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CREATIVE CULTURE & ARTIVISM ISSUE 11 / SUMMER-AUTUMN 2017


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ISSUE 11 / SUMMER-AUTUMN 2017 EDITORS IN CHIEF

Charlotte Specht & Guille Lasarte MARKETING & ADVERTISING

Mario Rueda mario@bookastreetartist.com COPY EDITOR

Charlotte Kench PROJECT INTERN

Joana Sequeira CONTRIBUTORS

Roxanne Goldberg, Rita García Ojanguren, Manuel Schamberger, Sidney King, Clara Cabrera, AWGTF, Camille Charlier, JOS*, Pepper Levain, Anita SenGupta, Avram Finkelstein, Michelle McSwain, Mara Silvério, Matthew Coleman, Renee Carmichael, Andrea Servert Alonso-Misol, Emma Brown, Samir Abchiche, Rbaha Slimani FEATURING

Monira Al Qadiri, Afojubá Berlin, Dulk, AWGTF/Black Hole Berlin, Ana Maria Guerra, JOS*, ReveRso, St+art India, Avram Finkelstein, Sinziana Velicescu, Innerfields, Yslem Hijo del Desierto SPECIAL THANKS

Sophie Smeets, Janielle Williams, Roberta Conrad, Fabiola Legrain Sanabria PRINTER

MEDIALIS Offsetdruck GmbH Heidelberger Str. 65/66 12435 Berlin, Germany PUBLISHER

Book a Street Artist Taborstraße 4 10997 Berlin, Germany info@bookastreetartist.com www.bookastreetartist.com ISSN 2509-842X www.pantamagazine.com panta@bookastreetartist.com

Cover photo by Sinziana Velicescu Back cover photo by Pepper Levain


LETTER FROM THE EDITORS

“If you manage to grab someone’s attention, then please seize that moment to get your point across.” Time and time again, we find ourselves returning to the wise words of artist duo Herakut whom we interviewed a few years ago. It’s a sentiment that’s increasingly relevant in our visually saturated society, replete with nonsense that infiltrates and occupies our physical and technological landscape. From our social feeds to our daily commute, we have slowly become accustomed to the constant vying for our attention, mostly only to find meaningless messages of ostentation and consumption. So, for the work of an artist to not only grab our attention amidst this relentless optic

noise but also to expand our awareness of broader world matters and social issues, is nothing short of remarkable. Once again, we have been very lucky to collaborate with a group of wonderful artists to make a collection of inspiring works in beautiful print form. From bathing in crude oil and 3D printed coral reefs, to the first Sahrawi rapper and the artivist responsible for some of the most influential images from the HIV/AIDS movement, we are thrilled to be able to draw your attention to the work of some truly inventive and provocative artists. Amidst the sensory overload, these creative minds really have their work cut out for them.


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I S S U E 11 / C O N T E N T S

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Afojubá Berlin Berlin-based Brazilian musician João Alencar and his band mates use traditional Brazilian rhythms to teach and interact with the community.

Black Hole Berlin Artist collective AWGTF interviews one of the participants of their transmedia project that explores the theme of ‘the vulnerable artist’.

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Layers Upon Layers Artist Pepper Levain photographs and chats with the Chilean artist ReveRso about his work and his perspective on life as a queer performance artist.

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AIDS 2.0 Renowned artist, activist and writer Avram Finkelstein shares his thoughts on rethinking HIV/AIDs through its images.

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Son of the Desert The story of Yslem Hijo del Desierto, political activist and rapper from Western Sahara fighting for the freedom of the Sahrawi people.

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The colourful world of Book a Street Artist Making art accessible to the world.

Oil and Art Multimedia artist Monira Al Qadiri explores the impact of oil on the world and her own vanishing relationship to it.

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Dulk A mystic ride into the mind of Spanish artist Antonio Segura Donat, aka Dulk, where folklore meets fantasy.

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Future Fossils Ecuadorian environmental artist Ana Maria Guerra uses 3D technology to explore climate change and environmental decay. Perra Ahumada Our psychedelic chef shares stories of when he was a young chef in Lisbon as well as a jaw-dropping smoked meat recipe.

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St+art India Street art foundation helping put art on the streets of India as well as in the Indian cultural consciousness.

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On the Periphery LA-based photographer Sinziana Velicescu explores the traces of human intervention on the natural landscape.

Innerfields Berlin-based artist collective examines the theme of ‘the digital as the new religion’ in their canvas and mural work.


Deep Float installation (2017)


MULTIMEDIA

Words by Roxanne Goldberg Photos courtesy of Monira Al Qadiri In 2013, Men’s Journal rated Azerbaijan’s Naftalan ‘oil spa’ as one of the year’s ‘Best Summer Adventures’. Bolstering the indulgence with anecdotes of gorging on sturgeon caviar, the author remarked how bathing in crude oil inspires sentiment of the great oligarchs of yesteryear. It is therefore fitting that images of steely men neck-deep in baths of petroleum are creative catalysts for Monira Al Qadiri. A current artistin-residence at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, Monira confronts a world where the exalted dominance of petroleum is slowly evaporating. Monira attempts to answer the question “what’s next?” with an imperial-style, claw-footed roll-top bathtub filled with a substance the consistency and color of coagulated oil. Two black hands reach upwards in a gesture that could be interpreted as a humorous “Look Ma, No Hands” or a desperate SOS. For Monira, who earned her PhD from Tokyo University in 2010, the range of possible interpretations makes the artwork a success. Entitled Deep Float, the installation, which earlier this year exhibited at Stroom Den Haag in The Hague and ACUD MACHT NEU in

Berlin, elicits concern about the environment and climate change while simultaneously confronting deeply personal questions about what it means to become irrelevant. As Monira explains, “[Oil is] part of my being in the world and it’s not going to last so what’s going to happen when it dies? It’s this existential thing.” Monira describes her oeuvre, which less than a decade in the making is impressively profuse as it is materially diverse, as a self-portrait. Born in 1983, Monira was seven years old during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Her memories of the violent occupation are a blur of loud noises and creative activity encouraged by her artist mother and music-loving father. While Monira is much more than her formative years, her experiences during the First Gulf War make her acutely aware of the invisible force oil exerts on everyday life, not just on Gulf residents, but on people worldwide. As Monira sees it, bathing in oil is the future post-petrol. It’s a world where oil has not disappeared, but has instead lost its value. Its use as a therapeutic treatment is no longer a luxury reserved for magnates, but rather a ‘summer adventure’ for Western tourists.

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SUBJECT


NAME OF ARTIST

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Above, photos by Tony Elieh: Spectrum 1 (2016), series of six wall-mounted sculptures Below: Deep Float (2017) installation


Monira compares the historic trajectory of oil to that of coal, which U.S. President Trump has vowed to save despite the industry’s irredeemable decline. While Trump metaphorically puts coal on a pedestal, Monira literally memorializes today’s fuel de jour as a statue. In 2014, she erected Alien Technology, a massive public sculpture in the form of a glowing iridescent oil drill, in Dubai’s heritage district. Like Deep Float, Alien Technology embodies the dichotomous passions of loving and loathing. The first fuels tension between the salubrious and the cancerous, while the second elicits both wonder

and oppression. Such attempts to incarnate an allconsuming fixation is Monira’s primary motivation. When discussing her quest to “become the art”, Monira refers to the highly influential author, poet and film director Yukio Mishima, who romanticized kamikaze suicide missions and samurai principles in many of his prolific writings. In 1970, he “became his own obsession” by committing ritual suicide in the mode of the samurai known as harakiri. While his final expression was extreme, Monira acknowledges the nobility in Mishima’s desire to become the object of his obsession. She further points to the inability


MULTIMEDIA / MONIRA AL QADIRI

Monira’s perspective offers a fresh alternative to the cult of happiness. Instead of celebrating smiles and condemning tears, Monira finds beauty in tragedy. All photos on spread by Tony Elieh: Spectrum 1 (2016), series of six wall-mounted sculptures, 20x20cm each

to separate sadness from joy in infatuations, as in all other aspects of life. As she says with affable laughter, “When you feel sorry for yourself, at some point it feels ridiculous.” Monira’s perspective offers a fresh alternative to the cult of happiness. Instead of celebrating smiles and condemning tears, Monira finds beauty in tragedy. She seeks to make the entire emotional spectrum available in her artworks by making a clear idea “foamy”. Her artworks, like her PhD thesis, explore the aesthetics of sadness in the Middle East. While she doesn’t seek to create humorous artworks, she is satisfied when viewers do experience humour upon viewing them as their laughter opens up the pieces for more serious discussion of sometimes sombre topics.

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MULTIMEDIA / MONIRA AL QADIRI

Monira’s aesthetic retains an analogue quality that reflects her interest in the hand-drawn video games and Arabic-dubbed Japanese cartoons that consumed her 1980s childhood.

