by Aïda Camprubí
Home! Come in, come in, you’re invited by gorgeous Dea and Diego, Los Bravú since 2012. They have art in their bodies, in front of the camera and with their brushes. Sniffing around their graphic, fine art and photographic works is like getting a stiff finger from scrolling. It doesn’t matter where you start from: linearity is random and overrated. Free unlimited Wi-Fi, connect yourself whenever and wherever you want, the story has already started before you got here, but you’ll have the best frame before your eyes. They’re the selectors; just let yourself be rocked by the scroll. You don’t need to make sense out of everything, not if you don’t want to.
And among all this virtual liquidity, something hits your body, softly, like a “kissito” as they call it. You only need to say their name to feel something physical. Los Bravú: Something comes to mind, a smell, or a relaxed feeling, but what’s this bravú?
Bravú: (Spanish): Smell emitted by mountain animals. // Brush, thick vegetation, bushes. // Condition of what’s wild or rustic.
And immediately and inseparably after comes:
Having or showing courage. // Making a fine show. // Excellent, splendid.*→
* The twilight zone, where the nuances of all these adjectives come together, that’s where they and what they do reside.
This reality bite in the midst of cyberspace (where the 21st century has chewed nineties aesthetics) can be found anywhere in their work, ready to attack. Maybe all of a sudden one of their sculptural characters will utter a sentence only the village’s pork butcher would and which isn’t exactly a popular saying –although it’s much more used, of course–, or maybe from one of the windows you might see your great aunt’s garden. Fulgencio Pimentel, the imprint publishing their indefatigable one work per year –except for La Fúria, which appeared on the Apa Apa Cómics catalogue– says that in them there’s “little fiction and much truth.” But in their latest book, Mujer! –a virtual museum condensed in Japanese binding– there’s even a better description:
“Here we don’t lie, here we exaggerate.”
It’s that truth what gets a hold of us. No alienated metropolis or bucolic pastoral scenes: the rural world saw Alpha jackets with neon orange lining and trial Montesa bikes well before the first sad boy was ever born. Such a character, full of avant-garde touches! But, hey, someone has to claim it, right?
Talk to me about Salamanca and Pontevedra. How was the place you grew up in? The bad things and the good things. Tell me some childhood and teenage memories.
Dea lived by the train rails; I’m saying it because it’s quite charming. She always went to school in the Garrido neighbourhood, on the outskirts of Salamanca, full of kids on motorbikes, red brick buildings and gypsy flamenco. Diego comes from Marín, a village next to Pontevedra, he needs to specify this or else his family will get mad at him for not mentioning it. Marín belongs to the area of do Morrazo, Rías Baixas style, beach, furanchos, Art boots. Both our parents were always top-notch party animals, so our childhood was full of nights at the ball.
Furguson, who come from Gurb -a little village in the Osona area-, entitled their debut album My Friends Are My Culture. It says a lot about the way things are lived, discovered and shared in these kinds of places. A friend shows another friend something, a stimulus, and it soon becomes a cult. What were your first contacts with the art forms you’re interested in now? How did you reach them? Did you share those hobbies with your friends back then or was it more of an individual taste?
We both used to spend a lot of time, as kids, drawing on paper tablecloths in bars and restaurants. That was the best thing! Pilot 0.7 pens and fried calamari oil. On the other hand, it wasn’t easy to bump into people who were interested in comic books and drawing, but you filled that void by talking about films, music, videogames… When we were teenagers it was the time of sharing Verbatim hard disks full of screener films and mp3 tracks, anything went, from Lauryn Hill to the two-hundred La Polla Records albums. 😉 We could pretend we’re very smart by mentioning special things, but the truth is we were quite normal.
We are of the same age, so I guess we lived the arrival of the Internet at the same time, as tweens. Do you remember what was the first thing you googled? And when you were already more familiar with it, what did you mainly use it for?
Very weird forums, neon typography over black background web designs, Terra.es chat, Messenger buzzing, porno without videos, the incomprehensible madness of MySpace, Esflog, Fotolog… Dea says she was a national Fotolog star, but she won’t tell us her nick.
You met when you were studying at the Fine Art Faculty in Salamanca, specialising in painting…
We were in different courses; we almost didn’t coincide until the last year, when we were together at the same painting workshop. Why did we choose painting? In Salamanca it was an important discipline back then, there was even an own style called “expresionismo charro” and we had a professor there who said that we should “fuck the painting.” Besides, studios were amazing, they were huge, you could cook inside and smoke joints too.
…and then you moved to a small village in Galicia, why did you choose that place? What kinds of spaces make you feel comfortable?
When we got together and finished our degrees we moved to Madrid, but we had no euros and soon after we moved to Galicia, because there we could use an empty house as a studio. Back then we decided to set up this Los Bravú thing, and then it was Angoulême and after that Santiago de Compostela, which is a city full of charming drunkards.
There’s a cartoon in Mujer! in which there’s a guy with a friar hairdo and a Donald Duck T-shirt in what seems the entrance to one of those urban outskirt towers, half-built, with the garden half-planted, like a half-way dream. My neighbourhood was full of them, I remember it all looked kind of grim, I would have liked to live in a more beautiful place. But when I saw that illustration, all of a sudden it seemed a charming place. Did you consciously use it as a way of paying homage to it? Or are you simply documenting a common space?
We love going for walks, and in Galicia the feísmo galego is very inspiring, with all those out-of-context objects and an assonant rhyme between the urban and the rural. It’s true that we try to introduce it in our work, but not to pay homage to it, we’re simply attracted to that environment, and we feel comfortable there, because we know it and because we think it has aesthetic and narrative potential. We love new art, modern stuff and all those Internet aesthetics, but we also like vintage life. Maybe some people will be shocked by seeing these two modern characters in a country house full of cabbages or an old folks’ bar, but Galicia, and most of Spain, is like that, we notice it and we like to focus on it.
