Interview: Eduardo Velázquez

Fri, 03/10/2017 - 20:00 -- Sophie
02/17/2017 to 03/19/2017

My name is Eduardo Shlomo Velázquez. I am a painter, performance artist and filmmaker from Santo Domingo living in New York City. I am very excited to present my most recent work at articule in Montreal. As an artist and activist, Quebec has always been a precious place to come as a young artist. If it is not for art, it is for activism or for just simple inspiration. I found myself back over and over again in Montreal, falling in love with winter, the cultural diversity and the contemporary art scene. So, I am honored to have my first solo show in Canada here in Montreal.

I am excited to open the dialogue and talk about postcolonial identity and gender performativity with this exhibition. With this show, I am connecting with my Afro-Caribbean counterparts in Quebec, and exploring how our bodies translate in our cities. Like a good old friend said: “Different bodies, different knowledge.”

What about camp aesthetic makes it the best way to render your work?

My artwork has very theatrical and performative observations on how the queer body, and how this entity is constructed. Thinking about camp, two things come to my mind: the usage of the word subversive in Sontag’s work and John Waters. In many ways, I address the dissident of my own body, as a subject of 500 years of colonial activity, and its formation as a new being, a drag of many European cultures and this information reconfigured in my Black body, in our postcolonial bodies. About John Waters, I just loved him. Isn’t he wild?

There is camp, a camp of violence cultivated in my artwork, I would say. And these characteristics are often hidden behind the exuberance and suggestive imagery in each one of my paintings, films or performative work. 

Your work presents a variety of medium: Are each important to what you chose to depict / present?

It depends on the idea that I am looking to interpret. There is a translation happening when I decide to move a visual idea from painting to film. Painting is a very honest medium and information can be processed in a more intimate way. There is a relationship with  the medium of painting and its subjecthood; particularly when you are using your image (self-portrait) as the main subject in the majority of your artwork. Then, painting becomes more of an explicit exploration of the elasticity of my gender (defined within the binary world), the history of painting itself and my understanding of body politics present in the narrative of the postcolonial identity  and its fantasies. There is a desire of belonging to an ideal reality expressed in my paintings and photographs. The spaces depicted in my work show an alternative of time, memory, history and, above all, beauty.

Video and performance art are more immediate mediums. I believe the tension and curiosity to explore these themes, make me take the artwork outside 2D form to public spaces. I re-visit popular culture staples from my childhood. For example, I have a performance piece called “And God created a Woman,” inspired by the French film by Roger Vadim starring Brigitte Bardot. I filmed this project in Ontario at an empty field during winter. I watched the film for the first time when I was 12 years old. I remember the film so vividly, the role of the female body, and the ideal of beauty mixed with sexuality represented by BB. The visual representation of the female body in this film (and 60s, 70s French cinema) carved many of my ideals of beauty. I reproduced one of the scenes in a standing pose for an hour in the video art. I love BB in the film, but I also understand that what she represented could never be me, or that I would never have the cultural agency to represent this system because I was not French, white and had good hair. I grew up in the Caribbean, where these conflicts about body representation and ideal beauty are always contested by the colonizer and their ideals, even still today. Let’s never forget the colonial history of France, Spain and many other European countries and how they influenced and helped to shape (through violence and fire) the ideals and never achievable #postcolonial body. Maybe there is still some justice in the defense of ‘the booty.’ 

In film, I premiered my first film titled GUAO in a queer festival in London not long ago. Films are magic. Experimenting in this new medium has helped me to connect with a broader audience. I enjoy the impromptu style of mumblecore and guerrilla style filmmaking. 

What are clear differences in "the body" in the Caribbean and the Bronx?

Well, the Caribbean body is clearly transformed based on its geographical location. In Diaspora settings, the spaces become smaller and the body must find new meaning within a new culture. In the case of the RRS series, in the Bronx or even in Montreal, the bodies are trying to find ways to belong. Therefore, each body becomes a microcosm of the elements that once upon a time matter to represent beauty and identity. This construction is queer because the visual elements are not attached to after and before, but to a later. This immediacy is depicted in the female body presented in the RRS - Yankee Bombers photographs. Hair, technology, youth and the sofa covered in plastic are some of the staples of immigrant cultures when they start familiarizing with North America and/ or any dominant culture.

Where does the title come from, and why in the hashtag format?

The topics analyzed and flushed in my paintings, video art, and photographs explore the episodes of my Caribbean origins and diasporic reasoning seen in the images presented at the exhibition titled #postcolonialbooty. Hashtags are an easy way to convey information nowadays. Information that could be specific to a subject, culture, country or chapter in history. #postcolonialbooty is not only addressing the violence of gender formation in the Caribbean, but presenting a visual map where these identities are traced to a real space: digital, geographic and historical. Creating an archive of symbols and different fantasy strategies in which the female (or what is seen as female) body is displayed, consumed, dreamed, and even loved.  

Project(s): 
Participating artists: 
Eduardo Velázquez (New York)
Credits: 
Courtesy of the artist

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