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Bayonne, 18th July, 1936. On learning of the Fascist uprising, the Spanish dancer and bailaora Antonia Mercé y Luque, known as la Argentina, suffers a syncope and dies in fateful synchrony with the Second Republic. She is forty-six years old. History, and the artist’s body, have been seized and broken by the event.
In close dialogue with a set of images, Isabel de Naverán pursues the echo of that shock, which convulsed a single being, but representatively and symbolically contained the impending collective agony. La Argentina’s paroxysmal end has resonated at different moments and in different ways through other artists, some as seemingly distant as the Japanese dancers Kazuo Ohno, who was compelled to recall her performance fifty years after watching her dance, and Takao Kawaguchi; or the dancer Rocío Molina and the writer Gertrude Stein.
While Wrap, History and Syncope is not a biography of Antonia Mercé y Luque, its intention is not to look away from her; her magnificent figure is the thread binding this essay as it works its way through the choreographic and artistic transmission of collective memory. Each body as it dances reveals not only a cultural legacy but, more importantly, the present that affects it. De Naverán, however, has sought to distance herself from the dancer’s iconic allure and the fascination of her name and dance, and to trace a path that explores how bodies transfer movement to one another. To dance is always to dance other bodies, she insists – to repeat, but also to become present through our difference; to be able to interiorise the movements of others and be permeated by them. An extraordinary capacity, which links La Argentina to other artists of her time such as Federico García Lorca – both being close, active listeners to the bodies of others, and both having suffered in their own the effects of the closing horizon.
Isabel de Naverán (Getxo, 1976) works on projects that bring together art, contempory choreography and performance. Underlying her research is a preoccupation with time, from her thesis on the production of cinematographic time in expanded choreography, to more recent works focusing on transmission through the body and the revision of the concept of historical time in ephemeral practices. In 2010, de Naverán founded Bulegoa z/b, a space for art and knowledge, with Leire Vergara, Miren Jaio and Beatriz Cavia, of which she was a member until 2018. She currently works as Curator of Live Arts in the Public Events Department of the Reina Sofía Museum, Madrid, combining this with her work as an associate researcher at Azkuna Zentroa, Bilbao, with The Wave in our Minds (2021-23), a curatorial proposal in somatic writing.