The Spanish flag is formed by three horizontal stripes: red, yellow and red.
Red and yellow stripes were the winning combination in a contest proposed by King Carlos III to design a flag that could better identify his fleet in the high seas. Red and yellow were considered the most practical combination of colors to be seen from afar.
For the Basques, eager to seceed from Spain, the colors of the national flag are soaked in the flammable rhetoric of "One Spain". In their region the fervor for independence from Spain did not diminish with the advent of a democratic government. Their terrorist attacks did not change Spain´s will of national unity. A certain degree of autonomy, dialogue, police work, as well as financial inducements have all failed to stop the violent conflict. These failures are always used as a weapon at national elections by the two opposing political sides. One insists on playing hardball and the other leans towards dialogue.
In the summer of 1993 I was invited to participate in a series of lectures with art students at Arteleku, in San Sebastian. I chose to arrange a performance of Frontón in the gallery of the school. This performance took place "in situ", not in the sense of conforming or complementing the space, but in acknowledgement that it took place in the Basque region.
Frontón is a competitive game in which either hand may be used to serve and return a ball played against a wall. The objective is to win each rally by serving or returning the ball so the opponent is unable to keep it in play. Although Frontón is played all over Spain, it is essentially considered a Basque game, and is played nowhere as much as in the Basque cities of San Sebastián or Bilbao.
To prepare for Frontón at Arteleku, two squares, red and yellow, each seven by seven feet in size, were painted on a gallery wall. This painting was not as preparation for the game but as part of it. A panel that could funtion as a painting independent from its inclusion in the game. Deconstructed to its two colors, the wall evoked the Spanish flag, as strong and present as the mind was inclined to perceive it. With the paint still fresh two players began the game. No gloves. No points. No time limit. They played vigorously and the sweat and the paint soon mixed in their hands. With each impact the ball left a trace on the wall and in their hands. Most of the time the ball hit the color squares. At first you could count the hits that "missed". These shots were in, but the retina perceived them as out of the game: colateral hits. Soon there were too many to count. The initial élan of the performance gave way to monotony. The player´s hands began to hurt. The red and yellow on the wall no longer represented a flag, but a visual impact of colors. With their hands swollen by the blows, the players could hardly hit the ball with any enthusiasm. Each hit hurt more than the last. After a while and in unison, the players called the game off.