Bordeaux and Me – Artist Patricia Fernandez in residency in France

I wanted to come to Bordeaux because of it close ties to Spain, as it had been historically a site of exile for many, beginning with Franco’s uprising against the Spanish Republic, up until the end of the dictatorship.  Being able to listen to many of the first hand narratives of Republicans that still live in Bordeaux today, I am learning that the Spanish Civil war was connected to the events of World War II, more than I can imagine. The fight against fascism that began for many of these Spaniards in their homeland, was continued in France with the Maquis, and the Resistance- and up to this day, it continues ideologically through the transmission of narratives from a lived history.

Bordeaux has a wealth of information, the kind that is held in its buildings, in its people, the kind you have to walk into and if you get lost it’s better. By being here every day I am able to get closer to events that took place, and to understand how things happened.  I am able to follow the footsteps of those that I am thinking about, the exiled Republicans and their descendents, and map out pieces of their past.

To my surprise, my studio in Bordeaux has three huge windows that face the massive Todt submarine base I had heard so much about.  This thing was built under the German occupation, with the forced labor of many Spanish Republicans, Anarchists, and other prisoners. It was built to last forever.  Many people died in its construction and to this day their bodies remain within its huge cement walls.  It is sort of hard to think of anything else. There are still people here today that remember the beginnings of the base, and were somehow involved. I’ve spent a few days at the Hotel des Archives looking through old documents, police surveillance reports and going through political tracts. Its one way I can learn more about the people that are part of the history of this city. Being so close physically, yet so removed at the same time, I am collecting the pieces that I can as an attempt to understand the situation, the various stories, and people that construct the city I walk through today.

Patricia Fenandez has been in Bordeaux since the beginning of October 2012 as part of FLARE (France Los Angeles Residency Exchange).