This video performance shows the artist, defying, looking straight at the camera, as she covers her face with press clippings out of women’s magazines. The simplicity of the act, its focus, lacking any sophistication, and making no concessions to a stylization capable of captivating our gaze, bestows upon the piece a crude and rebellious tone, very disturbing to the viewer, and so perfectly fulfills its objectives: to denounce the ways in which the dominant discourses circulated by the mass media “block us”, preventing us from seeing beyond, while they propose a notion of the body and of femininity that in many cases is firmly grounded on conservative values.
Sábada is one of the most outstanding artists of the generation of Spanish women artists, who, in the 1990s, and still with scarce technical resources, start using video as a weapon to dismantle gender stereotypes from a feminist perspective. In her case and that of the collective of which she is a member, Erreakzioa-Reacción (Reaction), the struggle is deliberately militant, without ambiguities, stemming from an analysis of the international feminist movement and aligning themselves with constructionist positions whilst warning of the dangers of a new essentialism.
It is interesting to stop to read the headlines that cover the artist’s face in the performance. Most of them refer to women’s psychology, to their challenges and their alleged insecurities when trying to integrate in society. The printed words encourage us to progress, to improve, some phrases even criticise the dominant gender inequalities and the tyranny that governs women’s bodies. However, after a deeper analysis of this journalistic selection, we will realise that very few sentences do actually express a true critique of the economic system on which gender inequality is grounded. The multiplication of these bland messages ends up provoking a higher anxiety in women, who are diagnosed a specific problematic but are nevertheless not given the appropriate escape channels, and they are even made to feel guilty of their anxiety. The performance is thus highly effective and its ending conclusive and powerful, with Sábada’s face completely covered by the magazine clippings, like a mummy, denouncing the possibility of being embalmed in life.
If there is one woman artist with a very particular style to revise via the most ironic of video-performances sexist archetypes, that is Sábada, both in her own work and also in those pieces she has made with the collective Erreakzioa-Reacción.