A passionate artivist of the audiovisual format, Barcelona-based Javier Rueda uses audiovisual media as a cultural and political tool for social transformation. Read his story here.
What’s an urgent issue facing education?
First of all, diversity is still the most important and urgent thing to continue fostering, as it is the main social treasure we have as humans, but at the same time is what is more commonly suffering from prejudice and ignorance.
At the same level, as they are interconnected, it is also urgent, as it always was, to continue focusing on making education accessible to everyone, specially the minorities and social classes that historically and structurally were educationally and culturally segregated, as most of them still are, more or less in some way, depending on each particular case. The culture of a society will only be diverse when each of its minorities and social classes have an egalitarian representation in the culture space, and this compulsorily happens when you make the education accessible for everyone and when you consciously contribute to have educational and said cultural spaces where all of them have an own and self determined representation.
Secondly, but also very important as it is an essential problem nowadays, is to foster critical thinking based on facts, empiricism and a constructive non-self-serving dialogue. We are right now in a world ruled by relativism and fake news, where the truth is commonly constructed for own profit with marketing techniques and (many times non-conscious) self-indulgent fallacies, instead of being the most accurate approach to reality we can achieve, always open to revision if other facts and logical arguments come out. This is creating a very unstable society in many ways, and is paving the road for a future where any extremism can be massively justified just saying it louder.
Actually, the new advances in artificial intelligence, that have put the “what is true” / “what is the truth” questions in the focus of many discussions (the first far more than the second, I must sadly admit), can represent an opportunity to extend this questions to other areas where the misrepresentation of facts has being used, for many years, for the sake of the ones who control the means.
This is why, right now, more than ever, is crucial to help people, regardless their age, to educate themselves in answering said questions in a deep and empowering way, dealing also with other related questions, such as:
What is the ultimate purpose of the information as a human tool?
How can it be used to inoculate ideas in many ways?
How its misrepresentation can be deliberately used for own interests and which is the ethical implication of this?
How in consequence can it affect them addressing their opinions and behaviors?
In fact, in relation to all that I said, all the relativism and fake news we suffer nowadays is negatively affecting the aforementioned diversity and egalitarian access to education and culture, as it is being used meanly by privileged people who profit from social inequality and injustice.
You are passionate about documenting stories that illustrate global issues and societal problems. Tell us more.
Since I was born and grew up in one of the most humble neighborhoods in Barcelona, I started very early to realize how your life experience depends on your access to means and culture. And more importantly, how a disbalanced access to them inside a society makes a huge impact on growing injustice and segregation.
Actually, as any common youngling there, my access to culture was poor, mostly fast food pop culture and in a very little doses (as there was no Internet on that time), and my incipient love for cinema was only a unidirectional relationship, with me as a passive spectator that secretly dreamed to have access to much more movies and to have a chance to talk & write about them somewhere somehow.
Actually, my discovery of cinema as an art was a kind of an accident, something I felt unexpected for someone like me, and therefore lived mainly as a little secret many times, as I had almost no one with whom to share it, not even my family who took long until they accepted it. But for me it was something non-negotiable: cinema was teaching me far more than I was learning at school, in many ways, and it was also showing me places (and non-places!) that were not only years light from my reality, but that were not supposed to ever be part of it.
Everything changed when I started my studies in the public university. Not only because I establish relationships with people from other neighborhoods and social classes, that opened me to other points of view and a full variety of arts and culture, all of them mostly invisible for me until that moment; but because there was an audiovisual association whose aim was to gather universitarian people to make some amateur short films. The very first day I started the script making of the first one, and especially the very first day I held a camera in my hands for the first time, I felt like it was what I was waiting for all my life. A way of mixing my love for movies, my own creativity experimentation and intellectual self-development, and my social conscience and commitment.
So, what started as a naive audiovisual experimentation with no-future, became a way of living and a profession.
First of all, becoming very soon part of the board of that association and afterwards its president, working hard to expand the association's influence to welcome more people from the university campus and abroad, then collaborating with many other non-profit entities and NGO helping them with our audiovisual support, and finally producing our own documentaries and fictions, most of them with first time directors and focused on cultural and social thematics.
