"My aim is to restore balance and respect the multiple aspects of our feminine energy— dark, light and in-between."
Protest and activism can take on a variety of mediums. It’s at times when there seems to be no positive future in sight that true forms of expression come out. On January 16th, 2018, one year into Donald Trump’s presidency, a group show exhibition of 80 different artists opened at the Untitled Space in New York City. One Year of Resistance is intended as an interdisciplinary response to policies and narratives that go against human rights and progress. Among the emerging voices included in this exhibit is Chilean artist Elisa García de la Huerta. Through an exclusive interview with the artist we were able to talk about inspiration, activism, as well as the hope for inclusivity and compassion in our society.
"Madelena", 2017. 35 mm film. Dimensions variable, 1:10
On her personal statement, García de la Huerta explains that:
“I document intimacy with myself, others and nature as a form of resistance. This process is both an aesthetic and conceptual strategy. Working intuitively, I revel in the poetic and pictorial aspects of analog film, especially the ephemerality inherent in the collaborative aspects of my work and the nostalgically rich depth of a vintage format.”
"Eva", 2017. 35 mm film. Dimensions variable, 1:10
There is something very strong and visceral about her work. As viewers we are thrusted into this world of color, beauty, and mysticism. Yet there is more to her aesthetics than being visually pleasing and attractive. There is an underlying need to engage and open a conversation with whoever looks at the characters portrayed in her images.
“Music, queercore, social media and punk/street-style subcultures influence my practice to lend elements of nostalgia around the delights of youth. The seductive, “polished façades” of fashion and media serve as a double-edged sword I wield to enter into a more subversive dialogue. ‘Transgressive pink punk,’ might be a playful way to describe it.”
"Mantra", 2017. 35 mm film. Dimensions variable, 1:10
“Making art about the things that make me uncomfortable encourages dialogue, which encourages change. My work is not meant to challenge the respect and sacredness of sexuality afforded by moral boundaries around its public display. On the contrary, bringing intimacy into the visual – and all the subtle boundary-crossing this entails – creates dialogue around just how much of our public personas are based in artifice according to unrealistic, perfectionist standards that are dictated by (social) media.”
"Sink", 2018. 35 mm film. Dimensions variable, 1:10
While looking up the One Year of Resistance show, I saw one of García de la Huerta’s images titled, “Blood Coming Out,” which features a female body and what can be inferred as menstrual blood dripping from her hands and legs. It shouldn’t be a racy image, should it? There’s no sexual context, and it’s only the depiction of a bodily process, yet something about the image, or the subject matter, is a call to action regarding the treatment of women. This image, which tells a story so simple and common, is a battle cry for bringing to light all that has been kept in the dark regarding women’s lives.
“Women’s blood is the only blood that holds the potential of creating life, this is where we all come from, as opposed to the bloodshed that is a result of violence and war. Women’s blood symbolizes our connection with the Mother Earth (fluid that contains the five elements, according to Ayurveda) and the moon. Menstruation is the tangible residue of women’s potential to create.”
"Blood", 2017. 35 mm film. Dimensions variable, 1:10
One recurring situation I’ve noticed when talking to artists who do bold statements through their works is censorship. Whether this is due to algorithms or complaints from users, who are shocked out of their comfort zone, the reality is that censorship presents a limitation to creativity and expression. How can new ideas thrive if they are constantly taken away from the public eye? If we do not know that there is something more to our environment or understanding of it, will we ever evolve? Of course, I asked the artist whether she’d ever been censored.
“Yes, multiple times. Facebook and Instagram regularly delete imagery of radical feminist work, my own and that of my peers. I have shared mainstream press links featuring my photography on Facebook only to have them deleted and my account blocked. With my collaborative work ‘Go! Push Pops’ this has been an ongoing issue. YouTube and Etsy censored our ‘Push Porn’ video. Same goes for live performance. One time the producer tried to cancel our museum performance 5 min before going on stage. I was mandated to change my video at the Changjiang Biennial in China last minute.”
"Bond", 2017. 35 mm film. Dimensions variable, 1:10
I think the reason why García de la Huerta’s work frightens some of the public into forcing censorship tactics is the fact that the nudity included in her work is not for the viewer to objectify. It tells a story about what it means to be a woman in an environment that would be happier if we didn’t relate to our own bodies and needs. Because once we connected with our physicality, we might also question the limitations placed by others regarding what we can and cannot do, as well as who we can and cannot be. If our bodies were not capable of being objectified or sexualized, then perhaps the expectations of what we can achieve would also cease to exist.
"Moon", 2017. 35 mm film. Dimensions variable, 1:10
“I subtly push the boundaries of this comfort zone though details - natural body hair or less normative or acceptable standards of ‘femininity.’ Sometimes I position the ‘perfect construct’ persona to make it potently visible and reveal the mechanism. I revel in portraying physical beauty in the imperfect, raw, real aspects of the body; highlighting body language as the expression of our inner psychological and spiritual landscape.”
"Pauli Cakes", 2017. 35 mm film. Dimensions variable, 1:10
Spirituality and the search for transcendence is also an important element of García de la Huerta’s work. I believe that her being a practitioner of Ayurveda has shaped the way she approaches topics and stories. There is a mystic quality to her narrative that also comes out in the way she describes her work.
"Susannah", 2017. 35 mm film. Dimensions variable, 1:10
“Our body is our physical manifestation on earth. The body is a vehicle that speaks in and of itself. Throughout the ages, the female body has been worshipped and venerated for its beauty and expression of the divine, and I think this is what as feminist artists we are trying to reestablish, or acknowledge.”
"Bath", 2017. 35 mm film. Dimensions variable, 1:10
As we can see through her images, there is more to understanding our own relationship to gender and sexuality than what the media stereotypes have pushed on us. If we are open to seeing new perspectives and possibilities, we can see that there is no right way to be male, female, or even gender neutral. What matters is how our personal story, as well as our love for ourselves and our bodies, shapes and changes the culture that would love for us to be binary and simple rather than the complex mixture that is inherently human.
“My work investigates how our perception is blurred by our culture, education, religion, class and gender. My aim is to restore balance and respect the multiple aspects of our feminine energy— dark, light and in-between.”
"Izabella", 2017. 35 mm film. Dimensions variable, 1:10
Main image: "Star", 2017. 35 mm film. Dimensions variable, 1:10