Deep Float and Alien Technology are good examples of this reaction, as is DIVER, a proposed, but not yet realized artwork, in which synchronized swimmers perform a choreographed routine in a pool appeared to be filled with oil. Despite the Martian slickness of oil and the polished surfaces of her sculptural works, Monira’s aesthetic retains an analogue quality that reflects her interest in the hand-drawn video games and Arabic-dubbed Japanese cartoons that consumed her 1980s childhood. Spectrum 1 & 2, for example, are wall-mounted sculptures inspired by oil drill heads. Though made with a 3D printer, the works appear as two-dimensional anime pushing through a technicolour screen. The human touch in these alien objects is more subtle than in Monira’s earlier video works, in which simple props and amateur make-up forged a direct relationship between the work and the viewer. Monira’s practice has since evolved with a finesse that lends the pieces not so much a glossy sheen, as a reflective patina. Her more recent works remain part of her ongoing autobiography. However, instead of turning inward, they look outward to investigate the past and contemplate the future. In doing so, the works

become increasingly accessible and evermore public. They begin to stand as reminders of a shared legacy. On the heels of exhibitions in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Germany, the Netherlands and, most recently, a performance as part of Kunstenfestivaldesarts in Brussels, 2017 is slated to be busy for Monira. She has been chosen alongside such blue chip names as Ai Weiwei, Monica Bonvicini and Alicja Kwade to collaborate with Murano glassblowers for Glasstress, a collateral event of the 57th Venice Biennale. Her solo show at Gasworks in London, opening on July 13th, uses alien abductions, grand diplomatic rituals and other cultural tropes of the 1980s to investigate the collapse of the imperial United States and the rise of political populism. Whether in the form of glass or sound, Monira’s upcoming works will ask the international art goer to consider her a part of a shared legacy of veiled structures as they are intertwined with global economies and shifting cultural identities. These works are part of, but not limited to, Monira’s ever-growing self-portrait. They also narrate the historical consequences we’ve all inherited and envision one of many possible futures we will eventually live. ∆

Photos opposite: Alien Technology (2014), a public sculpture erected in Dubai's heritage district

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MUSIC

AFOJUB Á B ER LIN : transforming traditional Brazilian rhythms Words by Rita García Ojanguren Photos by Manuel Schamberger

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wice a week, in a small room near Warschauer Straße in Berlin, a group of adults from a wide range of ages and nationalities meet to learn and play traditional Brazilian maracatu music. It’s become a kind of ‘energetic therapy’ for them, a place where they can go and forget about everything else for a couple of hours. If you’ve ever seen or heard maracatu drumming, you’ll know that the physical dedication required to produce these pounding and entrancing rhythms doesn’t make much space for sorrow. The group, Afojubá Berlin, is lead by three Brazilian musicians who met in the German capital through a series of fruitful coincidences. João Alencar, Felippe Gusmão and Mariano Sena da Costa have since turned their passion for sharing their native

culture into a meaningful profession. Although they come from very different career paths – João is a professional musician, Felippe studied Biomedicine and Mariano holds a PhD in Communicationsf– the three were united over their shared intimate relation with Brazilian culture. Their relationship developed spontaneously thanks to their shared love of music and it soon evolved into a network of music enthusiasts and good friends. As a kid growing up in the early 90s in the chaos of Recife, João sold popcorn and candy at traffic lights and lived in a favela where food was sometimes scarce and going to school a privilege not always guaranteed. He spent most days by the roads, singing songs with the other sales-kids and making music with whatever object they had in their hands to sell for a few reais.

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SUBJECT

In contrast with the vertical hierarchy typically seen in the classroom, the teachers at AfojubĂĄ Berlin believe in more inclusive instructing paradigms and enjoy working within a broader and more humane definition of education. Below: JoĂŁo Alencar teaching a child how to play the drums


NAME OF ARTIST

It was at the age of thirteen that João first had access to a safe place to pursue theatre, sport, travel and music through the NGO Movimento Pró-Criança, which is still in operation today, and especially thanks to the work of pedagogue Carlos Eduardo Calucha. The rhythmic pieces they were taught there required at least five percussive elements, therefore the construction of a group was an essential part of making music. It was at Movimento Pró-Criança that he learnt about the history of maracatu, an AfroBrazilian rhythm soaked in the country’s history of slavery and colonialism, which is something that he teaches in Berlin today. Years later, in 2006, João went on to form the maracatu group Afojubá Batuque in Recife. After a long period

of strong local participation in the Pernambucan popular culture scene and becoming involved in social projects for children with disabilities, he relocated the spirit of his maracatu group to Germany. It is with João’s experiences as a student in mind that Afojubá Berlin’s approach to teaching began to take shape. According to João, it was through “observing, experimenting, listening, touching, relating to the stories and asking questions,” that he learnt everything he knows and is therefore how he teaches today. In contrast with the vertical hierarchy typically seen in the classroom, the teachers at Afojubá Berlin believe in more inclusive instructing paradigms and enjoy working within a broader and more humane definition of education.

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The group’s teaching methods draw heavily on Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, a liberating approach to teaching without hierarchy, in which authority is irrelevant and forgiveness is valued over punishment.


MUSIC / AFOJUBÁ BERLIN

Above: Mariano Sena da Costa plays along with the rhythm of the student

Today, they teach percussion and music in four schools across Berlin, including groups of children in situations of vulnerability such as youngsters with autism as well as refugees, some of who arrived in Germany only a few months ago and even some who arrived alone. Connection and belonging are two outstanding values in their work that facilitate physical interaction and a sense of partnership among the youth by giving them the space to rely on both. The group’s teaching methods draw heavily on Paulo Freire’s Pedagogia do Oprimido (Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1974), a liberating approach to teaching without hierarchy, in which authority is irrelevant and forgiveness is valued over punishment. It enables them to handle their musical traditions and abilities as a gift that they share willingly in a reciprocal exchange with their students. The results of their inclusive and reciprocal pedagogy are seen in the satisfaction and gratitude expressed by teachers, parents and children alike, but the impact of their lessons becomes tangible above all among their students. “We don’t fully understand how, but we see that it works, and we’re now trying to comprehend the extent of it,” says Felippe about the transformative potential of these deep-rooted traditional rhythms that get children with autism to hold hands and dance.

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Another element to their unconventional teaching method is the value placed on transformation as much as it is on preservation when it comes to engaging the German community with the essence of traditional Brazilian music. The group insists that, “there are elements of tradition that need to change for it to continue.” Northeastern Brazilian music is fundamentally percussive and in their classroom the musical pieces are often referred to by the name of the rhythm that they’re based on rather than songs titles. João suggested Felippe give his students no more than a rhythmic base in a band-project he leads in one of the schools where they teach. That way, the original music’s essence remains and sets the path for new compositions to emerge. Thanks to the work of these musicians,

traditional Brazilian music is adapting overseas to new realities, timbres and elements – a point for transformation where popular music can change and be preserved simultaneously. This nexus between cultural preservation and evolution is just as important today as Afro-Brazilian popular culture still lacks institutional and social recognition. João, Felippe and Mariano believe there is still a lot of work to do on this issue in their home country and they plan on going back one day to continue fighting for it. As Felippe says, “There are elements of tradition that need to change for it to continue. If maracatu hadn’t left the senzala [housing for slaves during the colonisation of Brazil between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries], it would have probably disappeared”.

João Alencar


Felippe Gusmão

This is the manifestation of centuries of unheard history; the testimony of tireless resistance against dominance and how this same spirit is in itself an effective pedagogy.

For here and now, “The music of the people that doesn’t play on the radio, the drums of the slave, of the black, become powerful, cutting-edge tools for the redefinition of education and culture,” says Mariano. This is the manifestation of centuries of unheard history; the testimony of tireless resistance against dominance. It shows the enlightening and liberating power of a culture that has been transmitted throughout generations, learnt by heart and played with drums or popcorn bags. In the recurring irony of those whose roots grow stronger the further away they are from home, this group of friends have found, in a foreign land, a space to express themselves and impact others through their culture. They will surely continue to do so, be it in Brazil or Berlin. ∆


ILLUSTRATION

A Mystic Ride into the mind of Dulk Words by Sidney King Interview by Clara Cabrera Illustrations by Dulk


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A sullen-faced buffalo hovers over a sunset canyon with a heart-shaped hole in its head, from which a red-feathered bird may have sprung. An antlered flamingo migrates across the arctic with a cracked-egg-headed bird on its back. A chubby, blue-nosed polar bear melts under the weight of time and a toucan atop a desolate iceberg on the raging violet seas. A ghost-faced fox and a jigsaw-headed puffin, a banana-fish hybrid and a smiling mushroom, an amputated cactus and a rhino’s icecream horn, an umbrella-headed woman and a log weeping golden tears. Where else would a narwhal jab the heart of a one-eyed cat? Where else could a merigold whale host an entire school of teal green fish? Welcome to Dulk’s universe, born from the surreal imagination of Antonio Segura Donat, in which folklore meets fantasy and an amorphous mass of animals scramble and intertwine with bandaids, bullseyes and bluegreen blood. They are continually steaming, oozing and undulating within the warm amber light of his paint palette. In turquoise and tangerine, sky blue and pastel rouge, Dulk’s animal landscapes are writ large on city walls from Valencia to Vegas, Copenhagen and Krakow, to the delight and curiosity of passers-by. Left: Pursued (Hawaii, 2016) Right: The Threat (Los Angeles, 2016)

Immerse yourself in the poetry of contrasting elements and hidden treasures and you are sure to arrive at the ironic intersection of visual bliss and ecological vulnerability.


Last Chance (Lancaster, 2016)


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In Ontinyent, a small town south of Valencia, Dulk grew up helping his father take care of almost five hundred birds that were reared on their property. It was around this time that his fledgling fascination for animals took flight in the pages of his childhood sketchbook, which served as the creative habitat for his drawings of exotic animals from illustrated encyclopaedias. By the age of eighteen, he was collaborating with local street artists, but when it came time to carve out his next steps, he opted for business school. However, with the encouragement of a good friend, he later withdrew from the course to study illustration and graphic design instead. From jungle expeditions in Costa Rica to his studio near the beach in Valencia’s El Cabañal neighbourhood, the endless layers of Dulk’s work serve as a reflection of both his worldly travels and the various mediums he works across.

It was around this time that his fledgling fascination for animals took flight in the pages of his childhood sketchbook, which served as the creative habitat for his drawings of exotic animals from illustrated encyclopaedias.


