Las ahijadas. A project by William James

The Observatori at Es Baluard is pleased to host “Las ahijadas”, a work in progress by artist William James, which takes the form of an audiovisual installation based on broad-based research. Oral history, video footage, and archive materials from a range of sources are used to tell two little-known histories presided over by two exceptional persons: Natacha Rambova and Natacha Rampova.
Natacha Rambova was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1897 and died in Pasadena, California, in 1966. Ballet dancer, set and costume designer in the Hollywood of silent film, second wife of Rudolph Valentino, she was later witness to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in Majorca, where she lived from 1931-36.
Natacha Rampova was born in Valencia in 1956. Transgender cabaret artiste and pre-queer activist, she took the name Natacha Rampova as her alias, imitating the exotic style of her costume designs for silent film. Imprisoned three times between 1971 and 1974 under the Spanish “Ley de peligrosidad social” (Social Danger Law), her political and social activism marked the transition to democracy in Spain, when previously marginalized representatives of alternative sexualities fought to find their multiple voices and forms of self-expression, and to take up their place in the new Spain – a struggle that has not yet run its course.
“Las ahijadas” links these two individuals by a historical symmetry –the ‘before’ and the ‘after’ of Franco’s dictatorship– and by the mythification of the original Rambova by her alter ego.
William James is a British artist resident in Valencia. His work is based on free-form documentary research and takes the form of installations conceived for specific contexts, which have often considered the complex relations between the construction of gender and the construction of urban space (seeThe Gendered City).
In this way, James considers our relations (sociopolitical, spatial and gendered) with the world that surrounds us; in part we construct it and in part it constructs us. This is never more certain than in times of drastic change –as “Las ahijadas” makes clear– when the personal cannot be anything other than political.
“Las ahijadas” will be shown at Es Baluard and at Centro del Carmen (Valencia), from 28th October to 11 December, in collaboration with the Consortium of Museums of the Valencian Community. This is the first collaborations between both institutions.


Graham Bell Tornado
Carlos Cross
La Errería(House of Bent)
Julián Gandía
David Ginard i Ferron
IAIOFLAUTAS jubild@s de 15M Valencia
María Salomé Juaneda Pujol
LAMBDA Valencia
Tonina Matamalas
Michael Morris
Ana Navarrete
Prelinger Archives, San Francisco
Natacha Rampova
Catalina Ruiz
Anna Maria Staiano
Photograph and technical support:
Almudena Soullard
Actors /narrators:
José Ramón Alarcón
Isabel Caballero
Jacobo Julio Roger
Elia Yuste

With the collaboration of:

13th October 2016 → 20th November 2016