A video installation at the Hirshhorn
Ser y durar (To Be and to Last) is a 2011 video installation by DEMOCRACIA, Spanish duo Pablo España and Iván López. In the film a team of local traceurs (practitioners of the street sport parkour) perform stunts in a graveyard while wearing uniforms emblazoned with emblems that refer to the working class, internationalism, anarchy, secret societies, and revolution. The establishing shot is a still frame in which a posse of men bypass the camera, walking into the distance along a road under the broken shadows of trees. They travel like a hungry wolf pack on a mission to kill. Foreboding music and passing headlights suggest resistance—the men seem separate from the cars, the stationary camera, and the stable conventions of society.
Close-ups of the men’s uniforms at first provide little detail: the red costumes, sweatpants and masks that obscure their faces could be part of a sports team or a band of criminals. The use of a Tri-screen disorients the audience, sometimes working as one panoramic view and at other times displaying three separate shots, forcing the viewer to actively scan the room. Set on a gravesite, the men display incredible acts of strength and acrobatics; their stunts bring them literally and spiritually close to death. The acrobats are at once militant and acrobatic, with the strength of gymnasts and the wild fury of rebels. Their vitality, motion, bright red dress, and booming drumbeat provide a counterpoint to the bleak, gray stillness of their surroundings. A brick wall close-up reveals cracks and holes that perhaps house dangerous creatures, just as the brick wall of the government is cracked and the holes are the threat of revolutionaries like these men who seem to defy gravity and treat the stone surfaces as a springboard.
As the title implies, amid death the men continue to "be" and against cement opposition they assure their mission will "last." The final shot captures a tomb that reads "don't mourn my death. Instead go forward, on top of my tomb." This is what the traceurs do literally, promising a vengeance of the deceased through a mission of anarchy.