You’d be forgiven for indulging in the vibrant aesthetic delights of his murals without diving any deeper, however, his unique visual style is often a vehicle to arrive at some more topical notes: “What I do is create a story based on elements, many elements that are placed inside the art piece, but I don’t like being very direct, so I use pastel and light colours as well some stronger ones that work with them harmoniously. Then you get the viewer’s attention and they think ‘Oh that’s beautiful’ before they realise ‘Oh, that’s what’s going on’.” Looking closer at his works, ‘Pursued’ (Hawaii, 2016), ‘Last Chance’ (Lancaster, 2016), ‘Survivors’ in Luxembourg (2016) and ‘Mystic Ride’ in Las Vegas (2016), these multi-coloured facets are not only eye-catching, they invite us to consider empires build on the extermination of colonized peoples, the looming threat of extinction, the fragile dance of ecology and the plight of endangered marinelife. A ‘mystic ride’ through Dulk’s imagination is a veritable feast for the senses. Immerse yourself in the poetry of contrasting elements and hidden treasures and you are sure to arrive at the ironic intersection of visual bliss and ecological vulnerability. ∆


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Opposite page: Above: Mystic Ride (Las Vegas, 2016) Below: Survivors (Luxembourg, 2016) This page: Above: Lethargy (Hawaii, 2017) Below: portrait of the artist


BLACK HOLE BERLIN: THE VULNERABLE ARTIST


CONCEPTUAL ART

Interview by AWGTF Photos by Camille Charlier

Berlin-based artist collective AWGTF recently launched their transmedia art project Black Hole Berlin that involves screening moving images on the streets, music concerts, guerrilla art and philosophical discussions. In an attempt to shine a light on the importance of vulnerability in life, they interviewed one of the many voice actors involved in the project, who, for the sake of anonymity, will be referred to as ‘B’.

AWGTF: We spent a lot of time on the streets of Berlin documenting street art for the film. Can you describe how you felt getting into that world? You told us that you were surprised at how much art there is out there. B: The way I look at the streets now is completely different. I get lost in awe and wonder about what’s actually happening around me. On one side, there is this sterile world of organized art galleries, hotels and fancy bars opening everywhere, promoting the idea that a good feeling is something you have to consume. On the other side, there’s all these fucked up places with street art, inviting you to explore a world that hasn’t yet been sucked in by savvy businessmen. There’s so much one loses in trying to be perfect or to just make money. When I look back at my career, I realize I felt slightly brainwashed by a system that was so vulnerable in itself. People are compensating their own fears and lack of touch with so many selfish strategies. So much of my own success, though, was due to me playing a sex symbol. I was a product that could sell easily. I enjoyed the ride for a while, until I found myself crying at the most unexpected times. I hope those street artists that get famous don’t forget where they came from. To make art and not give a fuck about money is really liberating.

A: You’ve played a lot of different roles over the years, including some characters that may not have been what you particularly envisioned. How did you feel about taking on one of the voices of Black Hole Berlin? B: I felt like an artist trying to define what a vulnerable artist is, which is quite mind-blowing. I was already going through hard times in my own life when you approached me. I guess what kick-started this intense journey was that we talked so much about failure while making it. It’s not often you have a chance to express that in the creative process. As an artist you’re always exposed to so many other people’s opinions. I never quite felt complete, even if the criticism was flattering, something was always missing. Even when I accepted awards in the past, I felt like getting drunk afterwards, trying to forget the nonsense around me. When you told me to speak from a vulnerable position that I’ve been ignoring, it seemed almost impossible to try and speak from a place that I don’t know. I still can’t define what a vulnerable artist is but I felt like I was beginning to touch on some kind of accepting position that it’s ok to fail in life.

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A: In Black Hole Berlin, we manipulated your voice to the point where it isn’t recognizable. How do you feel about hearing yourself with a stranger’s voice? B: Since I’m exclusively bound by contract with my acting agency, working with Black Hole Berlin is illegal for me and that’s why I’ve asked to stay anonymous. However, there were moments where I felt like I really wanted to ruin my career because when you begin to really dance with fear, you try to let go of its hand as much as possible. This edge of my chronic conscious reflection into the self may have given birth to a voice of absolute vulnerability, even if it’s just a hallucination. This uncertainty is killing me. I want to make friends with all my pain and to embrace it with all my senses. For a few seconds I felt there were doorways opening. There seems to be a magical place of rhythm and a complete miracle on how things attach themselves to each other on the screen, as well as in my own life. However, one thing left a bad taste. When hearing myself with a male voice, I felt like I had more authority than I did before, and this is completely fucked up when you really think about it. A: So are you upset with us for changing the voice? B: When you told me that AWGTF was an acronym that allowed you to come up with your own phrase, I came up with ‘All Which Grows To Feel’ – and it feels a little like that. I think I’m starting to accept that I’ve been fooling

myself, including so many others who are doing the same thing. I sometimes think I’ve even taken men more seriously than I have women – even men that have much less to say. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think the mask of anonymity really helps to express oneself. Ironically, I’m hiding and yet revealing more of myself at the same time. Maybe that’s something I have in common with street artists. I mean, who are these street artists? We never really know them anyway. You’ll usually assume it’s made by men, but there are lots of female artists out there. AWGTF: One of the main reasons we chose you to be a voice in the film was because you had a profound awareness of the current issues facing society. What are your feelings about people in society today? B: Their faces tell me a lot and even if I don’t want to see it all the time, I see all the emotions they’ve gone through in the day – whether they’re holding back tears or simply remembering that they have to do their laundry when they get home. Maybe I worry too much about others. It’s like my vulnerability is an addiction in a way because I use it as a source of creativity as well. In some ways I’ve also consumed the paranoid voices of artists questioning everything my whole life, but maybe it’s also just a way of avoiding deeper and more personal questions. My obsessions may be destructive, so I’m not sure what to aspire to anymore. I’ve felt like a prostitute so many times, I think it’s a feeling deep down that a lot of people feel. Ironically, people have been so jealous of my role in society. I ask myself, “Why am I trying so hard and what am I bringing to the table? Don’t we have enough of everything already?” I’m definitely caught up in a fake world and I can never really be sure who is my friend or my enemy.


A: Black Hole Berlin explores the friction between the individual’s desires and cultural structures. Do you think the vulnerable artist is trying to walk away from cultural seduction? B: I guess we’re often seduced by the wrong things. However, in some ways it seems that the constant questioning is inherent to the architecture of the vulnerable artist because it creates some sort of friction, almost like a portal that I can’t ignore. With the loosening of norms and rules, you surrender to the unknown. I feel I make contact with vulnerability – it’s not the “I” acting. Maybe this is just my own personal perspective on everything. I wasn’t meant to be a cook, a farmer or an economist, but I could act as one, take on their feelings. As a kid I found myself already being pulled onto the stage, having to perform. The pressure always made me nervous but I took on the challenge to create, not knowing if anyone would understand. It hurt so much when I failed in class and on stage and at home. But I keep telling myself that this is nothing compared to the actual failure of humanity itself and how much destruction has been put in place because of some people’s desires to have their moment in the spotlight. It seems humans are so lost in the desire

towards physical beauty, a cultural obsession that has tilted human existence over the edge. A: So you think you have been forced into playing some sort of life game? B: At first I thought I was going mad with how I viewed reality. I realized I had to play this adult game. Will I ever get used to it? We’re all experiencing this enormous wave of emotions, so I say to myself, “I’m an artist. I’m a vulnerable artist who observes reality in a way that I never could have imagined.” Is this special or is it the ego of an artist self-indulging? I don’t know. I just have to ride that wave, while other people watch it from a safe distance and act like robots. I think every vulnerable artist goes through a journey of crucial internal processes. A: We decided to go out in Berlin and video record a lot of the street art that the city has to offer from the perspective of what we embodied within ourselves – the vulnerable artist. It’s like watching street art while having some sort of mental breakdown, being on a trip, or just having music in your ears, that make you feel slightly more poetic. How did you experience


CONCEPTUAL ART / BLACK HOLE BERLIN

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our synesthetic approach to the exploration of street art instead of choosing an allegedly objective voice, like in other documentaries? B: It seems that the vulnerable artist is channelling a source of another form of recognition. A totally new plain of how this game of input/output works, which tests the nerves of most people. Is it a mental disease or just some incredible experience that I’ll never be able to figure out? I guess nothing is what it seems. Listening more closely to crucial internal processes is really underrated in the cacophony of modern times. Many artists give a voice to this in-between phenomena. It’s a voice of awareness and sadly, it can be abused and undermined by being labelled as ‘spiritual’. I don’t like that word so much, for me it’s a journey with many unanswered questions. An objective voice makes you say to yourself, “Ok these people are telling me exactly how the world is,” but I like to believe that what makes me an artist is that I embrace the unknown. Sort of like street art, which exposes itself to nature and is vulnerable that way. I’m always slightly suspicious of any propaganda or fake news, having good or bad intentions. Art is more of a journey, dealing with a lot of uncertainties. The older I get, the more I see the beauty of vulnerability. I really liked that

you did some kind of cinematic street art with the film on the walls of buildings in Berlin’s gentrified spaces, because people on the streets started telling their own stories, which were beautiful and nostalgic stories about a vanishing city. A: Do you have any advice to people who fear the future? B: I see fascism rising. The exploitation of the world is continuing and art has the power to fight it through civil disobedience. To allow vulnerability is just step one. It’s when we create room to talk about fucked up things that matter. I watch the walls of Berlin and they mirror my own broken heart and fighting voice. Vulnerability is in all of us. Maybe it’s a sensation that comes with a resetting of the ego. I have to get behind what I’ve learnt, because I have a thousand alibis, excuses, apologies and justifications that make me misunderstand things. I suppose it’s healthy to understand that ambivalence and complexity is a part of life. It’s a sign of the times we live in. A world full of information, of new ideas with twists and turns. Accepting chaos and then planning your days and weeks ahead, trying to achieve a good balance of both. Accept that you can’t control it all. We all fear the fast-paced world, but once you trust your own rhythm, a lot will fall into place. ∆


