Lorena Wolffer: Activism in Art.

 

 

Activism

Attitude or behavior of people who participate in movements, especially of a political or social nature.

 

Lorena Wolffer (Mexico D.F., 1971) is an artist and cultural activist. He has presented his work in Afghanistan, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Slovakia, Spain, the United States, Finland, France, Hungary, Mexico, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic and Venezuela. For more than twenty years, the work of the artist and cultural activist has been a permanent site for resistance and enunciation at the intersection between art and activism. While in her own artistic work she addresses issues related to the cultural elaboration of gender, defending the rights and voices of women and non-normative bodies. Wolffer has produced, facilitated and curated dozens of projects with a heterogeneous range of artists on platforms such as the museum, public space and television. From the creation of radical cultural interventions with diverse communities of women to the elaboration of new pedagogical models for the collective development of situated knowledge, these projects take place within an arena that recognizes the relevance of experimental languages ​​and displaces the border between what we know as high and low culture. Wolffer's work —a stage for the voice, representations, and narratives of others, usually invisible in the Mexican context— articulates the possibility of realities grounded in respect and equity.

Lorena Wolffer recently presented Afectxs Ciudadanxs at the EXIT bookstore, a participatory cultural intervention that is made up of dozens of testimonies: the exact words that girls, young people, women and men chose to describe their feelings, sensations and affections when walking through the city during the day and at night, in neighborhoods and neighborhoods both their own and others, in their relationships and daily interactions with people close to them and also strangers. Each testimony draws a unique map of the ways in which the reality of Acapulco impacts, crosses and transforms its inhabitants.

A couple of months ago we talked with Lorena Wollfer at her home about her work, her beginnings and the interaction between her work and her audience.

R. D.- From the beginning was the performance?

L.W.- Well no. I started painting, but the painting lasted a little, very soon I began to paint with blood and some pictures emerged that were more sculptural than painting, I took large canvases and filled them with cow's blood; something like very amorphous, after that you don't go back to oil or acrylic, there was no turning back.

Then I came to the performance because I was interested in the possibility of a dialogue, that is, not only the idea of ​​producing an artistic object that you go and leave, but the possibility of being able to dialogue with your audience where communication is nothing more than a sense. It has to do with presence and also with the possibility of transforming the work as it happens, forcing the public to leave the passive place of the viewer to become an active participant in a conversation.

R. D.- What is the process like when you create a work?

L W.- I no longer do performance for all of this, the processes are different, normally when doing performance an investigation on the subject was involved, followed by a conceptual approach and then looking for a way to translate all that approach to the body, actions that could reveal itself somehow in my body.

R. D.- Recently there was an explosion at the MUAC called Uprisings, where you can see a photograph in which Picasso's Guernica is presented to residents of the city of Guernica, despite the fact that it is a photograph, knowing the context you feel a strange vibe between the inhabitants of the city and the work of Pablo. In your experience when you presented a work, how do you experience it with the public?

L: W. The approach now is very different because all my projects are participatory, so it involves the active participation of people, groups of people or communities of people, and therefore the line between the public and the participant of In a way, it has been erased, because there are people who remain on the plane of being an observer but at the same time also participate.

When I made performances that were more like singular statements that I made in front of an audience where, although people could also respond in some way and have a type of dialogue, they were not pieces designed for the public to make or life, the interactions were very different, there are works that involved the direct participation of people, there are others where everything was much more distant, that distance that we associate more with the theater where I present something and the public only observes and in that look there may be a dialogue, that's why I can't tell you if my interaction was one way or another for the example in “If She Is Mexico, Who Beat Her Up? (If she is Mexico, who hit her?)”  there was a whole segment where the public was invited to take pictures with me where I appeared as a beaten model, I used the objects and clothes I had as if to play but rather to torture them, for example I used a tie to "hang" them, there was a whole game there with the public and that is a very different interaction than in Mientras Dormiamos  where what I did was mark the blows, wounds, bullet wounds and others that fifty women suffered in Ciudad Juárez and when I marked that it was like the moment of violence, I looked at the public, and there was an interest in transforming those moments where violent acts occur that are usually in private settings in public moments as a way of reversing the action. That means that in all cases the ways of interacting with the public are different.

R.D.- In evidence. The objects that were used were donated by people who had a violent situation.

L. W.- evidence It is something that I call a participatory cultural intervention, and it included the collection of objects that were used to exercise all types and modalities of violence, both from women who have survived and from people, relatives, friends of victims of femicide, so they were donated by the owners or by the people who loved people who were murdered.

