The equivalence between art and life, the will to make life a matter of art in order to question inertia and patterns of behavior was decisive in the happening of the seventies, in the actions of Fluxus, in the first wave of feminism …
However, during the last third of the twentieth century, the theme of motherhood was a burden for women artists, obsessed in their struggle to escape from the domestic sphere to which they felt they were being relegated.
Veronica Ruth Frias gathers the legacy of feminist art but inserts us into another era, ours, in which art is born of the need to embrace more urgent aspects of everyday life.
Each one of her projects inform us of a vital moment: the first denote her displeasure by the none of the women in the field of the art (see Muñecos inflados), later shares her own fears and challenges being pregnant (she makes a Super Woman suit to perform a series of actions), and as a mother of two girls does performance pieces such as expressing her artist’s milk or demonstrating that the Abramovic Method can’t be put into practice with children (or, that it’s not so boring with them).
Q- “The Last Supper”, a tableau vivant in which you take the place of Christ surrounded by “disciples” (women involved in the local artistic world) has just been presented in the cycle of performances curated by Margarita Aizpuru at the Center of the Arts in Seville. It remind me another “Last Supper” (1972) with which Mary Beth Edelson also reinterpreted in female code Leonardo’s fresco. But it is the irruption of the offspring breaking the compositional symmetry which brings the freshness and humor that characterizes your projects. Tell us about this last experience.
The first and most important of all is the possibility of sitting next to other artists, managers, curators that are part of the current artistic sector, both in Seville and Malaga or the place where the action is performed. This, for me, is a great honor because they are hardworking, intelligent, strong and powerful women, examples of professionalism. They are women I like to learn of them because I admire. Some have been following for some years as may be the case of Anna Jonsson while others are more recent discoveries but equally important.
Today, while looking at the images of the action that Lola Zehinos had made from within the performance itself, came to my mind a moment that I think is very important and could summarize perfectly what I intend to convey with this piece. As you have said, at a certain moment come in the daughters and sons of those artists who are mothers and break the monotony of the moment. Could even be said that they break the harmony and beauty raised by Leonardo in his composition. As my friend Pedro Alarcón would say: “they let life interrupt the solemnity”. On this occasion I could not count on the presence of my two daughters because the action took place during the week and they are in school, so at the time of entry of the childrens of the others I tried to remain undaunted. I had even planned to remain hieratic, to keep motionless during all that part of the performance, but next to me was Bea Sanchez. She left the scene and came back with her three children and sat next to me, so I saw that she needed one more knee, so I threw myself and lent her one of mine.
I believe that this work speaks of that, of giving us help, of being in solidarity with each other; We should kneel or arm with the intention of creating ties between us to achieve a more real empowerment that would give rise to a network in which to support us and in which we enter all, each with their differences, but united, we know that union is strength and that is what we need today. Although the central background of the action is to become visible as professionals within a world of men and to be able to claim our own space, is also loaded with details and symbolism as is the case of the red color we wear because of all the blood spilled by thousands of women at the hands of history as Isabel Hurley pointed out in her text, or the table without clearing that appears at the end as a reflection on all those tables full of crumbs left by men and that for centuries women have cleaned, as well reflected Javier Flores.
There are a thousand of conceptual details hidden in this performance and the piece varies depending on its components, something that greatly enriches it. The truth is not to give behavioral guidelines prior to the action since I believe that the ideal is that passes that should pass, without a pre-established script, that each one does what she wants and that once immersed in the moment occurs the magic. And for me the magic happens without a doubt when we are all together around the same table.
Q- Beforehand you had already interpreted in the first person several biblical episodes (A 153 cm above the sea, Multiplication of the Breads, Merchants, Resurrection …) We can see the symbolic gesture to reverse the machismo that permeate the gospels, in the history of religion and in art; and also some ideas outlining about the value of faith, about the suspension of credibility for the “miracle” to happen … is it?
The main interest of these pieces is the reflection on machismo in the patriarchal society in which we live, where religion has played a primordial role in the construction of those fictions that we have been told by men to build a world in its own way. Yuval Noah Hariri in his book “From animals to gods” tells us that fictions are those that bring millions of people together and are those that allowed the cognitive revolution that is nothing other than stories created by and for man, such as religion , the nation or the money, and that gave rise to the enormous power of the humans in the earth. The possibility of creating and telling stories that large communities is a form of large-scale cooperation. A cooperation based on fiction that moves us to the same point, because while everyone believes in the same fiction, whether in religion, economics or politics, everyone can cooperate and move forward. Faith makes people believe that water can be turned into wine, that you can walk on water or you can break the moon in two, because faith moves mountains and moves them because it makes us cooperate from deceptive fictions that we believe massively.
Religion has been the great fiction and has made millions of people cooperate to build cathedrals or mosques. But not everyone believes in God, moreover, not all believe in the same god; today the story in which everyone believes is money. A sad reality that I try to revert from the art, because art, I think, is able to generate shared fictions that make us move through cooperation. The artists create stories from the reality lived with the intention of interfering in people and try to change the world, or at least, the world that has been our lot to live. Since I was a child, I have felt very attracted to the possibility of miracles and it is possible that from the art one can carry out the greatest of the miracles that we are dealing here and now, equality and respect between men and women for a better and more just society.