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ENVIRONMENTAL ART

future fossils

Interview by Joana Sequeira Photos courtesy of Ana Maria Guerra


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e seem to be living in a time where climate change is as pressing as it is disputed. From political agendas to environmentalist platforms, we watch as nations are divided by those responding to it with policy change and renewable energy and those that refuse to acknowledge and prepare for the threat it poses. Now, with scientists announcing the death of large sections of the world’s largest reef Have you always engaged with environmental issues system – Australia’s Great Barrier through your art or was this something that developed Reef – it’s not hard to feel helpless over time? in the face of such monumental I have always loved animals. I’m from Quito, Ecuador and when I was a child, my dream was to become a marine environmental decay. Armed with dead coral and a biologist and work in the Galapagos Islands where my 3D printer, Ecuadorian artist grandmother owned a pizzeria. I got distracted along the Ana Maria Guerra is engaging way and ended up becoming a photographer that watches with the tragic news of mass a lot of nature documentaries and lives in a suffocatingly coral bleaching in a decidedly big city – Barcelona. I have always taken photographs of innovative way. Her most recent animals and animal sculptures but when I studied my series of work, Future Fossils MA in Photography at the University of Arts in London, and Virtual Landscapes, engage I had the chance to develop the theoretical framework with the interplay between art behind my work. While carrying out research about my and technology, the many uses subject matter, which was focused on the evolution of of photography and the impact photography, I came across Donna Haraway and several of technological advancement theorists and artists whose ideas revolve around the on the environment. As if the Anthropocene. That’s when I found the link between my theoretical reach of these projects passion for photography and my passion for animals. wasn’t ambitious enough, the artist’s multidisciplinary project What made you focus on dead coral and dying reefs? Future Fossils includes sculpture, Last year, the environmental writer Rowan Jacobsen lead photography, photogrammetry, 3D an obituary for The Great Barrier Reef because it was printing and 3D animation. declared dead after a long illness at the age of 25 million years old. Nevertheless, a group of scientists called the act an exaggeration and claimed that they are pretty confident that there will still be reefs in 2050. Currently, no one questions the fact that corals face a serious danger of extinction since around 70% of the world’s reefs have already disappeared. However, environmental policies are not tough enough to break the trend because economic interests are at stake. I’m pessimistic about the future; it seems that coral extinction is an imminent certainty. My project is a critical view about the use of 3D technologies by scientists in the preservation of corals. We’re trapped in an economic system that conceives of natural resources as merely a source of wealth.

We’re trapped in an economic system that conceives of natural resources as merely a source of wealth.


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How did you come up with the idea of combining corals with cutting-edge 3D technology? Future Fossils was born in the context of studying for my masters, when I was feeling frustrated for not having become a marine biologist and having this love-hate relationship with consumerism and living in big cities. My investigation into 3D technologies led me to a company in Bahrain, which 3D prints artificial reefs to regenerate the marine environment. This was the cornerstone of my project; I was shocked that real corals are disappearing and being replaced by artificial ones. Obviously, these sea structures cannot perform all the functions that real coral reefs contribute to the ecosystem, but they can be used as refuges for sea life to hide from predators. I also discovered that geologists are 3D scanning coral reefs to monitor their degradation and some universities are uploading these files for free download for the community. My sculptures are a mix of those files and dead coral reefs that I bought from an aquarium shop. The fact that it is possible to buy dead corals to decorate a domestic fish tank also shocked me. That, in short, is the story behind Future Fossils. Do you consider yourself an environmental artist? How would you describe your art? I’m interested in the evolution of photography from materiality to virtuality, which has led me to experiment with 3D technologies like photogrammetry and 3D scanners, which I consider a new photographic apparatus. What fascinates me about photography is that it could be considered a metaphor to understand how

the economy has evolved from the industrial revolution to the present. Photography has adopted many roles since its invention. It has been a fundamental tool in scientific fields and a powerful medium to control society. My work aims to analyse the relation between the different uses of photography and the impact of technological advances on nature. Human activities have evolved, depleting natural resources, while technology has been a major factor in the degradation of the ecosystem. I’m not sure exactly how to define what an environmental artist is, but I want to raise awareness about the self-destructive path that we have been imposed to follow, and the devastating impact of that behaviour on other species that cohabit on this planet. On the one hand, you are critical of the impact that technology has had on the environment and at the same time, you rely on technology to make your art. Is this part of your concept and/or paradox? 3D technologies are being used to monitor coral degradation and to regenerate the marine environment. The problem is that technological advances tend to service personal and commercial interests. In many cases, this is to the detriment of the environment. We are leaving behind many other species that are becoming extinct as a consequence of our selfish behaviour. I think that technology could save us if it was harnessed for the greater good. I’m not against technology at all, but I’m concerned that technological developments too often favour the interests of companies whose primary goal is to optimise profit at the expense of the environment.


NAME OF ARTIST

What fascinates me about photography is that it could be considered a metaphor to understand how the economy has evolved from the industrial revolution to the present.

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42 ENVIRONMENTAL ART


ANA MARIA GUERRA 43


44 ENVIRONMENTAL ART

I think that art could motivate real action, becoming the link between society and science.

How does the concept of the ‘Anthropocene’ epoch relate to your work? According to geologists, we have entered the Anthropocene, a new geological age where humans are a major force of change in the ecosystem. Last year, the members of the Geological Congress agreed to establish the beginning of the Anthropocene from 1950. Nevertheless, it has to be ratified by academic bodies who ask for evidence to confirm this statement. There is a considerable body of statistics that clarify the impact of humans on the planet, for factors like fossil fuels, but the Anthropocene Working Group is not allowed to take that data into consideration unless it shows up in geological records. If it cannot be measured in climate proxies such as corals, ice cores, tree rings, sub-fossil pollen, boreholes, lake and ocean sediments, and carbonate speleothems; it doesn’t count. Coral cores are a particularly good candidate for finding evidence in their strata to ratify the Anthropocene. They have annual bands that store relevant information about chemical and physical changes of the waters in which they grew. Nuclear arms testing has been responsible for one of the most significant human imprints on nature. Scientists first identified annual density bands in coral cores from Enewetak Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, which has been associated with the nuclear tests that took place by the United States during the 70s. When I started Future Fossils, I wasn’t aware of all the connections between corals reefs and the Anthropocene, but according to geologists and biologists, they could become the golden spike in the ratification of the Anthropocene.

Could your Virtual Landscapes project be interpreted as an exploration of melting glaciers? I would like to work on a project about melting glaciers, but Virtual Landscapes doesn’t address that issue intentionally. The concept behind that project was to witness the transformation of a natural element like water through different photographic techniques. It was an exercise to connect the materiality of photography using only photosensitive supports and manipulate them afterwards using 3D software. I decided to use ice cubes for their physical properties of light refraction rather than for environmental connotations. When I saw the final outcomes, they reminded me of the abstract images that you can get if you zoom in on Google Earth images. There is a kind of poetry in the fact that they look like digital landscapes when they’re really traces of ice cubes that no longer exist. As you have written in regards to Future Fossils: “We are living in an economic system that knows no limits, strives for exponential growth and has a voracious appetite for trading in the Earth’s natural resources”. In which ways do you think that art dealing with this topic can help people reflect on climate change and motivate real action? I think that art could motivate real action, becoming the link between society and science. I read an article about The Hydrous, a scientific non-profit organisation, whose goal is to create open access to oceans. They combine photogrammetry, 3D printing, virtual reality, and expeditions to track coral health


ANA MARIA GUERRA 45

and share the marine environment through sensory and immersive experiences. The co-founder Sly Lee explained the method they use to register 3D data. The equipment they use (an average underwater camera) is relatively cheap, so any amateur diver could help scientists study the seas. The tourism industry is one of the main causes of climate change, if at least, we could take advantage of diving tourists to contribute with biologists, we could achieve something relevant. Bringing scientific data to the public space, not just art galleries should be the call. When art pieces that deal with environmental issues are simply aesthetically pleasant, they soften the harsh fact that we’re responsible for the degradation of the ecosystem. In my opinion, environmental art should be more educational than aesthetic. ∆ Portrait of the artist

Image from Virtual Landscapes series


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THE PSYCHEDELIC CHEF

PERRA AHUMADA Words, recipe & illustrations by JOS*

Our evolution from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens occurred over millions of years and out of all the physical adaptations the species went through, the one that I’m most fascinated by is the transformation of the jaw. The jaw lost muscle mass and gave way to a weaker jaw, not because it couldn’t adapt, but to give the brain more space to grow. The brain is the organ that requires the most energy and if it needs more energy, it needs more food and through cooking we accelerate the process of collecting calories and transforming them into energy to spread all over our bodies and leave behind those hours required to chew plants and fibres like a chango. The smaller jaw was caused in part by the discovery of fire. Michael Pollan, professor at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, believes that we are separated from other species and stand out as sapiens by our ability to cook. Fuego = a carne asada! Fire gives us power and fear, but it also makes our lives easier in many ways. We use it for pleasure and for a whim. In this story, fire accompanies me in two ways: it allows me to cook the way I like and it gives me a better reward than money itself. In 2012, I was invited to create the menu for a restaurant in Lisbon. I cooked fusion cuisine with Portuguese roots and I let myself be carried away by new flavours and techniques, in part inspired by my Nepalese friends who worked with me in the kitchen. Time passed and everything was going well at the restaurant, good food was coming out of the ovens and from the stoves and we continued to experiment with new recipes.