Secondly, being involved in many other audiovisual projects and collectives, all of them related to social and art, not only towards creation but also to make visible others work, some of these initiatives being co-founded by me.
Thirdly, being a regular presence in many audiovisual spaces of the city, not only as audience but also as a theoric and a creator, making me known as someone knowledgeable, always enthusiastic and available to help, support and be part of committed projects.
And fourthly, becoming a convinced supporter of egalitarian and democratic assembly structures, something I experienced in the universitarian associations I participated in, learnings that I have defended, made visible, theorized and applied many times in different spaces and projects, both communitarian and labor as well as political.
More than twenty years has passed since my first day at the public university, and more than thirty since I had my first social glimpses back in my humble neighborhood, but my life and profession is still attached to the main learnings I acquired then: the importance of making culture available to everybody; the importance of going further from just being audience towards being part of a creative process as a way of self-expression; the importance of relating people from different origins and realities, fostering diversity and deeper and more unbiased learnings; the importance of audiovisual as a tool of personal and social transformation; and the importance of applying all this principles with people regardless their age and the younger the better.
This is why I love and strongly believe in documenting stories that illustrate global issues and societal problems, making them myself or making others work visible, preferably produced through collaborative processes and with first time or small experienced people, because doing it contributes to all I said. And of course, because I know there are many other young Javierxs out there, regardless where they are and which social class they belong to, that are dreaming in secret to find why the world they know, the world they have been taught, feels so unright to them.
What drives you to give back?
Before getting into it, I must say that all my living, work and social contributions rely on a strong central conviction, that sharing love is the only really relevant vital decision we humans can embrace. As any other rely either on things above us that we can’t control, or on things that are purely pragmatic and/or materialistic and depend on a relativist and many times biased understanding. Actually, love is a universal concept and, regardless it has different acceptations, either the more individualistic approaches can’t deny the fact that “everybody needs somebody”, like the song said.
So, I take a step forward from that, adding that I think these “somebody” are usually the ones felt as equals and close, and that only ignorance and prejudice is what makes us to feel others as unequal and unclose. This is why, as I said in the previous question, I keep on using audiovisuals to show other realities and points of view, fostering diversity as our main treasure it is and unmasking prejudices as much as I can.
That said, giving back is for me not only a way of expressing my love and care for all the living beings who habitate this planet, but also a way of being grateful about all what I received through my entire life, and also a political statement that tries to counteract and overcome the ones that theorice and practice against it, who not coincidentally are mainly the ones that own more privileges or the ones that are taught and convinced by the latter to support their privileged way of living. Giving is one of the finest expressions of love.
What is the most meaningful part of your job?
As I’m related to socials through audiovisuals in many ways, for example as producer, filmmaker, essayist, theorist, programmer, educator, activist, cultural agent and manager, etc, there are many particular outcomes in each discipline that are meaningful for me. Anyway, as all of them are related in many ways, I can summarize the most meaningful parts of my work in four points.
First of all, in an intimate way, exploring audiovisual disciplines means deepening my love for this medium, as a spectator who experiences and as an agent who contributes, and this is something that really fulfills me in many ways, both emotional and intellectual. And although it should never be generalized, as there are well-known examples of the opposite, most of the colleagues I’ve met all these years work from a passionate relationship with the medium. It is definitely a work that requires a vocation, especially when you focus on projects more related to social outcomes than materialistic success, although the challenge is always to achieve both, of course.
On the other hand, thinking about audiovisuals discipline as a whole, it is also meaningful for me how it makes possible to put the humanist commitment into practice. The fact is that audiovisuals, like any other human activity, have a footprint on history and society, and that's why an ethical vision of its practice becomes important to be stated and meaningful to be achieved. And I'm not just talking about the artistic and discursive side, of support for authorship, alternative stories and diverse perspectives, each of them very important indeed, but also about how we put everything into practice, which dynamics and which practices we're fostering, not only in the professional audiovisual industry but also in amateurs and other individuals who approach this discipline.