R. D.- this part of reciprocity, when listening to the testimony that comes behind an object -a movie ticket- and perceiving all the emotional charge that it carries and at the same time it is the object that tells a story. Hearing it from the person who donated it, how do you perceive it?

W. Well, he's very strong, let's say, evidence Once the intervention is set up and you see it at first you only see objects with which you can relate, they are jars, movie tickets, brooms, pillows, clothes, bottles; and until you read the first testimonial it suddenly transforms into totally terrible stories, and what happens is that in the end you don't need to read all the testimonials, if you read one or two you can begin to imagine and ask yourself "if this chain for a dog was used to exercise violence. How was that glass used?” or even to the stage as a movie ticket, anyway. Everything is transformed and you realize how potentially any object can be used to exert some form of violence.

R. D.- You have been working for more than twenty years, you have seen different audiences. What is the current gaze of the viewer like?

L: W.- My thing is not generalizations, perhaps we could talk about the times or the attention capacities that exist at this moment and yes, about the culture of Twitter, Instagram and the culture where there are no longer long times for any; have a notion of immediacy, of seeing the photo and you already understood it and that's it, versus the possibility of delving into an experience that is something that is no longer done, and I think that affects all fields of life, not only the way we go to museums and look at a work of art if not the way we are. We live in societies that are getting faster and faster, right? And at that speed you lose so much.

R. D.- What is your opinion regarding disciplines such as graffiti? That it is in the street where the viewer is within reach of the work (he paints) in a certain way at all times.

L. W.- Graffiti seems to me to be one of the most revealing expressions of the city and Not only graffiti, but any intervention in public spaces, let's call it Stencil, Stikers. I think that the notion of speaking or enunciating from public spaces seems to me much more interesting and much more pertinent than the production of works for a select group of people who know how to read them and who are in a space also for a select group, Graffiti is a bit like performance, it is a format that had a moment of perhaps greater resonance, and I would rather ask you, Which graffiti? Where? and because? Because if we are going to talk about the "tag" on the corner, it may not tell me much, it may be that for that guy or that girl it has been a way of presenting themselves and occupying public space, of taking their place in a city that it is not granted, but beyond defending the position of graffiti or art or performance I think I understand it more as the power of a project than of the discipline within which it is inserted.

R.D.- At some point do you think you will use the type of tools that are handled in these disciplines?

L. W.- Well, I don't use graffiti because my thing is not drawing, and if I make decals that I stick on the streets of the city, a good part of various projects has to do with that, it has to do with making phrases out of the city occupying a public space, such as one of the most recent projects called Historias Propias which has to do with collecting the stories of non-normative people, I mean people from the LGBTQAI+ communities, but also people with functional diversity or neurological diversity, where suddenly the narrative of a Trans woman occupies a space, or the narrative of a person who has no legs occupies a space where he expresses his daily life or his history, because they are all these people who are somehow invisible in society.

Historias Propias is a participatory cultural intervention project focused on the stories of non-normative people who identify as LGBTQAI+, have functional diversity and/or do not adhere to prevailing norms in areas such as ethnicity, corporality and age. In addition to celebrating communities usually excluded from official narratives—by sharing our daily experiences, interactions, and struggles, and revealing the unique ways in which we occupy and move through our cities—the project also makes our realities visible in a moment of widespread violence and growing discrimination. This intervention consisted of 5 banners and 5 billboards placed on the facade of LARVA, in which testimonies from residents of Guadalajara are read, testimonies that revolve around the violence exerted on these members of the LGBTQAI + community.

Lorena Wolffer has taught courses, workshops, diploma courses and conferences in dozens of artistic spaces, museums, universities and institutions, organized exhibitions and artistic events, and created and hosted cultural television and radio programs. Wolffer was Coordinator of Intervention and Social Practice of the National Diversity Laboratory (UNAM-CONACyT) (2017); academic coordinator of Art, culture and justice: alternative representations and performativities of the University Program for Gender Studies (PUEG) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) (2011); advisor to the Coordination of Cultural Diffusion of the UNAM (2004-2007) and co-founder and director of Ex-Teresa Alternative Art of the National Institute of Fine Arts (1994-1996), all in Mexico City. It is currently part of the public house A.C. She has been distinguished with the Artraker Award for Social Impact (England, 2014), Commended Artist for Freedom to Create (Singapore, 2011) and the Omecíhuatl Medal awarded by Inumjeres DF (Mexico City, 2011), among other scholarships and awards.

Lorena Wolffer (Mexico City, 1971) an artist and cultural activist who has presented her work widely in Mexico and abroad.

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