We participated in a tapas contest and that’s when I thought it would be a good opportunity to pay tribute to my Nepalese friends and show Lisbon that they have a lot of power with flavours. They taught me how to make bases of preserves with sunlight and fruits, and that’s how a codfish tapa with mango, lime and lemon preserves was born. We won the award for best technique. Eventually, things started to go wrong in the restaurant. This was mainly because it was in the hands of a bitch who slowly cooked her own recipe on charcoal and, as the saying (in Spanish) goes, “la vida se cocina a fuego lento” (life is slowcooked). This bitch with no shame continued to feed the fire with each bad act she committed. She stopped paying our salaries, presumably because of mismanagement. One day I reached my limit and quit, instead I spent my days tattooing the crew. The years passed and that money that I never received slowly turned into karma. A friend later told me that her restaurant burnt down. I’m not one of those people who says, “I don’t wish harm on anyone”… of course I wish her harm! Si te chingan, te los chingas. Except I didn’t have to get my hands dirty, life took care of it for me. I imagine that while the restaurant was burning, it smelled of the bitterness of that bitch and that’s why I give you this recipe, where I won’t be cooking a bitch but instead we can use Black Angus rump tail. I like my meat raw, as life can be raw, and lemon vinaigrette will give it that bitter taste. An oak smoke will remind us of how the wooden beams burnt down, and then at the end we’ll torch the meat to melt the fat and play with fire!


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METHOD

INGREDIENTS • Black Angus rump tail (approx. 200g per person, depending on your hunger) • 1 lemon • 4 garlic cloves • Olive oil • Active charcoal (you can find it in pill form in pharmacies, it’s also good for digestion) • Wood chips for smoking, if you can find oak even better • Salt • Pepper • Bread

With a sharp knife, cut the meat lengthways to keep more of the infiltrated fat, this will give it more flavour at the time of torching. Put the cut steaks in a Ziploc bag with a pinch of salt (or to taste). To smoke the meat, put the wood chips in a pipe (if you smoke weed then you should have a few of those on hand), light it up, guide the smoke into the Ziploc bag and allow the bag to fill with smoke. If you don’t have a pipe, you can simply burn the wood and guide the smoke into the bag. Once the bag is filled with smoke, seal it and let it sit for 40 minutes. For the vinaigrette: chop up the garlic and put it in a frying pan over medium heat without any oil, let it burn a bit and then remove. In a blender, blend the garlic, 200ml of olive oil and 100ml of lemon juice. If you want to emphasize the lemon flavour more, add a few lemon peels. After the meat is smoked, spread it on a plate and use a pastry torch to torch it until it changes colour. Spread the vinaigrette and salt to taste. Accompany it with slices of toasted bread.


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PERFORMANCE

layers upon layers upon layers


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Words & photos by Pepper Levain Looks designed by Vava Dudu Styling by ReveRso

There was once a young Chilean boy who spent most of his childhood and adolescence under the dictatorship of Pinochet. Quite a few years later, in the summer of 2015, I met a loud skinny someone with their face hidden under a black veil at a party in New York City. We were introduced by the host, Kenny Kenny – a former club kid and iconic nightlife personality – who presented ReveRso to me as “the most talented performance artist ever”. Indeed, I also fell in love. Since then, ReveRso has been one of my dearest partners in crime and someone that I collaborate with regularly. We hung out in the artist’s apartment in Kreuzberg, Berlin. With PANTA in mind, I brought a 35mm and some questions on life.

Black & white striped suite Gaultier Vintage


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Pepper: Can you introduce yourself in your own words? ReveRso: Well, I wrote a poem that you can quote from: I am ReveRso. There is a hint of n “I”, a diluted and unshaped distant image of a self that crawls underneath the facade of this persona that I elusively choose to call ME. There are layers upon layers of meticulously placed n ornamented masks designed to create a unique disguise to let someone see what’s truly not there. The surface of this visage reflects nothing but a mere opaque mirage of an (un)intentional existence. A complex paradigm of an artifice of skin, bones, muscles n intoxicating blood vessels. And yet a powerful n pure force emanates from within the skeletons of these precise impersonations. In ReveRso this notion of myself inhabits the eyes of others, creating a circulation of visual messages through the use of all these different personas so it will confuse where the “real me” truly exists.

P: What is your life like at night? R: A perfect union of social excitement, from attending a selected few parties, dressing up and staying up till late and dealing with my creative insomnia. P: You’re regularly spotted hanging out in Berlin’s queer nightlife scene. What defines a scene for you? R: A peculiar but very definable sense of ideas, vision and enjoyment. I don’t tend to put myself into any particular scene but rather feel like I’m a voyager visiting all the different types of scenes. P: Your characters use elements of drag to express themselves. However, you’re not a drag queen, correct? What does drag mean to you? R: The first time I saw a man wearing make-up and women’s clothing was in my home country in the mid-80s.


REVERSO

I realized then how liberating that illusion was – both extreme and highly entertaining as a form of protesting.

At the time, that image struck me deeply as I was dealing with my very own and very private sexuality. The image of those “travesties” with heavy make-up and cheap wigs wearing sexy short skirts and transparent blouses (with visibly fake fillings), was a powerful one to me. Especially the fact that I could still see they were all men with heavy thighs and massive, manly hands. So when I came to see those first drag shows in the intimacy of illegal and very marginalized gay clubs, I realized then how liberating that illusion was – both extreme and highly entertaining as a form of protesting. As well as being an imperfect illusion being displayed so perfectly. Since then, the concept of drag has entailed a sense of rebellion, a break from the very repressive confines of gender that I was taught so rigorously and a way to let go and be whoever you desire to be. The idea that captures my interest about drag is the creative choice of transforming oneself into a different creature. This is the single premise that holds my characters together when I create them, but at the same time, differentiates them from a drag queen/king artist.

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52 PERFORMANCE / REVERSO

My personas are not trying to emulate a “she” or a “he” but rather a more hybrid and genderless kind of archetype. Within my creative process, these characters reflect a state of deep agony or joy that is definitely separated from any idea of a specific gender. Even though I do utilize all the elements that a drag queen uses, the results and the goals are not the same. P: What do masculinity and femininity mean to you? R: Masculinity is a very limited and exhausting trap conceived to castrate any divergent type of self-expression that is not part of the current trend of being “masculine”. Femininity is just a notion of how women should be perceived in a socially restricted context. It’s yet another cell, constructed to incarcerate what womanhood truly means by neglecting all their strength and influence. P: Do you have a personal definition for both as well? R: I don’t see myself anymore as masculine or feminine, but as a human being that has characteristics of both, as well as anything I create within myself. I consider any kind of label – based on the fact if you are a “man” or a “woman” – as no more than a box or a prison. You should act accordingly to the way you feel. There’s nothing better to express who you are than just by being who you are. P: So are we merely performing gender? What does gender mean then? R: Gender is a given title, a barrier for those who feel their identity goes beyond a given birth allocation. I think we are revitalizing gender by refusing to accept the old conception of it. Somehow, by performing a gender that was not allocated to us by the system, we are taking those notions to new heights. I like to think I’m performing all these personas/entities in many distinct disguises, and I aim to be deceptive when it comes to being defined by a specific gender. I like to think of myself as performing a multitude of mixed genders by creating a totally new canon of meaning for a being that is genderless by choice.


I like to think of myself as performing a multitude of mixed genders by creating a totally new canon of meaning for a being that is genderless by choice.


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REVERSO 55

P: How does your work go beyond gender? R: Gender is not by any means a ruling aspect of what my topics as a performer are, although it’s an implicit way to present some of my work and also a very delightful play on a search for androgyny. The subjects I’m most interested in are those related to breakthrough from primal fears such as loneliness, rejection, addiction, deception and ultimately, death. When I come up with a new piece, I’m usually inspired by an emotion that initially doesn’t have a clear connection to whom the character will become. I create in terms of a particular image, involving both the process and a necessity for transformation. I’m not concerned with how the gender of this new creature shall be received by the audience, but with how the intense emotional state of this transfiguration will resonate in them and in myself. I aim to establish a deep connection and capture that moment of catharsis together. P: Are you sick of gender discussions, also in relation to your work? R: I’m not opposed to people if they decide to comment on my work in terms of gender discussion, but I won’t necessarily agree with those comments when I know my main goal as a performer is to create transformation through my pieces that deal more with the individual as a whole rather than as a specified gender. Being sick of discussing gender in times when we are finally progressing to be more inclined to accept other types of identities would be totally idiotic. What’s really tiresome about it is the voice of division within the discussion instead of a more united attitude towards it. I applaud those who are courageous enough to put themselves forward with more than just words but with real activism.

P: Since gender fluidity and non-binary appearance is hitting the mainstream more these days, do you think this awareness is generating social progress – or is it running the risk of becoming a trend that can drop once the hype has passed? R: It is certainly a great and positive movement to be happening around us all. Just to be able to grasp that concept of a “fluid being”, a person able to choose and move around from one gender to another freely and decide within a layer of genders, a very special identity, feels wonderfully exciting. This goes far beyond trends of any kind. It’s a massive progress towards a much wider and more tolerant consciousness. P: What does freedom mean to you? R: Freedom is everything I’m able to do right now with my life. It’s a status of privilege, a luxury in a world that has so little freedom for so many people. It’s a gift that sometimes I completely forget I posses. P: What does queer mean to you? R: Odd, bizarre, eccentric, curious, puzzling, incongruous. Or an unconventional and a much-required deviant slap onto the stereotype of gender. A celebration of an indefinable self. P: What inspires you? R: The city and its freaks basically. Music definitely plays an important role as well. Weird dreams. P: Do you see yourself as a political activist? R: No. I see myself as a constantly changing anti-slogan of sorts.