In your collages, you mix rural teenagers with mythological beings such as Medusa (or with dinosaurs!). There’s a vase that could well belong to a contemporary art museum and a photograph of a Japanese couple in their wedding before the Eiffel tower, within a totally criminal environment. Do you clearly mean to place it all at the same level?
We love that you mention the Japanese couple pic; it’s our favourite work. As for your question, for us it’s all at the same level, but it may vary depending on the discourse of the speaker or the understanding of the receiver. When we were thinking of the concept behind the book Mujer!, we saw that contemporary culture already places all at the same level, but not only that, it mixes everything and reproduces it ad infinitum. We wanted the experience of reading Mujer! to be like spending some time on the Internet opening a thousand new pages and burning the scroll. Today’s culture consumption jumps from a highbrow article to a mad meme within the minute, all spiced up by a super hit that a teenager has designed with his sound card. That’s it.
It might also have to do with what you were saying about characters: “looking for that documentalist aesthetic point, finding the beauty in those morning puffy eyes that grant people character and personality.” I think your characters are attractive because they seem very confident. They have that “give me whatever you want” attitude, they’re very natural and they seem to feel at ease. They’re sexy because they radiate empowerment. Where do you think they get their power?
Maybe from thinking, saying or doing whatever they want, even if it’s mad things. We’re not trying to talk through our characters, that’s why we don’t care whether they are sensible or plain lunatics. The important thing is for them to be honest, because in these prude and marketing revolution times, we prefer characters to move freely, even if they bite the dust quite a lot. When we design our characters, we enjoy very much adding some nuances, whether physical or through their clothes or the way they talk, something that hints at their life beyond the four cartoons we draw them in.
Tell me about the title, why did you choose Mujer!? There are many women in your work, but also men and other people who break with gender binaries.
In the book there’s a page about one of those horrifying horoscopes for teenage girls that start by saying, “¡Atenta, mujer!” (Careful, woman!), and we simply thought, with our publisher, that it sounded cool and it could be a good title. This might confuse some people, who will probably think the book is based on some gender perspective and then will be disappointed, or maybe not, who knows? We’re not going to be the ones to put any labels anywhere. If in our comic books there are many girls it’s because it’s the most natural thing in order to portray contemporary questions, but there are also boys, probably not the hetero normative old-school prototype, but it’s 2016, for god’s sake!!!
Another detail that makes your work very different is the capturing of the frame, how we get to a story that has already started, with halfway dialogues, but very eloquent ones. How do you choose the perfect frame to tell the story?
We start playing around, doing stupid stuff, imagining situations and characters, and from there we get lots of sentences. We think “this is already cool like this, we like it because of the feeling it gives or just because of the way it sounds.” Then we polish it a bit, give the characters a wig and trousers and let ourselves be taken to whatever they’re going, we improvise quite a lot.
I like, and at the same time I find disturbing, this empowerment of the suburbs, of what before was considered poor or chav because it didn’t come from the centre of town. Why do you think people turn their heads now towards those places, towards what used to be invisible?
This question is very difficult to answer, because there’s a lot there. 20th century culture is full of examples that go from the bottom to the top, or from the outside to the inside, or whatever. The intentions have been very varied, some honest, others not quite so. What’s evident is that new technologies allow us to access alternative forms of expression much easier and faster. That’s what’s changing the supply and demand paradigm in the last decades, and that’s what we’re living now, we’ll see how it goes.
There are several artists making use of these aesthetics. I’m thinking about the music videos in which Yung Lean appears with those trial bikes in a cemetery and a swamp, instead of the typical good-looking guy in a race circuit. What artists do you think have adapted these aesthetics quite well and which ones haven’t?
All those super cool girls with amazing Instagram and Tumblr accounts, just for the sake of their hobby, to express themselves… Lots of us are drinking from them, without them things would be very different. We have to acknowledge their value, but without going mad, ok? Because some media go mad about Instagrammers and then it all becomes stupid.
In your case, one can tell you were raised in a rural setting, most of all for the small details, like when you portray the window display of that little tavern in which you can see fish hanging alongside wine bottles, the place one goes to with the family at every occasion there’s something to celebrate. But how do you see the appropriation of these aesthetics of marginal spaces by people alien to them? They grant them visibility, but from their comfortable position some have the choice of looking like or dressing as some thing or another.
We don’t give a toss where anyone comes from, the important thing is whether what they do is cool or not. If it’s cool it means they’re OK. That’s why Hattori Hanzo gives Uma Thurman a katana.
And since we started the interview talking about places, what about ending it in the same way? How come you’ve ended up in Italy? What are you doing over there?
We’re at the Spanish Academy, an artistic residence in Rome with more artists from other disciplines: painters, photographers, historians, etc. All of them really good! Here we have a project that encompasses different works but the most powerful one is a comic book that will probably be published in three volumes by Fulgencio Pimentel. We will give it a title that we had already thought of, Ese extraño flow. We’ve just started a blog to talk about how the project’s going.
And how is Rome? What features of its people and streets will end up reflected on your pages?
Rome is a city that overwhelms you, it’s very inspiring, and not only because of its history and its art: on every corner you meet extravagant people; even its less central areas are very powerful. It has a peculiar rhythm of life, it’s as if nothing and everything happens at the same time. It’s amazing for walks; it’s full of mad anecdotes that are giving us lots of ideas. And we have also discovered supplì, a kind of arroz a la cubana croquettes that cost a euro and get you back to life.