In anticipation of the collective's upcoming show at Godberd on December 22, we asked the wonderful members performing Eros to introduce themselves and their practice. Eros is...
"Inspired by the history of the Cabaret Voltaire, and contemporary performance evenings such as NYC’s Incarnata Social Club, this simple informal event aims to provide accessibility to a variety of performance aesthetics while bringing together international and local artists in an environment of open exploration. Through a combination of visual projections, drag, spoken word, ritualistic gestures and song, EROS investigates various manifestations of desire and how they relate to identity and personal politics. EROS seeks to examine how desire can alternately be used as a weapon, a life preserver, and as fuel for resistance in times of political threat. Eros is a touring event that will take place in Toronto, Montreal and Chicago. It combines works by international and local artists such as Santiago Tamayo Soler (Montreal), Marie Ségolène (Montreal), Catie Rutledge (Chicago), Vicente Ugartechea (Texas), Holly Timpener (Toronto) and more.
1. Can you introduce yourself and your creative practice?
Marie: I am an interdisciplinary performance artist. My work takes on many forms: video, photography, bookmaking and writing but I am also interested in curation - specifically of live performance. In my own work, am interested in fragmenting historical narrative. Weaving confessional writing, fiction and scientific research to mythology in order to deconstruct narratives of violence within history.
Santiago : I was born in Bogotá, in 1990, in a middle-class right wing catholic family. My father is a retired soldier and my mother: a frustrated dentist, who decided to stop her career in order to dedicate all her time to her kids. I grew up in a world ruled by macho culture, where being feminine was almost a sin. I was able to leave Colombia in 2010, when I moved to Buenos Aires to study film direction. Being immersed in a film industry community taught me about the power of the image and of fictional narratives. In 2015, I moved to Montréal and discovered performance. This has allowed me to expand the cinematographic framework I was familiar with into live action and video installation, empowering queer narratives through ritualistic practices.
Catie: My name is Catie Rutledge and I was born in 1992, in Alexandria, Virginia. In 2011, as I was graduating high school and entering college, my father shot himself behind my family’s house. My father's suicide led me to create from private feelings and experiences, and to embrace intensity as a starting point. I investigate my relationship to myself and to others, my relationship to my own body, and to definitions of femininity. Rituals of femininity - putting on makeup, wobbling in heels - and the abjection of the female body are topics I continually return to. My work takes shape as painting, text, video, and performance. Mostly recently I have been exploring the space of the teenage bedroom as a site of trauma and self-discovery. Within my reimagined teenage bedroom, My Chemical Romance can exist alongside Prince; my past and present selves coming into contact with one another. Obsession is important in this work, as well as the possibility of feeling.
Aram: I’m a diasporan Armenian performance artist born in Cambridge, MA and based in Yerevan, Armenia. In my recent work, I’ve been using heavy construction materials to intervene with ethnically incongruous domestic objects which are eroticised, anthropomorphized, dismantled and reassembled, to explore the possibility and consequences of revising, ’evicting’, and demolishing certain ancestral narratives/traumas while elevating others. Lately, I’m interested in making work that emerges from the no-place at the center of queer diasporan identity.
Vicente: I come from a very humble background, a first generation Mexican-American that was born on the border of the US and México where I lived my infancy in a house with dirt floors. Raised by a single mother who taught herself English and worked up to three jobs in order to survive, I learned how to fight against and thrive in the face of a world actively working against us. The primary focus of my work is rooted in defining and redefining issues that subsist within marginalized identities. Drawing from personal narrative, I explore landscapes of constructed normativities, ethnocentrism, and privilege through various mediums such as performance, video, and installation. In dissecting these topics, I able to question the binaries of gender, sexuality, race and the sociopolitical structures that inhabit them.
2. Godberd events are collaborative endeavors. What are your thoughts on the importance and/or benefits of collaboration? What is your vision of an ideal community?
Marie: My work is highly collaborative in a sense, most of my video productions happen with a team. Santiago and I have been performing together for a little over a year now and have developed an exchange in both of our practices that largely informs the direction we are both moving towards with EROS.
EROS is not so much a collaboration as an attempt to create a conversation and an international community between artists that work in the same medium. I strongly believe that it is crucial for artists to come together. The system has made it such that it is difficult for artists to unionize, to get proper compensation and/or legal protection in relation to their labor. We are constantly reminded of the competition. It is a form of resistance than to come together and support each other through a network of resources and creative dialogue. Also, in times of political tensions, it is our responsibility to be conscious of what it means to have access to an audience and how we use our voice. It is important to give and receive criticism and to be generous with those who do not have access to the same platforms -collaboration and collective work allow for those exchanges to happen.
Santiago: I came to understand the power of collaborative efforts while working for different film productions. A film won’t work unless each piece of the mechanism works properly together, same with performance. An ideal community would be one that allows all of its members to actively participate for a common goal, without privileging any voice over another.