PERFORMANCE / REVERSO 57

I was fortunate enough to experience this powerful tool used by all kinds of artists, no matter their gender or identity, but purely by a rebellious desire to break from a very asphyxiating right-wing system. P: Where do you perform and how do people there react or approach your work? R: The places where I perform are as diverse as my shows I guess. So depending on where I perform, the reactions are also very diverse. Some are just puzzled by it while others are simply hypnotized. I have had people walk out and people be genuinely touched. P: What changes have you observed within the queer nightlife and underground art scene worldwide in the last few decades? R: I think the biggest change has come through the mainstreaming process of what we used to call “the underground” or the disappearance of any kind of subculture even without mentioning it in the context of the queer scene. I grew up with a very firm and inspiring oppositional force against the establishment of a very prolonged and vile dictatorship. I was fortunate enough, at an early age, to experience this powerful tool used by all kinds of artists, no matter their gender or identity, but purely by a rebellious desire to break from a very asphyxiating right-wing system. I felt how this underground movement

changed the structure of our society and my world in particular. It put a seed in me to become, years later, the performance artist that I am today. The adrenaline of those wild first years in touch with the dissident world of illegal warehouses was such an intoxicating and wonderful feeling, something I don’t feel is quite the same today. P: Should art be more radical these days? R: Anything at this point in history should be more radical. Art should be more heartfelt and less of a meaningless transaction being done by a select elite of art dealers. Art should be, as it always has been and will be, a major tool for transformation. P: What future do you want to live in? R: A future where all individuals are able to express themselves freely and without being labelled or afraid to show themselves through new types of identities. A future where everyone has the right to love and be loved by anybody no matter the race, gender or origin. As well as a future filled with just “flaming creatures” and a good pair of 30-inch stilettos! ∆


58 SUBJECT

STREET ART

st+art

india Words by Anita SenGupta Photos courtesy of St+art India


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India’s streets are known for their kaleidoscopic colors, bustling energy and the sheer diversity of sights, sounds and chaos. Street art, however, wasn’t something you would find there until a few yearsfago. Five friends from the art world and underground scene established the St+art India Foundation in 2014 to bring art out of the elitist galleries of high society onto the streets and into public dialogue. Since it was founded, St+art has hosted six festivals with over 100 pieces across Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. In the process, it has helped put art on the streets and in the Indian cultural consciousness.


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Photos on previous pages: Left: Mural by Daan Botlek in Bangalore (2016) Photo by Pranav Gohil Right: Vishvaroopa by Inkbrushnme in Lodhi Art District, Delhi (2016) Photo by Akshat Nauriyal This page: Gandhi by Hendrik Beikirch in Delhi (2014) Photo by Akshat Nauriyal


ST+ART INDIA

In a certain way, art has always been present on the streets of India. There’s a long legacy of hand painting, which has been used for everything from political propaganda and film posters to decorative storefront designs, trucks and rickshaws. However, as Akshat Nauriyal – one of the project’s co-founders – explains, traditional hand painting legacies have never been considered art as such. “Many of these traditional painters are looked upon more as skilled artisans rather than artists.” Nauriyal began getting into the street art scene a few years ago while working on Now Delhi, a docu-series on Indian subculture. The type of street art scene he was involved in, which has its roots in vandalism, graffiti and anti-establishment politics, is still a relatively recent cultural import. It first came into India by way of Western tourists in places like Goa and Varanasi and later spread via the Internet. The scene remained niche and limited by cultural factors as well as a lack of access to materials like spray paint. Giulia Ambrogi, curator and co-founder at St+art suggests that, “perhaps people felt that they didn’t have the power of expression as individuals, and perhaps they didn’t have the means to express themselves.”

In 2012, India’s first street art festival, ‘Extension Khirkee’, took place in New Delhi. It was humble but successful. This was the catalyst for St+art’s founders-tobe to start thinking big. “The art scene in India is quite exclusive, it’s almost a novelty of the rich,” Nauriyal says, “we wanted to take art out of the gallery space and out on the streets and, to a certain extent, make art truly democratic.” In 2014, they launched their first festival in Shahpur Jat, a dense urban village in South Delhi. The festival featured fifty artists from India and abroad and seventy-five murals were completed, including a portrait of Gandhi which was painted on Delhi’s Police Headquarters. Soon after Delhi, the team went to Mumbai for a second festival. “Once we did the first two festivals, suddenly street art exploded onto the Indian scene,” recounts Nauriyal. “Now there’s a conversation in many quarters about the usage of public space which really didn’t exist before our festivals. I’m not saying that we were solely responsible for it, but initiatives such as this one trigger those conversations.”

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62 STREET ART

In some ways, the idea of introducing street art into areas selected by curators seems – rather ironically – at odds with the origins of street art. More like a gentrifier’s project than a public good. It’s natural to wonder whether this is something that locals in these neighborhoods really want or understand, or if it’s just a way to excite a small and jaded art market. However, St+art is committed to a democratic process and building a dialogue between the community and the art. A key tenet of Ambrogi’s curation is that pieces are site-specific, meaning that they exhibit cultural literacy and engage with the environment responsively. For example, Indian artist Shilo partnered with an NGO for sex workers to create ‘The Unseen’, a mural that uses Delhi’s notorious winter fog as a symbol for sex worker invisibility and Dutch calligraphist Shoe used Indian brooms to paint the backgrounds of his pieces. “All these people in the street saw him painting with brooms and they were like, ‘What the hell – seriously?’” Ambrogi laughs. “They were extremely entertained seeing that brooms can paint.”

On the whole, the art has been well-received by communities and government agencies alike, which is partly due to its lack of a connection with vandalism. However, there have been occasions in which it’s been the source of tension. Ambrogi sees that debate as part of the process and that St+art’s responsibility is to strike the balance between palatable and challenging. “The good thing is that people speak about it, people start interacting with each other,” she says, which ultimately builds a sense of community. This awareness of public space has given rise to a greater sense of environmental mindfulness. Over time, Ambrogi and Nauriyal have witnessed people work to keep their neighbourhoods This page: Above: Mural by Inkbrushnme in Bangalore (2016) Left: MIRAGE by Gonzalo Borondo in Delhi (2016) Opposite page: Mural by AKACORLEONE in Mumbai (2014) All photos by Akshat Nauriyal


ST+ART INDIA 63

This awareness of public space has given rise to a greater sense of environmental mindfulness. cleaner and encourage others to do the same. “The building of community pride has been valuable for the preservation and regeneration of spaces,” Nauriyal says. Giving Lodhi Colony as an example, one of the neighbourhoods in Delhi in which St+art has worked for many years, he affirms that, “residents are proud to say they live there because it’s become an arts centre, a place where people want to come and hang out.” As a deliberate strategy, St+art has worked closely with

governments to channel this energy into building better cities. “It’s very interesting how you can change public policies in India with what we’re doing,” Ambrogi says. However, smart city concepts such as India’s ‘Smart Cities Mission’, an urban renewal program focused on infrastructure development, “make the city more bearable, but not more valuable,” says Ambrogi. “You can’t add value with technology or public transportation, you do it through arts and culture.”


64 STREET ART / ST+ART INDIA

“That’s the most interesting part, the growth of the new generation... they’ve started to understand the streets as another sort of medium.” “You may not have seen a Banksy piece in real life, but you know what a Banksy piece is, and that’s only because someone took a photograph, published it, and the whole world saw it,” Nauriyal explains. Street art may literally exist on a wall, but it takes on a new life online and St+art’s festivals have quickly gained traction. People may not be able to see the murals in person but they can interact with the ideas they represent. “We’ve put this thought in people’s heads about this movement that’s taking place within their own country and how that can be replicated within their own communities,” says Nauriyal. St+art now gets hundreds of portfolios from emerging artists every year. “That’s the most interesting part, the growth of the new generation,” adds Ambrogi. “They’ve started to understand the streets as another sort of medium.” It seems that St+art – and the street art movement at large – both reflects and cultivates the zeitgeist of agency in India’s younger generations who are now exploring their capacity to transform their surroundings. “The art is great for the locals,” says Nauriyal, “but it stands for something much larger in the context of the country. Our work makes people realize that there are different ways of reimagining public spaces. It’s started a conversation around the question, ‘Why not?’” ∆


Mural by Note & Tofu in Pali Village, Mumbai (2014) Photo by Akshat Nauriyal


VISUAL CULTURE

AIDS 2.0 Rethinking HIV/AIDS through its images Intro by Charlotte Kench Words by Avram Finkelstein Photos by Michelle McSwain

Avram Finkelstein is a seminal figure in HIV/AIDS activism in the United States and beyond. Since the 1960s, the Brooklyn-based artist, writer and activist has been a tireless advocate for gay rights and continually at the forefront of the fight for greater access to life-saving drugs for people living with AIDS. Not only is he one of the founding members of the AIDS advocacy group ACT UP (the Aids Coalition to Unleash Power), which was established in 1987, he is also one of the creative minds behind some of the HIV/ AIDS movement’s most influential images, such as the Silence=Death, AIDSGATE and The Government Has Blood on Its Hands posters. His work has been widely exhibited and he has made a prolific contribution to the movement, not only through his art and writing but through countless projects, lectures, public awareness campaigns and of course, direct political action. Now entering his mid-sixties, Finkelstein shows no signs of slowing down and continues to run ‘Flash Collective’ workshops across the United States. It is our honour to feature the writing of this legendary activist as he approaches the idea of ‘AIDS 2.0’ in light of the images and actions that have shaped our current perception of the HIV/AIDS movement.

