let's start with "I want something more than my husband and my house" – How did you come across Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” and how did you decide to use it in your own work?
My undergraduate degree is in Gender Studies and Psychology with a Minor in Photography. The foundation of my education is through a queer, feminist perspective. In our collaboration, Jovencio and I picked this seminal Second Wave text by Friedan to dialogue with this domestic worker/housewife’s progressive call. We are queering this text in this project, when we state, I want something more than my husband and my house… It is our queering of the Friedan quote, calling out the comfortability of homonormativity and inviting dialogues in queer sexualities. This project is a messiness that gayness won’t swallow.
You have indicated that you see points of tension, conflict, disparity and unease — not as deficits but as moments. What’s their effect on your work?
These are the pivotal climatic moments in my work. I thrive on the tense, conflicting disparity and unease. Often states to avoid or get out of, I want to linger in these moments. These terms are points of contention in my works, thriving and pulsing the work forward.
I ask you trivial pursuit questions because… ! (This is in relation to the project I want something more than my husband and my house project, isn’t it?)
This is a subversive task that was given to us by our partner/collaborator/dom. An interpretation for Jovencio and I to perform sexualized, fetishistic activities tinged with the domestic and familial in our performative videos.
The Papi Project – an interdisciplinary project of 3D photographic sculptures, video, photography, and performance to comment, reflect, on large-scale issues such as the AIDS epidemic and more core issues as in “queer nuclear family.” Was your involvement with this project more about exploring questions related to your own life or was it more an attempt to provide a broader view of a world that hasn’t been dealt with as much publicly?
I started this project after performing in a Sharon Hayes piece, where I read a speech from the first gay conference in Berlin in the early 1900s. The speech was a call for gay and lesbian solidarity. Hayes wanted a queer/trans/gender non-conforming person to read the text and that same call now for the queer/trans world and the gays and lesbians. I then considered that I did grow up in a gay disco. Literally. There was a disproportionate amount of men dying from the AIDS pandemic. I was ready then to connect to that community that I had lost, document the cruising spaces I inhabited as a child with him and also take my Papi’s photographs and curate them.
This work parallels time frames pivotal in existence, roughly pushing ideas of consent through incorporating the public as a collaborator. The Papi Project incorporates public collaborative performances, videos, photography, archival photography and sculpture. This project investigates a simultaneous absence of my dad and I. As a participant in the gay hook up culture of the late 70s, 80s and 90s. The performance video component will be my (non)sexual encounters with men that had sex with my gay father, who died in the early 90s during the height of the AIDS epidemic. This inherently becomes a dialogue with the rise of technology, which in conjunction with the epidemic abolished many of these green spaces and public sites of sexual interaction. In these videos, however, they initially began with my dad but ultimately move into the dialogue of the mass devastation of queer men during the AIDS epidemic. The last component is his archive of portrait photographs, which revive these documented historical moments into a fragmented physical contemporary space. What comments about your works do you brush aside or not pay any attention to?
I can’t not pay attention nor brush aside. One thing that irks me is a critique around The Baseball Project, which arguably perpetuates a stereotype around trans identified men looking like children. This has been a critique in the past around the project. However, I think the setting of adolescent’s playing sports is intrinsically important to initiate dialogue around transitioning in a ftm body, in relation to gender socialization and expectations. I wanted to be with other cis-boys going through that same adolescent transition. This piece isn't about passing only, yes I passed as a 12 year old boy for many months during my transition, however this piece encompasses socialization in boy adolescent youth and the pressure of adapting masculinity in sports culture. These pivotal moments include the loss to control their own bodies. During practice in sports, your body becomes entirely the adults. You are owned, until you are told you are done.
Who are the people you want to reach out to and connect?
I’m interested in queer perspectives, folks who think about sexual politics, investigations into the AIDS pandemic, fetishism, ritualistic play. I am open to all connections and configurations and topping and bottoming situations.
For a long time, all I could do was surrender…then what…
Then surrender again and again… In this collaborative piece with Marissa Perel, we created a system of actions that we describe as performative submission. We used the language of BDSM as the direction for task-based action, endurance and dance. We took turns topping one another in our actions and physically pushed one another into submission in front of the audience. In this sense, the audience played the roles of both voyeur and participant (Marissa Perel).
What environment do you consider toxic to your artistic endeavors? What energy, sensitivities, feelings, and thoughts do you exploit and explore through your art?
I work beyond toxic. I am a hyper optimist and doer. Therefore the idea of toxicity is a moot point for me. I exploit a lot of things in my work, including myself and collaborators. I like to mull the idea of consensual exploitations.
How do you see your role as an artist, educator, and citizen of planet earth?
I am interested in intersectional and interdisciplinary practice and I work throughout mediums including video, performance, photography and writing. I am also an artist, educator, professor and very enthused being!