotSummer, the Mudas Contemporary Art Museum. It is also her first solo exhibition on the island.
¿de que casa eres? is a research project on a Spanish historical phenomenon: the exile of 2895 republican children, sent to the Soviet Union as a consequence of the Spanish civil war and, then, the impact that the German invasion of the USSR in World War II had on them, and the nineteen years they lived in Russia until their return to Spain. This political and social phenomenon would have been enough for in-depth artistic research, but it is even more relevant when the artist includes her personal history, as her mother and aunt were part of that group of children. These children lived in common houses, from which comes the question, which is the title of the exhibition, and one that the children said among themselves.
This issue goes beyond borders, since, in Portugal, during the Estado Novo regime, children of communists were also sent to Russia, although this subject is not much talked about. The artist intends to raise questions about identity. What is the place to which these children belong, who, after leaving their relatives and country of origin, most of them still very young, went to another country, where they established their lives, studying (the artist’s mother studied medicine), nurturing relationships for nineteen years, until they returned to their original families. Pérez-Quiroga also explores issues associated with migratory flows, which are increasingly evident and now associated with identity, ethnic and patriotic issues. To what place do we belong: the place where we were born or the place where we chose to live? What if change is not a choice? What will that feeling of belonging be like?
Ana Pérez-Quiroga uses objects and furniture. Some were her mother’s belongings brought from the USSR, others were conceived by the artist, who has a career devoted to artistic research on everyday objects, which also leads us to question where the house is: what constitutes a house, a dwelling? The walls or the objects? At Mudas, Pérez-Quiroga exhibits APQhome #30 (2017), Mesa de jogo APQHome #24 (2017), pieces made by her, or ¡Ay Carmela! (2017), a record player radio that plays Spanish and Russian songs sung by her mother, and eight photographs of her life in the USSR, entitled el cotidiano en la U.R.S.S. #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8 (2019), objects that her mother Angela brought from Russia. Besides these works associated to the concept of domestic, the artist also exhibits two paintings: Los niños de Rusia #1, #2 (2017) shows the children’s journeys to different places in the USSR and El Regreso de los niños (2017), which reveals the Spanish places where the children returned to.
These migratory flows find a unique echo on the island of Madeira. It has long been a place of departure, passage or arrival for many migrants. But this echo must be extended to our country in general, which has always been and it still is a country of migrants. This becomes even more important at a time when, throughout Europe, there is a debate about how migration should be handled, which has become more active with the opening up of the borders of the European Union, and there is now a right-wing, nationalist-based political trend.
This exhibition has an affective and domestic profile, evident in the objects on display, brought from the USSR by the artist’s mother. But it also has a political profile, by questioning a practice today considered inhumane: taking children away from their families so that they can be relocated somewhere else, either for their safety or for other less honourable matters. Although it has become a kind of mute activity and, in this sense, accepted, it continues to happen around the world, mainly in war contexts, where everything is allowed. Ana Pérez-Quiroga perhaps does not thoroughly explore this present-day moment. But we, the visitors, must do it. Art also has that purpose.
Ana Pérez-Quiroga – ¿De que casa eres? Los Niños de Rusia
Episodios de un cotidiano #2 to see at Mudas Contemporary Art Museum, until the end of January.