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VISUAL CULTURE / AVRAM FINKELSTEIN 69

I

n 1981, HIV/AIDS was a tempest on the horizon. In spite of the fiercely swirling vortex, the outlines of its cultural meaning were still discernable. It immediately formed into a narrative. After decades of shell-shocked contemplation, those who survived the early moments appear ready to speak about it again. Many books, films, documentaries, exhibitions and theatre revivals have recently been devoted to the topic, and there are more in the pipeline. We appear to be in a second vortex – AIDS 2.0 – and it is just beginning. Why now? In cultural terms, it was kickstarted by two corresponding anniversaries, the 30th anniversary of AIDS and the 25th anniversary of the resistance coalition that helped foreground the AIDS crisis in the American mind: the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT UP). But what does it mean if it’s actually the 30th marker of the first New York Times article about AIDS, not the New York Native story that preceded it, or it was a 25th anniversary that overlooked the earlier Denver Principles ACT UP was forged on? It means that outside the walls of academia, history is an elevator pitch and as a culture we privilege the stories that are easier to tell. Within the public sphere, complexities are slipped beneath the shadows of our zeitgeists and well-worn media tropes supplant more disorderly truths. So, AIDS 2.0 is not really the story of HIV/AIDS, it is its storytelling. It’s the way we talk about HIV in our cultural wilds; the ferocity with which Internet mash-ups convert an AIDS past into memes, the salacious articles about chemsex by ravenous, multi-channel media outlets like VICE, the way tales of HIV in trans communitites are tossed across the

perpetual motion machine of social media and the historical tunnel vision of movies like How To Survive a Plague. AIDS 2.0 is not about the scholarly meaning made of Silence=Death. It’s about the ninety-five-foot video wall made of it by the U2 production designer for the band’s 2015 tour. The dilemma of AIDS 2.0 is not simply how it talks about HIV in the present. It’s the fact of its having been built on decades of mediated storytelling that torques our understanding toward one tiny but appealing corner, shaped through popular discourse into a dominant narrative that suits political and economic power structures. This narrative is the heroic tale of an embattled community demanding drug research, that led to pharmacuetical advances offering viral suppression in patients with access, a parable that “proves” the system works in a way so predicated on the presumptive neutrality of whiteness and patentable pharmacuetical property rights, it turns its back on the parts of the pandemic that continue to rage, offering a sense of resolution in its place. Resolution is fine for bedtime stories but this synopsis has tipped everyone born after 1987 working on HIV/ AIDS into a historiological tailspin by superimposing ethical quandaries in the process: How do you convince people to care about the millions of lives beyond the reach of treatment access or decades of HIV criminalization case law? How do you reignite the will to fund an AIDS cure – the only pharmaceutical intervention that might erdicate stigma? If AIDS only mattered because white people were threatened by it and if the only history that matters is how white people responded to it, what becomes of the majority of people still trapped in its furious spin?


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The “history” of AIDS is not a history at all. It’s an intricate ecosystem of power narratives. The only ethical response to the attempt to write a history in the midst of an ongoing pandemic is to dismantle it as it’s being constructed. In an image culture, the best way to go about it is through the images we use to represent it, such as the political art that came out of ACT UP. One clear example of this can be seen through closer examination of one of the movement’s most recognizable images, Gran Fury’s The Government Has Blood On Its Hands. On July 19, 1988, the New York City Commissioner of Health, Stephen Joseph, suddenly slashed the number of estimated AIDS cases in NYC, which drastically reduced funding for AIDS services. ACT UP NY declared war on him. During a sit-in at Joseph’s office, his itinerary was taken, and it became the basis for the campaign against him. He was followed, day and night, to public and private meetings, forums, lunches and dinners and to his private residence. The commissioner was so unhappy about the scrutiny, it culminated in a late night visit to one activist’s apartment by a Manhattan police intelligence case squad generally tasked with officer slayings, after a harassing call was made to Joseph’s home.

The Village Voice reported Joseph as having been responsible for the investigation. This led the lawyers in ACT UP with movement experience to conduct a teach-in on the history of covert FBI surveillance, infiltration and disruption of domestic political organizations from 1956-1971, COINTELPRO, a program aimed at destabilizing the American Communist Party, the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement and the Black Panthers. Deepening this tense political climate was the Tompkins Square Park Riot, which began just days after the phone harassment of Joseph. The incident, centering on the homeless population in the park, was referred to by the New York Times as a “police riot”. It lasted several days, and included mounted officers battling bottle-hurling protesters, and low flying helicopters

This page: Portrait of Avram Finkelstein and details of his home and workspace Opposite page: Gran Fury's The Government Has Blood On Its Hands poster


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combing the rooftops with searchlights. Many ACT UP members lived near the park, forming an obvious presence in their ACT UP t-shirts during the conflict. Several Gran Fury members were involved in the effort to remove Joseph from office and produced the bloody handprint poster to support it. The collective made two versions, one directed at Stephen Joseph and the other at then mayor, Ed Koch. The posters were wheat-pasted around NYC by members of Gran Fury and ACT UP. That same summer, ACT UP decided to target the regulatory agency responsible for the testing of potential AIDS therapies in America, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It had become clear that any risks AIDS medications carried could not exceed the risks of non-intervention and the clinical trials of these drugs had become the only form of healthcare for individuals confronting HIV/AIDS. To accompany the decision to target the FDA, Gran Fury nationalized the bloody hand image, producing a third version of the The Government Has Blood On Its Hands poster. The image was impactful, and it has come to symbolize the AIDS activist struggle.

The FDA action kickstarted the streamlining of the drug approval process, prompted parallel track drug access and compassionate use protocols, and more people living with HIV/AIDS, people of colour and women were included on advisory boards. Activists were given a seat at the table. So, in hindsight, this poster is the signal post for a major turning point in AIDS activism; the transition from a critique of the research and drug approval process to becoming a part of it. The national Bloody Hand poster has come to represent the effective deployment of collective direct action but in historical terms the fact that the national version of this image has eclipsed the original versions also tells us something else. It serves to underscore that since the beginning, the story of HIV/AIDS has been absorbed, colonised and modified by institutional tellings of it, a process which has bent the political and cultural dimensions of it out of shape. This image was originally designed for a local skirmish that has been jettisoned from the story because it makes no greater point. It was, however, politically significant.

Above: copy of FBI file on ACT UP Right: ACT UP graphics


This poster is the signal post for a major turning point in AIDS activism; the transition from a critique of the research and drug approval process to becoming a part of it.

The pursuit of Joseph was no less pitched or potent than having taken on the FDA. This small, local sit-in was instrumental in ACT UP NY finding its voice. Even though the klieg light of the national media was not trained on this story, ACT UP would not back down and took risks creating tensions between ACT UP NY and the police. This led to ongoing surveillance of the organisation and its accompanying political levy. During this period, the FBI did in fact keep files on ACT UP. One file explains chain of command to FBI foreign counterparts during an international conference where Joseph was speaking. It warns “threats have been made against a number of guest speakers,” and gives instructions on what to do if a U.S. national were killed or assaulted as part of a terrorist incident. ACT UP’s radical reputation was solidified by escalating episodes with law enforcement in New York, giving it the ability to exert influence over national HIV/AIDS research protocols. The Stephen Joseph saga may be one of the reasons the FDA action succeeded, and why you’ve heard of the national Bloody Hand poster in the first place. Accounts that consider the poster a sidebar, rather than a central part of the action’s success, tend to privilege institutional storytelling over its use for political organisers and the story of resistance that it really is. ∆


PHOTOGRAPHY

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On the Periphery Words by Mara Silvério Photography by Sinziana Velicescu

Every trace of human intervention on the natural landscape is a reflection of the endless ways in which political, social and cultural activites have structured our world. Throughout her body of work, Sinziana Velicescu maintains her focus on the subtleties of colour, light and texture that give form to her urban surroundings. Her filmmaking and photography gives prominence to a minimalistic aesthetic amidst the rhythms of chaos that echo throughout her home base of Los Angeles. It is this minimalistic aesthetic that enables her to capture the unique architectural elements that might otherwise go unnoticed in a sprawling metropolis such as this, and it is this vision that has garnered the attention of galleries from around the world. Her award-winning ‘On the Periphery’ series has been exhibited from Los Angeles, Chicago and New York to Hamburg, Tokyo, Melbourne and Rome. Her commitment to this vision permeates throughout her series as the light that floods the streets, the shadows that dance across them, the pastel hues that meet and diverge and the contrasting elements find harmony in her clever compositions.


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How do you define yourself as a human, a woman and a contemporary artist? I am all three but I often don’t think about these classifications. I like to separate myself as a person from my work and present it for what it is. I don’t have an academic background as a contemporary artist, though I am familiar with art history and current art trends. I find that to be freeing as I’ve been able to develop my photographic style over time on my own doing and not as a result of any academic limitations or guidance. I am a woman existing in more than one world dominated by men, but continuing to do what I do will hopefully influence other women to do the same. What kind of political, social and/or cultural consciousness do you intend to convey through your work? A lot of my work outside of my Los Angeles series focuses on the repercussions of a quickly developing and

simultaneously forgotten landscape across the Western United States. This trend in fast-paced modernisation is prevalent across a multitude of areas – whether it’s fast fashion, constantly evolving technology or overdevelopment in cities. On the outskirts of the urban environment is where one sees the most obvious footprints – entire towns once booming with industry now completely abandoned. Do you take inspiration from specific areas or neighbourhoods in the cities you photograph? I am drawn to areas around Los Angeles such as Glendale, Alhambra, Vernon, the Valley – places with a rich Los Angeles history buried underneath a surplus of bad signage and questionable architectural decisions. I am drawn to these places not only because they are aesthetically unassuming, but also because they represent the true landscape of Los Angeles that we are constantly surrounded by without even realising it.


SINZIANA VELICESCU

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Do you scope out locations before you photograph them or do you discover them by accident? I like to stay in the moment and leave everything to chance. I set aside days to wander and whatever I find along the way becomes part of the bigger story. If Los Angeles was a song, what would it be? ‘Heroes and Villains’ by Brian Wilson. On the surface it’s a song about Americans colonising the United States, but it was written as a metaphor for the good and bad people in the music industry. It’s a song I listened to a lot in high school whilst driving around the city and getting into trouble. It represents the crazy ‘Wild West’ mentality of California, as well as the love-hate relationship I have with the city. Are there any creative women that inspire you and encourage you to continue creating art? My mother is a scientist but she has a good eye when it comes to art. She is my number one supporter and constructive critic, so I enjoy going on photo adventures with her because I feel really comfortable. We get excited about the same overlooked details that others may not be interested in. How did you feel when you were nominated by Photo Boite as one of the 30 Female photographers under 30 to watch in 2016? I was incredibly humbled to be selected alongside so many talented female photographers. Even more so because it felt like many of the other photographers focused on the human condition, whereas my work was more abstract and related to architecture. I have a lot of respect for those who explore and represent humanity through photography. What are your future plans for your work? Are you working on something new? I’m currently working on my first book, On The Periphery, which focuses on the aesthetic and utilitarian effect of architecture in and around the Los Angeles area. It will be published by Aint–Bad and is set to come out in autumn. I’m also continuing my Southern California desert town series and taking a trip to Romania, my family’s home country, to begin a series about the effects of communism and industry on the landscape. ∆


i nn er

Holger WeiĂ&#x;flog


PAINTING & STREET ART

f ields Words by Renee Carmichael Photos by Matthew Coleman

Jakob Bardou

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“All art should be Innerfields.” So says Veit Tempich when asked about where the name of the Berlin-based collective came from. By this he doesn’t mean that all art should be theirs, or even like theirs, but that it should come from an inner state that's then put out into the open fields of the world. It’s a fitting name for the collective that does just that and understanding their conception of ‘inner’ and ‘fields’ is essential to interpreting their work.

