Audible Matter / Wave #5 Sound September 2021


Ella Finer & Mercedes Azpilicueta

00:00 00:00


a voice calls from the bow
on the uprush sending word
of how she stands immaculate,
her new temperature, her soul.

Ahots bat brankatik deika.
Itsaskiak albistea dakar
Nola dagoen zutik, orbangabe,
bere tenperatura berria, bere arima.

her body of the pope, of king,
father, mother
her body of the old world
of her sex her faith her lover

Aita Santuaren, Erregeren gorputza,
aitarena, amarena
mundu zaharreko bere gorputza
bere sexuarena bere fedearena bere maitalearena

of her sisters, of her brothers
of each new world born again
her body from the violent hands
fear her, fear god and man.

Bere ahizpez, bere anaiez
Berriz jaiotako mundu berri bakoitzaz
Bere gorputza esku bortitzetatik
Beldurra berari, beldurra Jainkoari eta gizonari

I revere you
words whispered
and washed in
votive tears
find worlds
in my restless body
hear my heart
beat out the years.

Gurtu egiten zaitut
xuxurlatutako hitzak
eta garbituak
zin-hitzezko malkoetan
munduak aurkitzen dituzte
nire gorputz urdurian
entzun nire bihotza
urteak taupaka

so attuned we talk in sleep,
under the same stars.
son, of the new-old world,
under one moon—

hain harmonian hitz egiten dugu lotan,
izar berberen azpian.
semea, mundu berri-zaharrekoa,
ilargi baten azpian -

touch — down on this land
on this body briefly yours
this her body, for the making
still unquiet, turns the ground

ukitu - behean lur honetan
gorputz honetan laburki zurea
hau bere gorputza, eratzeko
oraindik urduri, lurra iraultzen du.

Ode/Oda is a composition, developed in response to Bondage of Passions, Mercedes Azpilicueta's solo exhibition at Gasworks, London in the Summer of 2021. As detailed in the programme notes, the exhibition - of tapestries, sculptural costumery and pearlescent vinyl relaciones - offered "a speculative vision of Catalina de Erauso, the so-called Lieutenant Nun. In the early 1600s, Erauso escaped convent life in the Basque Country and travelled to the New World, where s/he lived under several male identities and became a ruthless conquistador at the service of the Spanish Empire, obtaining the Pope’s blessing to pursue life as a man.”

Across months of conversation, I learned about Erauso through Mercedes and her shared research and materials; about an extraordinary storied life, of which many versions have been made. Ode/Oda follows Mercedes' figuring of this volatile historical subject as a complex proposition: her practice of dedication as never simply the work of uncomplicated praise or exaltation of one body. The composition of Ode/Oda as installed at Gasworks reimagined Azpilicueta's tapestries as portals made of speaker cloth - an acoustic fabric through which to listen for what travels/moves in time.

Presented here, above, for the first time, is the writing at the heart of the composition, translated by Mercedes, Sabel and by the Basque scholars working alongside her. [3] Threading stretched pitches and muffled voices in a long acoustic weave, Ode/Oda sounds Erauso’s plurality as an auratic persona - how she/he shifts in composition through historical waves, and through translations across languages that turn and turn again the pronouns of the unfixed body.

Ella Finer, August 2021


[1] Mercedes Azpilicueta’s solo exhibition "Bondage of Passions" was commissioned and produced by Gasworks, London, 19 May - July 21 2021. Curated by Sabel Gavaldon. "Ode/Oda" was commissioned and temporarily installed as part of the exhibition's public programme.

[2] From "Bondage of Passions" exhibition programme.

[3] Spanish translation: Mercedes Azpilicueta and Sabel Gavaldon; Spanish voice: Mercedes Azpilicueta; Euskera translation: Haizea Bercenilla, Sergio Escribano-Ruiz and Amaia Alvarez Uria; Euskera voice: Haizea Bercenilla and Sergio Escribano-Ruiz.

Deep thanks to Mercedes and Sabel, and to Amaia Alvarez Uria, Haizea Bercenilla, Sergio Escribano-Ruiz, Jem Finer, Joel Furness, Robert Jack, Lia Mazzari, and James Wilkes for their generous support towards making this work.

00:00 00:00