EWVA  European Women’s Video Art

Questions for an interview with Marisa González

by Dr Laura Leuzzi March 2016


Q>When did you first start using video? What equipment did you use in your first video artworks?

A>I started using video in 1975-76 at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington DC. I was using the School camera.

Q>Why was video as a medium particularly attractive for you at the time?

A>It was  the perfect medium to record in real time the action of a performance, such as the video against “political violence on women” 1975

Q>Before using video, did you use either photography or film? If yes, how did these practices inform your video experimentation?.

A>Yes I was using photography.

Q>Why did you decide to pursue an art education in the USA?

A>After I finished my graduation at the School of Fine Arts in Madrid in June 1971 during Franco dictatorship, I moved that year to Chicago in order to get new experiences, and new knowledge in a contemporary Art Center.

Q>In 1971 you enter the School of The Art Institute of Chicago. There you joined the
Generative Systems program, which pioneered the investigation of art and
technology and was led by theorist, Sonia Sheridan. How much did this experience influence your growth as an artist?

A>This experience changed my live and my concept about art. I found a new way of expression, new tools and new lenguages about art.

Q>When did you start to exhibit your video artworks in your native country, Spain? What feedback did you receive there about your videos?

A>I started to show my videos in 1984, as video installations, in my solo exhibition in Madrid, Gijón, etc.

Q>When you were based in the USA, were you in contact with Spanish video artists and critics in Spain and in Europe? Did you personally know at the time fellow women artists who were working with video in Spain?.

A>I was in contact with only one video artist, but he was a male living in the USA also.

Q>In 1978 you moved to Madrid. How was the video community and network at the time there?.

A>It did not exist video community in Madrid at that time. But thanks to the video festivals that we organized in the 80´s, where we show video instalations exhibitions and also videotapes from the best video artists in Europe and in USA. We gave the joung people the chance to see video art. We organized  at that time also at the Circle of Fine Arts, video workshops, video screenings,

Q>Were there any feminist collectives producing or promoting video in Spain or in Europe to your knowledge at the time?.

A>No one that I know. It was another women video artist living in Barcelona, Eugenia Balcells, Paloma Navares in Madrid.

Q>In 1984 and 1986 you made possible the 1st and 2nd International Video Festival
 in Madrid’s Circle of Fine Art. How was this event developed? Beside yourself, were other women artists involved?.

A>When the socialist party won the Spanish elections in 1982, Spain started a new era to change and modernize the country.  I was elected at the board of directors of the Circle of Fine Arts, from 1983 until 1990. We changed the whole structure of that old fashioned great palace thanks to the intellectuals that were fighting against Franco dictatorship. In order to update the culture and open to the new movements, we transformed this old luxury palace in a multi cultural art center, this is why I proposed to organize the video festivals in the most relevant art center in Spain at that time.

The other artist involve was the feminist artist Paloma Navares, the director of these 2 video festivals in Madrid in 1984 and 1986.

Q>Examining women artists’ video artworks from the Seventies and Eighties a number of common themes and approaches emerge. These included issues of maternity, sexuality, the representation of the female body and the role of women in society by media, violence against women. 

Did you personally know, other women artists and feminist artists who at the time were working with video in Europe and USA who were addressing similar issues in their video practice? Did you know or were you familiar with their video artworks?.

A>Yes my teacher at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington DC, Mary Beth Edelson.

Q>Feminist issues as maternity and family are central in both Escena domestica con gusano verde [Familiar scene with green worm] and Escena domestica en movimiento [Familiar scene with movement] (1983). How and why did you start involving your family, and in particular your son in your artistic and video practice?

A>I bought my first video camera in 1982, the first Sony portable camera. Then I was experimenting and recording everything, everywere. At that time I considered my videos experimental, this is why I did not show them in video festivals. In my exhibition call  “Presencias” in Madrid and Gijon, I show the video Presencias Debussy in a video installation in 1984 and 85.

Q>In 1986 you were invited to show your work at Processes Culture and New Technologies at Centro de
Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid. Did you show any video artworks in that occasion?

A>In 1986, in the first exhibition organized by the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia ( today call Museo), the 3 main curators asked the artist that were working with new technologies at that time, to organize the multimedia exhibition because there were not curators specialiced in those themes at that time. This is why, we organized different sections, I organized  a review of the first art works made by computers in Spain at the end of the 60,s and 70,s, I invited to Sonia Sheridan to do an alive show-demo every day all the time that the exhibition was on,  and also an international electrographic exhibition, where I show my electrographic work. Paloma Navares also organized the video area with international  artist such as the French Mary Joe La Fontaine.

Q>Did you collaborate with any TV broadcaster in Spain in the late 70s and 80s?.

A>I was intervied in the 80´s

Q>How did you show, distribute and promote your videos in the 70s and 80s, especially when you moved back to Spain?.

A>I did not have any distribution. The only way to promote our videos were in the video festivals and in the art scene in video-instalations, as part of the exhibition with other art works.

Q>Do you know of and did you participate to any other festival or event specifically dedicated to women’s film and video in the 70s and 80s in Spain or in Europe?.

A>Not at all, I did not know any festival dedicated to women in Europe at that time.

Q>The Guerrilla Girls pointed out the marginalisation of women artists’ work in 1989, quote: ‘Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum? Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art Sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female’. Can you recall if and how this inequality of treatment affected your career when you started using video?

A>My aprouch to video at that time was “domestic”

Q>How were your videos received by the critics and audiences at the time?

A>They did not care about my videos in my exhibitions, the art critics did not

Q>Due to the obsolescence of the early video formats (open reels, U-matic), many video artworks from the 60s, 70s and 80s are lost today. How and when did you recover your tapes? Have you lost any of your videos from that period? Do you still preserve the original masters and where are they kept today?

A>I recover part of my Betamax tapes a few years ago in my studio, this is why I could  rescue some of my videos from the 80,s.  But now, I tried again to convert all of them but the company told me that the video tapes were very old and damaged.

I lost my first video from 1975, because I left it at the “Washington Projects for the arts” when I moved back to Madrid in 1977. I asked them a few years ago and they told me that all the material from that time were in boxes and they could not locate it because there is not any list.

Q>When did you make your last video?.

A>I keep doing video all the time. I am editing now, and  still have many tapes to edit from recent projects.