The key to any successful collaboration is communication. Since 2008, this has been a vital part of the thriving relationship and creative process of Jakob Bardou, Veit Tempich and Holger Weißflog. Despite their diverse set of interests, the trio is united by a shared passion for graffiti and they’ve been working together for some time on anything from gallery walls to indoor spaces to full-scale street murals. It was in 2012 that their work started to have a digital theme and when the subject of communication really came to the fore. As they see it, they’re part of the last generation that knows life without computers. This idea seemed to resonate with them and their work began to engage with the notion of ‘the digital as the new religion’. As Holger says, the very way we communicate has changed from in-person conversations to conversations that only exist via the medium of technology. You used to plan with people to meet in a certain place and time and then you would show up there. Now technology allows for communication that changes in real time,

a distracted reality of the world where the holy devices feed our mediation of identities and relationships. We worship the devices that make up our reality because we forget how to be otherwise. In works such as the one painted on the wall of their ‘App hängig’ exhibition at Galerie Hier + Jetzt in Leipzig in January 2016, Innerfields attempted to show these changing behaviours of communication by juxtaposing people with devices. In one work, a figure is depicted as the Virgin Mary and the phone in her hands symbolises baby Jesus with a golden halo. Throughout the rest of the exhibition, the linen canvases and carved wooden sculptures instigate a moment of reflection on a world indoctrinated by technology… Nowadays, is there any other way of being? Personal reflection is also an important aspect of Innerfields’ work in relation to the digital. In a distracted world of Facebook scrolls, there is minimal reflection on what we’re actually seeing. The trio’s work attempts to create a space in which the viewer can pause and see themselves reflected in their images.


INNERFIELDS 85

Veit Tempich


You used to plan with people to meet in a certain place and time and then you would show up there. Now technology allows for communication that changes in real time, a distracted reality of the world where the holy devices feed our mediation of identities and relationships.


PAINTING & STREET ART / INNERFIELDS 93

Each work comes out of a conversation between the three members which, as Holger mentions, makes space for raw emotions and feelings. The work is then made from small parts into a greater whole, taking into account both the context and style of each artist. From communication to personal reflections, Innerfields’ work not only gives space to contemplate our digital reality, but it also treats the digital as a space in its own right. Social media is a field they also put their inner out into. Taking heed from the world of advertisements, each work is meant to have a direct, single layer of primal information. From works about the digital to how works go viral online, from communication as a process to communication as a motif, this is what ‘the digital as religion’ means for Innerfields. ∆


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MUSIC

SON OF THE DESERT

Rap from Western Sahara Words by Andrea Servert Alonso-Misol Photos by Emma Brown, Samir Abchiche & Rbaha Slimani

If every artistic attempt is an expression of freedom, then there are certainly some instances in which creative liberation goes beyond sharing your inner self. For Yslem Mohamed Salem Nafaa, making music cannot be untied from the thirst for freedom that his people, the Sahrawi of Western Sahara, have endured over decades of colonisation, invasion and occupation.

After a long period of Spanish occupation came to an end in the mid-1970s, the Sahrawi’s land was invaded by Moroccan and Mauritanian troops and they’ve been fighting for independence ever since. Whilst freedom in Western societies is generally conceived of as an abstract pleasure – a weekend retreat without WiFi, a freelance job or an open relationship – talking to Yslem really puts the physical dimension of freedom into perspective. Understanding this is fundamental to his creative process and drive as a rapper, who goes by the name of Hijo del Desierto (Son of the Desert). Born on a refugee camp in the south of Algeria in 1987,

Yslem’s life changed irrevocably when he moved to Spain as a teenager to live with a foster family. Incidentally, he landed in the birthplace of Spain’s rap culture: the Galician town of O Porriño. “Right before going to Spain, I had discovered the Algerian rap crew MBS,” he says, “once I landed in O Porriño, the itch for hip hop developed together with my high school friends and we started writing some lyrics and things took off from there.” It was pretty much a match made in heaven, as Yslem had been surrounded by poetry for most of his childhood and a love for writing had accompanied him since.


Portrait of Yslem by Emma Brown Photography


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Photo by Samir Abchiche

“In rapping, I found a way of fighting, of reaching people, saying what worries me and sending a message freely.”

Portrait of Yslem by Emma Brown Photography


YSLEM HIJO DEL DESIERTO 97

For Yslem, “writing is not so much an intellectual process, but an emotional one,” he says. “Unfortunately, there’s always something going on and triggering your need to speak – someone who has been imprisoned, a violation of the occupied territories, some bureaucratic barrier…’’ and as the lyrics of his track Dale Al Play suggest, “For every violation / I write lyrics of hope.” What drew him to the medium was not so much the stereotypical images that we usually associate with rappers nowadays – the Maserati-driving millionaires with gold chains – but the integral socio-political and countercultural component of the genre, which finds its very foundations in the act of denunciation and the quest for freedom. Even with the prevalence of the extravagant rapper stereotype, this doesn’t undermine the medium as an effective means of free speech and political activism at a more grassroots level. As Yslem explains, “What hooked me to rap was the fact that it’s a genre independent from the industry, with a big capacity for self-management. You can say whatever you want and no one will try to limit you. In rapping, I found a way of

fighting, of reaching people, saying what worries me and sending a message freely.” It’s clear that Yslem’s thirst for speaking out about the causes he is most passionate about is not just the evolution of a teenage interest, but something that comes with being who he is – a Sahrawi. I asked Yslem when it was he began to feel the need for fighting, but there was no real turning point for him – it has simply been right there, in his blood, from the moment he became conscious of his identity. In the face of limited self-expression and undermined self-determination, colonised peoples and communities whose territories have been occupied have to work at cultural preservation by any means necessary in order to ensure it isn’t extinguished. “We the Sahrawi people always have the duty of fighting for our cause. It doesn’t matter what your occupation is, or in which way you spread the message, every Sahrawi born on the refugee camps or under the occupation has fought for the cause, and so, in my case, 70% of what I write has to do with it,” affirms Yslem.

Photo by Rbaha Slimani


Photo by Rbaha Slimani

The work of Hijo del Desierto is best understood in this context of cultural preservation and empowerment. Not only was his album Saharap (2010) the first ever rap album by a Sahrawi musician, Yslem also began to conduct workshops for kids to encourage them to use culture as a means of liberating themselves. Saharap has reached the earphones and minds of youngsters across Europe and the Sahara and Yslem has set his culturally relevant lyrics, in both Spanish and Arabic Hassaniya, to beats evocative of his people’s traditional folk music. As we conducted this interview, Yslem was preparing for his next workshops in the school of Santa Perpetua de Mogoda, in Catalonia, as well as in the refugee camp of Wilaya Smara in Algeria. In these workshops, Yslem teaches kids on both sides of the Mediterranean to use culture as, “an alternative way of fighting in order to show them that not everything is negative – that there are ways and options for everyone. Music is a very effective tool to use to get something off your chest.”

A second album is well underway. However, putting it together hasn’t been easy – the freedom of selfmanagement also has its downsides. Ali27F has been in the works for more than two years, but Yslem is almost ready to launch fifteen new tracks, some of which have been the fruit of his collaboration with both local and international artists. To conclude our interview, I asked Yslem why he finds music such a powerful source of liberation. What makes this medium more freeing than any other? “It’s one of the few things that no one can take away from you, the only tool politicians can’t control,” he replied. “You might be living under a dictatorship or an occupation, but you can still sit in your room with a drum and write some lyrics and start singing. At least we have that pleasure, that light they can’t take away. They can destroy many things, but music – I don’t think they will ever be able to take music away from us.’’ ∆


MORE INFORMATION EYEEM.COM/FESTIVAL / IMAGE BY RAVIKANTH KURMA


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ART & TECH

The colourful world of Book a Street Artist

What a great time to be an artist. The DIY culture that has sprung up in the Digital Age, largely thanks to the Internet, has paved the way for independent artists to thrive without making significant compromises. Self-management has become an accessible and affordable reality for artists, thanks to the digital tools and online platforms available to anyone with willpower and an Internet connection. Sharing and accessing the world’s art, whether created by an illustrator, musician, street artist, performer or any other kind of creative soul, has become an essential part of our experience of art today. It’s in this spirit that Book a Street Artist was born,

as a platform for artists to take control of their selfmanagement and promote their work and creative services to a global audience; while art-lovers can explore and hire artistic services ranging from living room concerts to personalized murals. When independent culture partners up with technology, it has the potential to transform the way we perceive art by freeing it from traditional institutions. Art itself has the power to instigate reflection, trigger action, lead to change and ultimately shape the future, so the ability to share and democratize it is essential in this transformation. Plus, it makes the world a little more colourful.

One Loveff The Book a Street Artist crew www.bookastreetartist.com


PANTA Issue 11  

PANTA is an independent magazine that celebrates creative culture and artivism around the world. It features the work of emerging artists an...

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