“The project started in 2007 when the economic crisis started in Spain,” says Bree Zucker about Girlfriend, her project on the apocalyptic partying of a group of young recession-battered Spanish lesbians.
“The project follows one group of women, this lost generation. They call them the ‘nini’ generation in Spain; ‘ni estudia, ni trabaja’ (not studying, not working). My specific interest is one circle of women, but in the larger context it’s about this lost generation of young women.”
At a time when 26 per cent of the Spanish population was unemployed and 56 per cent of those under 24 without a job, this lost generation represented a ticking time bomb of frustration, boredom and anger for Spain.
Many young Spaniards have emigrated to other European countries to escape the lack of opportunity. But for those without the skills, training or linguistic ability, there was another solution; to stay in Spain and party like there’s no tomorrow.
This was the side of Spain that Zucker focused on after attaching herself to a charismatic young woman called Boli. “I met Boli by chance one day. We became best friends and she was like a surrogate sister to me. Boli is the lead protagonist of the story, she is my alter ego. She was the fulcrum around whom people revolved and she organised the local scene in Madrid. I found her to be the most attractive and charismatic of the people there.”
The story of Girlfriend is fragmented and not in chronological order. It’s a stream-of-consciousness project, a non-linear trawl through Zucker’s experiences in Madrid, a series of people and places encountered. It is also an examination of the subconscious side of Spanish society; a journey to the Bacchanalian depths of a depression-hit generation with no future where sex, desire and hedonism-filled excess are bubbling beneath the surface.
The defining image of the project is a picture of a woman with two black eyes. But at first glance they don’t look like black eyes, they look like tired-been-up-all-night partying eyes. She’s got a swollen nose and a swollen lip but maybe they’re the result of too much partying. These aren’t Donna Ferrato or Nan Goldin black eyes, the anger isn’t there; they’re Vice Magazine black eyes, empty and stripped of value, the back story notable by its absence.
First published in the November 2013 issue. You can buy the issue here.