It’s also very meaningful for me when I success in creating or supporting projects that create participatory dynamics different from the common established ones, where the transformation can become more present in the "how" than in the "what". In short, it is important for me to not only claim audiovisuals as an art, but at the same time as a tool for promoting diversity, understanding and solidarity. This is why sharing it and making it a statement is also a very meaningful outcome for me. And regarding this vision, I would like to add that, as audiovisual is a massive tool of expression and education, I think we urgently need to do a conjoint deep thought on the world we are building through images. Because if human existence, for more and more people each day, means nowadays to dedicate so many hours to this medium, it would be necessary to analyze the content we are creating and making visible to fill these lives and, with that, to know what value we are giving, as a society, to that existence.
The third main meaningful outcome of my work has to do with experiencing my philosophy of living with an altruistic and mutual support will, meaning that every action I decide to take has to not only benefit me but also try to benefit the rest in some way -or at least not inducing them any handicap-. The more the better. And to create shared paths of exploration and self-growth. Following this, I experience all I do with audiovisuals as a way of helping others, to make their ideas and dreams come true, or to contribute to their learnings, explorations/expressions of creativity and self-growing. And equally meaningful is that, at the same time I share these dreams, or explore & develop these thematics and learnings, or support others ideas and projects, I actually dream and live them too, getting involved as much as possible and working together. Following this, talking about mutual support and shared effort concepts, I defend the idea of the co-authorship of all the people who participate in a creation, because they all contribute with their vision from the responsibility they have in a certain area. This also applies to perceiving myself as a co-author of the works I produce, and the projects I participate in, knowing very well what each one's role is, which also varies a lot in each space, because it depends on many human factors, but always relying on trust, complicity, respect and humility.
Finally, the fourth main meaning outcome of my work is about my personal growth, both on an experiential, emotional, educational and spiritual level. Each project means to delve into very interesting themes, to explore other (and other's) worlds, and to experience very enriching, enlightening and exciting thematics and personalities. An opportunity to give the best of yourself while making a shared path with very interesting, very creative and very committed people who have a lot to say. And an opportunity to discover and highly increase your knowledge and perspectives on very diverse topics and themes.
How does one strive to live a life of service?
It depends on how much time you want to dedicate to live a life of service, that of course depends at the same time on how much time you want to dedicate to other meaningful things (family, friends, hedonism, etc) and on how much time you have to dedicate to other obligations such as other tasks and jobs you may need to attend in order to afford your economical needs.
In my case, as I discovered early enough in my life the way I wanted to live with myself, which was then quite different from the canon; and soon afterwards the way I wanted to serve others, that evolved through the years but started strongly committed anyway; I had the possibility to slowly accommodate my adult living and obligations to the way I needed to live in order to make it possible. Sometimes in a fully conscious way, other times by pure intuition, and other times -the least, but also crucial- by mere luck. In my case, always with audiovisuals in the center.
On the materialistic side, it meant to establish time and economical strategies that allowed me to develop my service career. And beyond the fact that, in the very beginning, I remember myself many times jumping days without sleeping because I was enthusiastically engaged with exploring and learning audiovisual techniques all night long (a classic behavior of adolescent people, specially who at the same time have to study or work during the day), it’s also true that “for the cause” work has always been a central part of my life since then, prioritizing it over other types of works whose only possible reward is just money and nothing else than that. How has this been possible? Due to different things, of course, but in the next paragraphs I will state which are for me the most crucial ones.
First of all, striving hard in the early years to learn about the audiovisual discipline and making it my main and only profession. This helped a lot, as all my professional ecosystem (knowings, resources, contacts, etc), has been always key for my life of service, because it has been developed, as I said, through the same discipline, the audiovisuals. And moreover, although my next point depends mainly on your luck and a little bit on your strategy, I also managed as a professional to only accept works that don't represent a contradiction to my values, something I'm especially proud of. About this last thing, it probably helped that, as I started my audiovisuals career when I was still studying at university, living with my parents, I had a comfortable position from where to accept or refuse to possible works, something that contributed a lot to create a brand of me as someone specialized only in certain kind of works, the ones that I liked to do.