Catie: I can’t seem to make anything without talking it through with someone, and I think the best ideas are the ones that terrify you. Working with other people provides support, an active exchange of ideas, and someone to call you on your bullshit. An ideal community is one full of people who push you and inspire you; people who want you to be your best self. I absolutely hate the idea of a dog-eat-dog art world and work to surround myself with people who look out for each other.
Aram: I come from a theater background so collaborating has always been a natural thing for me. Though my solo practice is really important to me, I always jump at the chance to work with people who share similar sensibilities and chew on problems together, travel together, play together. I think an ideal creative community has first class communication skills....the ability to communicate intuitively and read minds is ideal too.
3. So how was the process of coming together on your current project and can you tell us a bit about the project itself?
Marie: EROS came together very organically, I kept seeing a parallel between the works of friends at home and then at SAIC. I have been also thinking a lot about how performance operates in transit, while traveling. How does a performance evolve, changes and is translated in various settings - from the studio to a traditional gallery space through a nightlife experience?
EROS cannot exist at GODBERD in the same way as it will at 8ELEVEN or PROJET PANGÉE and that is exciting. Our practices all address desire in a way - the frustrations, longing, shame, regret, taboos etc. The iteration of EROS we have prepared for GODBERD will be immersive, provocative and multisensorial. I hope that people will walk into the room and feel like they are traveling into a part of their subconscious.
4. What are some frustrations you have with the art world, or injustices, and how have you sought to contribute in order to create positive change and/or who are some your favourite artists who are actively working on this front?
Santiago: Multiple times while in Montréal, I have received comments about how my work should include text in Spanish or more Latin-American themes, even if most of the audience won’t understand the content due to the language barrier. As if being a Latino artist only allowed me to discuss certain issues, without having a chance to go outside of a frame defined by racial profiling. It seems that in the process of prioritizing accessibility, the art world at times reinforces a vulgar search for exoticism.
Catie: One of my main frustrations with the art world is the aura of competition that surrounds it. I have this belief that if I am not working in the studio until midnight every night, going to every opening, and meeting everyone that I am behind, that I don’t care enough. This way of living only seeks to destroy me: it provides no room for reflection, self-care, and healing. One of the hardest things I have had to do while in grad school is to acknowledge that I am still grieving my father's death and that it is okay to grieve. How do I participate in the art world but still take care of myself?
Aram: I think art is best when it spills out into the world around it, makes ripples in communities, isn’t precious, can laugh at itself even. I try to use artmaking as activism in my work whenever I can. A recent durational piece I made in Armenia during the US election involved building a formally useless wall of concrete blocks over 4 days...visitors were asked to pay for it and the money was given to a local support center for victims of domestic abuse once the wall was finished. I think the painter Mark Bradford is doing a fantastic job with using art to create positive change in a sincere and effective way. Whether in his hometown of LA or in Venice for the Biennale, he’s working with prisoners, empowering people through art and entrepreneurship, really inserting himself into underprivileged communities and making a difference whenever he gets the chance. He insists that the art world is not separate from the ‘real’ one and shouldn’t pretend to be. He’s a rockstar and I wish he was my fairy godmother.
Vicente: There are a lot of problems within the art world and its institutions, namely because it’s inherently married to a Western cis, male, capitalist, white supremacist history and ideology. Things are slowly changing but it makes me wonder whether any real impact is made when other’d identities enter into these privileged spaces. Do we continue to perpetuate the system that excludes and at times tokenizes us (like Santiago mentioned earlier) by participating in them? Or are we disrupting the structure and reinventing the manner in which marginalized identities maneuver within it by infiltrating the space. Audre Lorde once said “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house“ but then again, Ani Difranco sang “Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.”
As an interdisciplinary artist, I try to engage the art world on many levels in order to make a change: I perform, object-make, teach, curate, and am an activist. Recently, I specifically made a painting about colonialism for Rise from the Rubble, a fundraiser/art auction raising relief aid in México and Puerto Rico.
I look up to Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Audre Lorde, Angela Davis, Gloria Evangelina Anzaldú, and José Esteban Muñoz. Artists in their own respective form, existing inside and out the institution.
5. What is something that invariably cheers you up when you inevitably get down in this bleak human world?
Marie: Tender touch, wine and poetry.
Santiago: A good coffee never fails me.
Aram: Dance parties.
Vicente: I turn to drag queens because I find inspiration in their ability to construct complex visual narratives with a blend of humour, costume, and performance . The worlds they create are those of fantastical possibilities, that of excess and beauty, in which one can’t help but to feel like they exist within a Pierre et Gilles dream written by John Waters and MC’d by a saucy Liza Mellini.
Catie: I open up the Photobooth application on my computer, put on a song that’s been stuck in my head, and dance to it/sing to it. The more cliche the song, the better.
6. What song have you listened to most in the past 30 days?
Aram: I think it must have been Bjork’s “the gate” when the rest of the album wasn’t released yet.
Vicente: I have been listening to Kevin Aviance’s Cunty on repeat. If you enjoy feeling like a powerful cunt, then this song is for you.
EROS will feature music sets by Filthy Blue