Hinrich Sachs, 2022/2023

There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

Hinrich Sachs in collaboration with Josune Urrutia and Leire Vergara. The newly created work comprises three parts. By bringing together a textil object, a comic strip, and a research paper, "There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch" adresses the central museological parameters of the originals on display and their accompanying texts, expanding the official narrative and highlighting erasures in history.

It can be visited in the museum choir from October 27, 2023 to October 27, 2024.


In keeping with the original charter of Museo Bikoitza, this fifth edition proposes a reinterpretation of selected objects in the collection and the museum narrative.

The newly created work comprises three parts. First, a canvas the size of a sail on the San Ignacio de Loyola, a ship used for years in the eighteenth century on the Atlantic route between the Iberian peninsula and colonial Venezuela to transport goods and troops. Second, a leaflet displaying an illustrated story that recounts a conversation between two teenagers and the artist about the contemporary San Telmo Museum of Basque Society. And finally, an essay on the symbolism of the motifs found in cross-stitch embroidery from the Basque region during colonial times.

A canvas the size of a sail on the San Ignacio de Loyola

The San Ignacio de Loyola was a sailing ship constructed in Pasaia near San Sebastián, in 1730, commissioned by the Real Compañia Guipuzcoana de Caracas (Royal Guipuzkoan [trading] Company of Caracas). It was frequently used on the Atlantic route from San Sebastian to La Guaira near Caracas in colonial Venezuela, until it was wrecked on a Caribbean reef in 1742.

The canvas allows the visitor to experience the forgotten textile ship technologies of the time, sewn from natural linen in the dimensions of the historical ship’s foresail (approx. 17 × 8m), calculated according to a Basque shipbuilding manual from 1731. This canvas is presented within the permanent display of the collection near an inconspicuous group of textiles embroidered in cross-stitch by women in the region between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The point overlap is the textile production chain, in which plant fibres are first spun into thread and woven into linen before being used to produce clothing, sails, and shrouds.

An illustrated story that recounts a conversation between two teenagers

Complementing this is a leaflet with a visual narrative that comments on the textile in the voice of contemporary witnesses. This illustrated story is based on a conversation between the artist and two teenagers from San Sebastián and neighbouring Errenteria. It narrates personal fantasies, examines the San Telmo cross-stitch embroideries, and considers colonial history, gender roles, and the global production chains of European textile companies and their latest fashions in embroidery. After designing the storyboard in collaboration with the artist, illustrator Josune Urrutia created the drawings. Visitors are invited to take a copy of the comic.

An essay on the symbolism of the motifs found in cross-stitch embroidery from the Basque region during colonial times.

The third element is a research paper which elaborates on and interprets the meaning of historical fabrics and motifs in cross-stitch from the Basque region held by the museum and elsewhere, including the materials and craft techniques used, as well as their social and symbolic functions. The paper observes that woven and embroidered fabrics originated during the centuries of violent, exploitative Spanish colonial rule, and suggests certain embroidery motifs may be associated with this period, which significantly enriched the region’s wealth.

It was authored by writer and researcher Leire Vergara, who participated in the project since its research phase at the artist’s invitation. The essay is available at the museum and here on the museum’s website.


Hinrich Sachs

Hinrich Sachs (Osnabrück, Germany, 1962) is a visual artist and writer based in Basel, Switzerland, working in an itinerant fashion. After spending his childhood in Donostia/San Sebastián, he studied visual arts in Hamburg, Germany, and later in Paris, France. Sachs works in a cross-cultural fashion, investigating and testing narratives, in the broadest sense, as a core of social and political life. Within the Basque Country, he has collaborated with institutions such as Arteleku and Consonni. His work has been exhibited at the San Telmo Museum before, as well as internationally at institutions such as Le Plateau (Paris); Musée d’art Moderne et Contemporain (Geneva); Museum Ludwig (Cologne); Moderna Museet, (Stockholm); Proyecto AMIL (Lima); and the Taipei Museum of Fine Arts. In 2021 he received the Main Prize for Visual Arts awarded by the Swiss ProLitteris Foundation.

Josune Urrutia

Josune Urrutia (Bilbao, 1976) is a visual artist working mostly in illustration and comics. She studied Fine Arts in Bilbao and later in Madrid. Some of her most significant publications are: Breve diccionario enciclopédico de MI cancer (2017), Así me veo (2015) and Hoy no es el día (2022). She has been part of comics anthologies like: Votes for Women: The Battle for the 19th Amendment (2020), Tupust! (2021) and Secondary Effects (2021). She was an author resident at the Maison des auteurs in Angoulême, France (2019-2021), and is currently a research fellow working on graphic narratives for scientific and medical evolution on cancer at the Institute for Advanced Studies of Aix-Marseille University, France.

Leire Vergara

Leire Vergara (Bilbao, 1973) is an independent curator, writer, researcher and co-director of Bulegoa z/b, an office for art & knowledge based in Bilbao. She has curated numerous exhibitions and published her writing with several Academic Journals and publishers like Bloomsbury Publishing House, MIT Press, Sternberg Press and Cultural Dynamics by Duke University. She has presented her work around textiles in art institutions and spaces such as Academy of Fine Arts Vienna; Generali Foundation, Vienna; MACBA, Barcelona; Carreras Múgica, Bilbao; San Telmo Museoa, Donostia and Astrud Fearnley Museet, Oslo (forthcoming). She holds a PhD in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College, University of London and teaches in the MA in Art Praxis at the Dutch Art Institute, University of the Arts, Arnhem, The Netherlands.


Artist chosen for the next edition: Maddi Barber

Following the Museo Bikoitza methodology, Hinrich Sachs has chosen the artist who will participate in the following edition of this program: Maddi Barber.

Among other reasons, Sachs has chosen Barber because “since her first national and international steps in 2018, Barber has gained recognition among the film community and video art experts. But her cinematic narratives have contained, from the beginning, all the ingredients of a personal, empathetic and captivating story worthy of being seen by large audiences".

Maddi Barber (Artzibar, Nafarroa, 1988). Her most recent film works (Paraiso, Gorria, Urpean Lurra, 592 metroz goiti) are strongly linked to the pre-Pyrenean territory where she was born. From experimental ethnography, her films show interest in the relationship between memory, territory, infrastructure, ecology and ethics of care between humans and nature. Maddi studied audiovisual communication at the University of the Basque Country and did a master's degree in visual anthropology at the University of Manchester. She lives and works between Iruñea and Baiona, where she is a professor at ESAPB (École Supérieure d'Art Pays Basque).

In 2019 she created the production company Pirenaika, with which she has produced several of her films, as well as those of artists and filmmakers from a close context such as Gerard Ortín, Ainhoa ​​Gutiérrez and Irati Gorostidi. She is also part of the Pulpa artist collective, which has launched the self-managed space for contemporary creation and critical thinking La zurda in Iruñea. She is currently participating in the Ikusmira Berriak residency in Tabakalera, where she is developing the fiction film Claros de Bosque.




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