Secondly, maximizing the available time for a life of service means to minimize the other kinds of work. And although the perfect balance is to achieve all the incoming you need throughout the works you do towards "the cause", the nature of this “good work”, which many times is essentially related to non materialistic retributions, usually makes it very difficult to obtain that balance, at least at 100%. So, in my case, as it is for many colleagues I know, the way to go was to depend the less you can on that other work, which is the work that fills your economical needs (which in my case, as I said, keeps on audiovisuals and so adds to the strategy). This is why I decided a long time ago to prescind from many superfluous things, living a humble life which is far from being a precarious life, just the opposite! As I feel I have everything I need… and more, as I actually know that there are even more superfluous things I can still get rid of if needed. In fact, I am usually perceived as someone that has a successful and plentiful life, and I think it is true, because I live my vocation (which means all the meaningful things I said previously), I’m loyal to my ideology (which is meaningful in itself) and I’m free from having big slaving needs.
That said, as everybody is constrained by their own reality, because the social conditions matter a lot, and for the purpose of making this shared life experience useful for those who are going to read this, I feel important to remember once more what I said in the first paragraph, that I’m the son of a proletarian family in a humble neighborhood of Barcelona, adding that everything I’ve done and I have comes of my work, always obtained because of what I have learnt and what I’m able to do, and my luck, sometimes searched sometimes not. Of my work, my luck and, of course, because of the people that are around me, to whom I devote the next paragraph below. And yes, for the said analysis purpose,
it’s important too, to say that I’m a white man from Spain, far from the richest countries in Europe, but still Europe, so the way my life was, and it is, has been also possible due to the privileges someones made to exist at the expense of others, privileges that I definitely inherited when I was born. This is something very present in my way of thinking about my responsibility in the world, thus in my will of giving back
Thirdly (and the last one, but not least!), having a strong network of support and caring. Actually this is key for any person, living or not a life of service, both from a personal and a work-related perspective. In a personal way, although the best practice is never to give expecting to receive in return, it is also true that giving is the best way to contribute to the culture of giving, and that means that probably more people will be able and convinced to do the same, giving to you too. I’m convinced about this because it is what I experienced all my life, and this is something that helps a lot, especially when you practice a life based on mutual help and support rather than accumulation of means, making it easier and even more meaningful. Generosity tends to feed back! And it also applies for the work-related perspective, mainly for the same principles, but also because a project made for a good cause always tends to gather the support of other people and structures that believe in its aims and processes, making it better and probably also bigger in its impact and outcomes. Furthermore, most of the times, the more selfless is your participation in a project in terms of what you receive in a materialistic way, the bigger will be the support you will receive, many times giving you back far more than what you would have received with a less selfless approach. Of course, each project is different and your economical needs will influence your strategies, but in my experience, the more you can move towards that direction, the more you will receive sooner or later.
Finally, moving from the materialistic side to the cures perspective and mental health side, just to say that living a life of service is as beautiful as everything I said previously, but let’s say it straight, can also be hard, frustrating and sad many times. Maybe because you could not find the way to express and act according to your ideas; maybe because the way you have to express it is incompatible with your capabilities, your aptitudes or your economical needs; maybe because it’s just a question of bad luck or the people you meet; or maybe because what you want to support, help or change, needs lots of people and years to make the difference. And of course, because being aware of many things that are unright in this world, can hurt you.
For the first four examples, the good news is that everybody can live a life of service, as it is enough just giving as much as you can, without any need to compare yourself to anybody else. Another thing is to achieve doing it in a way that also fulfills your vocation and/or your needs, which are definitely very important things that deserve to be treated separately in a deeper way, but from a strictly life of service approach, I believe that to give everything you can, in the areas that are available for you, is the most you can do, and it's perfect. For the last example, let’s call it “the pain of the consciousness”, the answer is what I said previously in third place; your network of support and caring. And also, of course, having always in mind how slow many historic processes evolve, not to minimize the urgency of what is needed to achieve, but to not lose the enthusiasm and the motivation that keeps you trying to change it and moving forward.
1000 Spotlights: Why We Give reflects our mission of giving back, to mentor and to inspire those around us. Through a series of interview questions, we explore intrinsic motivations behind why we give, and talk with those inclined to make a difference in the lives of others. If you are involved in charitable activities, volunteer and paid academic engagements or in community service, we want to talk to you.
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