Q- Dialogues with other artists are a constant in your work, either to subvert the original messages (from Manzoni’s “artist’s shit” as a critic to the art market to the “artist’s milk” freshly extracted with breast pumps and distributed among attendees), or to take them as a reference: “No” and “Mira que si te quise” draw from an homage to Ana Mendieta and Frida Kahlo respectively but to get involved in current problems of violence and patriarchy. “All art comes out of sublimated rage,” as Mendieta wrote?
Many times I have the feeling that I am a cactus to which they are nailing spines little by little. One day they don’t mention you in an exhibition in which you participate as an infiltrator and happen to be directly invisible; the next day you see that someone is doing his doctoral thesis on the current art and forgot to add to a large part of the art world sector and, as if by coincidence, is the female part. On another occasion you discover that 10 production projects have been selected and that none of them will be carried out by a woman; another day you get an interview from a museum director who boasts of being the one who exposes more women and when you look at their numbers you put your hands to the head; one more, you listens to Marina Abramovic’s statements in which she prophesies that as a woman you can’t be a mother and an artist. And that is the last thorn that you let to be nailed in your flesh, then you only have to answer with the tools you have, art, and move to action, because you have to facing up to the problem and get a solution.
I don’t know if everything arises from the rage or the need for change that entails seeking new solutions. So, “Super M” was not born out of rage but as a matter of necessity. The need to convince myself that you can be a woman, a mother and an artist without dying in the attempt. Because when you’ve been thinking for long time like Marina Abramovic or Tracey Emin and later you’ve got daughters, you feel everything is coming towards you. Then you realize that if you want you can and there I follow, steady at the edge of the cliff. At that moment art becomes a remedy for the disease, a cure for my day to day when I see that women continue being physically and socially battered and it is at that moment when I use humor and irony to directly not die of pain, of pure sentimental pain.
So in the end the history of art has always been present in my work, from the beginning, because I need to redeem all the damage that has been infringed and continue to infringe on women in a history written by and for men. Sometimes I take that dialogue to a direct confrontation in which I can become an uncomfortable artist but I think that for that I am, to say what I think from a feminine perspective. It seems that touching or referring to dead artists is ok, but when you say that you are going to do a threesome with the MP & MP Rosado brothers, you are confronted directly with an artistic fieldZ” of fellow artists and friends who are disturbed by the frankness of these pieces. With my work I don’t try to bother but to question the roles of a patriarchal and heteronormative society that has to change once and for all and this is an uncomfortable truth that many don’t want to hear.
Q- Seeking the complicity between women, humanizing art and democratizing it has led your searches at all times: since you went through remote villages of Andalusia holding a sign to make known certain artists, until the tattoo of “tonta la última” in your arm, everything happens to break down the distance with the spectator, with life, and with the fact of being a woman, artist, mother, and even daughter. Can art catalyze the social change?
From my perspective as an artist I believe that there is an indissoluble relationship between the world of art and life, although many times it is not seen because the divorce between both remains very present. In this sense, Juan Ramón Barbancho’s reflections are very interesting in his book “Art from a Sociological Perspective” in which he affirms that art must be contextualized and must directly affect life in order to change it and improve it. Today it is much easier to democratize art because of the globalization and massive use of the internet in which we are all connected, in which certain work becomes viral and goes around the world in less than 80 seconds. Viewers can access the artwork without moving from their homes, can visit exhibitions, museums and artist pages with a single mouse click, although it can never replace the visualization of the art work in person, but must be recognized that if you want you can, and that is a new quality to take advantage of.
As can be seen in many of my works I am interested in the direct participation of the viewer and the new digital tools allow me a massive access to people who in their lives want to feel the uncertainty of art. “El duelo. Y murieron con las botas puestas” was a project that I developed with the artist Beatriz Sánchez in which we performed a virtual duel that we faced each other directly through video and in which the public could vote and comment through a profile created specifically on Facebook. In the project “NO”, where I also used the social network Facebook, I got many women to join the project in which I had to send a photo with a false beard, generating a hairy cry for equality and women freedom. Social networks are a contemporary tool that interests me and I do not rule out using them in the future since it allows me to connect directly and simultaneously to many viewers. These positive aspects of interconnectivity also have their counterparts because, in a way, it dehumanizes us, becoming our own avatars that disconnects us from our real world.
We are losing physical contact, looking into our eyes, because saying thanks as vox populi on the internet is not the same that saying it looking at face. And that’s why I like the performance and the happening because I am directly facing an audience that didn’t know, in many cases, would find me in the middle of the street juggling a pile of books or putting on Super M Suit. I have to look them straight ahead, without emoticons acting as intermediaries, with no time to measure my words, and I think that makes art, makes people excited and reflect on what they are seeing. That is why I return to the starting point of this interview, why it is so important to sit at the table with 12 women to look each other into the eyes.
Interview by Anna Adell