A Special Moment 

— Text by Jorge Clar, 2016

To better understand the creative process of Bubi Canal, who was born in Santander, Spain in 1980, a look at his childhood years is a good place to start. They inspire his respect for curiosity and enthusiasm towards the world. 

“From when I was little I worked with my hands,” Bubi says. At age 6, he created ceramics and made drawings. One of his favor- ite pastimes was putting on costumes and taking pictures with friends at home. From there it’s all been a matter of evolution. “As a child, I didn’t know I wanted to dedicate myself to art. I was simply choosing the things I liked to do and getting away from the ones I didn’t like doing. As I realized what interested me, I realized I was closer to art than to any other discipline.” 

Bubi benefited by the freedom his parents gave him to do whatever he wanted; and so he grew up feeling free. His years in Santander brought learning and experience. “I didn’t have limits when it was time to make something. My parents always said anything was possible and respected my ideas.” During math class in school, Bubi focused on his interests by making drawings. When it was time to choose a high school major, as was customary in Spain, he opted for art. 

His aunt Ana was a great influence and companion. They liked to dance and come up with choreographies. They would hunt for vintage clothing that she would transform. “She was always creating, making her own garments, painting, dancing; we would do photos together. Really, everything I do now are things I would do as a child,” Bubi says. 

Ana and Bubi would present their choreographies at the neigh- borhood cultural center. “From a young age, I wanted to be a dancer, but I never studied dance professionally. It was all very intuitive. The disco was a very important place for me. As a child I always ran with the kids in my neighborhood, even if we didn’t have common interests. Going to the disco was like discovering a different world...it was there I found the people with whom I really connected. In Santander, there were “light session” discos, without alcohol, for teenagers.” 

In 2001, the next stage of Bubi’s life started to unfold. He moved to Bilbao to study at the University of the Basque Country, where he met a lot of artists. “It was like an explo- sion. I got together with many people from other communi- ties. We started working together; I would participate in my friends’ creative projects and they would participate in mine.” In Bilbao, he lived with friends Unai and La Yonny, with whom creative projects happened non-stop. He then came to fully understand his dedication to art. 

Joyboy was his first project, shown in Bilbao and Santander. “It was the first time I wanted to share something I had created because something unexpected emerged in its making.” Bubi spent four years in Bilbao. He was awarded a grant to study in Madrid, where he lived from 2006 to 2011. He presented the exhibition Supercolor at La Fresh Gallery, a project on which he collaborated with his close friend and muse Ruby. “As a student, I had access to many amenities: photo studios, cameras, etc. In Madrid it was like starting from nothing; I didn’t have professional cameras or a studio on hand. This made me look for locations to make my photos and videos,” Bubi says. 

A poster of an illustration of New York he had found at a flea market hung in his last Madrid apartment. “I always visualized living in New York from a young age—I felt I needed to come here to do something. I didn’t want to visit, my aim was to live there. Around that time I met Paul, my husband, who was visiting from New York, and by 2011 I had moved to the city.” 

Accomplices in Creation

I met Bubi in March of 2012, just after my performance in Alberto Cortés’ Psychopomp event at Splatterpool artspace in Brooklyn. We had become Facebook friends a few days before and I had invited him to the event. It was a mystical evening that dealt with communication between dimensions. Bubi came over to say hello when I was speaking with friend and fellow artist José Joaquín Figueroa, who had participated in my performance. Alberto himself introduced us. The conversation flowed easily and a great friendship began. Eventually, Alberto would invite Bubi to show his work at the second part of the Psychopomp event, which was presented at Munch Gallery, the seminal Lower East Side space run by Lillan Munch. She also became a great friend. After seeing his work within the group exhibit, she offered Bubi a solo show. 

Conversations about our interests flowed freely. We started sharing moments of adventure in the creation of art. For instance, I remember going with Bubi to the Blick art store on Bond Street to buy materials for Special Moment, his first solo show at Munch. After that show, Bubi told me he wanted to make a new video entitled Hologram. I was very intrigued, and thought the effects of this piece could be quite significant. We had often talked about the power of the imagination and the reality it could bring forth. The one-and-a-half year process to make the video was in full gear. 

During the summer of 2013, Bubi asked a few friends—some of them members of the CHERYL performance collective he had collaborated with in Madrid—to shoot a film on a rooftop near the Marcy Avenue subway station in Williamsburg. From a suitcase full of vintage clothes and custom artifacts, Bubi pulled out costumes for all of us, styling as he went along. 

I helped take some photos; and some video of the choreography was also shot. That afternoon I discovered the Monchhichi, a Japanese character Bubi had made into a mask. I then realized just how much he was into the pop culture of Japan. 

Soon after, we began our regular weekday morning meetings at Little Skips, the Bushwick café we call the “office.” At a customary table, I write while Bubi sends emails and edits photos. I have coffee and he has chai, and we talk about ideas and things that draw our attention. In reviewing his video material, Bubi thought there was still much left to explore before completing Hologram. He mentioned it might be worth checking out as a location for the video the pavilion Philip Johnson designed in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens. Bubi went to the park with Miuko Soda, a Japanese dancer friend whom he had met at language school, wearing costumes Bubi had designed and Alexander Campaz had sewn for the video. Bubi and Miuko had come up with a dance routine for the sequence, and I remember how enthusiastic Bubi was when he showed me the footage. 

While he was shooting Hologram, Bubi was doing some por- traits of the characters appearing in the video. He invited me to pose for one of the photos and to play a character. In Central Park near 110th Street, Bubi had seen a hill with overgrown grasses that looked like a vista from a faraway place where he wanted me to pose. I was excited by the possibility of becoming an icon of Bubi’s oeuvre, especially since my performance work is all about the invention of characters. For the photo session, we went to the rooftop of the Bushwick building Bubi lives in, and sat at a picnic table and chairs that used to be there. We had done wardrobe tests for the characters, and adjusted the costumes as we went along. My outfit finally consisted of a cryptic tiara made with little plastic hands; brace- lets and necklaces in sets of four made with large wooden beads in yellow, blue, red and green; and a pair of Mormon briefs Bubi had found in a hotel room while traveling. Posing for the photos was a fun and meticulous process, making the most of particular moments when natural light was coming from specific angles. I remember while Bubi was taking the photos, I was channeling ascended master energies, incarnating my avatar the Count of St. Germain. While I focused on this intent, Bubi passed me a staff with a plastic chicken his friend Dani had given him in Madrid years before, which hadn’t been used until that moment. The gesture moved me tremendously. I felt even happier about the image we were creating. I have always felt a great affinity toward chickens and was pleased to represent the avatar while including the image of this bird...truly a gift from the Universe. 

That moment exemplified how Bubi and I connect, in the belief that creating art is an act of magic. The art works almost create themselves, with intention and visualization in full effect. The elements that comprise the works appear as we travel along the road. 
In October, we went to Flushing Meadows Park again to shoot more video in front of the pavilion. Our friend Idan Bitton played the Monchhichi, while Miuko, Bubi and I posed in front of the fantasy-driven architecture. After shooting some takes and photos, the editing process began. The result was a video a little over a minute in length. During the holidays, Bubi went to visit his mother-in-law in Rochester, New York, and used Paul’s childhood belongings to create still lifes photographed in the den for the series Beautiful Mystery. 

One day, we went to the fabric stores near Seventh Avenue in search of black stuffed animal fur. Combined with a sweater Bubi had found during our shopping excursions through vintage clothing stores in Bushwick, the fur ended up as part of a sculpture entitled Antenna

By the end of the fall of 2014, the works that would comprise the Magic Garden exhibit were ready for the Munch Gallery opening, which would be in March 2015. The show was a complete success. For the opening, Idan found me a sweater that made me mesh with the works on display. Bubi had given me an insignia he had found at a flea market in Sicily, which I sewed onto a wool cap. He was wearing a sweater Senyor Pablo had weaved based on a design Bubi had created. 

It is like this that Bubi Canal’s work comes into being. By crea- ting with intention guided by intuition, the necessary materials appear to result in works that bring forth the possibility of transforming the spectator.