CUIR | Out of the Norm: Non-binary artists shape their own constellation

Valentina Alfaro, Papeles Caníbales | Santiago, Chile, 19 February 2021

Chilean arts and culture website Papeles Caníbales features our latest virtual exhibition CUIR, Curated by Chiachio & Giannone, with a review delving into some of the artworks presented in the show.

The full publication is available here (in Spanish).

Find an English translation below.



Out of the Norm: Non-binary artists shape their own constellation


In the international exhibition CUIR, which can be seen through the digital platforms of Isabel Croxatto Galería, artists from different disciplines explore themes such as the construction of identity, the notion of queer family, eroticism and plastic values.



It is surprising to find out that the works of American artist Aaron McIntosh were inspired or suggested by the theory of infant attachment proposed by psychiatrist D.W. Winnicott. Winnicott claimed that young children, when searching for their own identity and autonomy, turn to 'transitory objects', such as blankets or teddy bears, to recognise the boundary between the "self" and the "not-self".

McIntosh's creations, by contrast, have nothing childish about them, but show a markedly adult character, exploring restless sexuality that feeds on pornography and fetishism. His works feature clothing and recreational items associated with the gay culture. Painted in watercolour, in a realistic style, these items seem to float in the air because their wearers are invisible. The human presence is thus suggested in the creases and folds of a leather jacket or the tucks and tensions in the strap of a sex toy, while the backgrounds of the scenes have a pink colour that evokes the materiality of a baby blanket.

'My transitional objects are not rooted in childhood, but examine the slow unfolding of adult sexuality, eroticism and discursive desires. I use silhouetted human figures that I took from sources such as porn and gay sitcoms, constructing them in mosaic, leaving image recognition only available to viewers who pick up and unfold the blankets', the author advises, whose works are now part of the international group exhibition CUIR, which can be seen until March on the digital platforms of Isabel Croxatto Galería.

The show is curated by the Argentinean artists Leo Chiachio and Daniel Giannone, who, through their selection of works, sought to construct a "transgenerational constellation" of creators whose personal affections operate outside the heterosexual norm. The title of the exhibition uses the word "cuir" as a Hispanisation of the English term "queer", originally a pejorative term that the LGBTQIA+ community adopted as its own, reshaping the meaning of the word to transform it into a symbol of empowerment and resistance.



The participating artists include creators with techniques such as photography, performance, painting, video, drawing and textile art, from countries such as Brazil, Chile, France, the United States and Argentina. The storyline established by Chiachio and Giannone intertwines the different proposals to generate a 'familial constellation in art', offering an array of themes that range from the construction of identities and the notion of the queer family to eroticism, sensuality, plastic values and the formal criteria of each generation.

'When choosing the artists, we looked at their ways of constructing identities, which are reflected conceptually in the ways they work with materials and techniques, putting forward the idea that it is possible to make the actual materials also become queer', Leo Chiachio says, whose works created together with his partner Daniel Giannone, are also part of the show.

'There are other sensibilities, other ways of seeing the world and of constructing sexuality, other ways of constructing these identities. This is a non-binary exhibition, and that is important in the times we are living in because we always say that we have to keep fighting and keep saying that at any given time, decisions are made in the world that take away our rights. We want art to be a testimony to what is happening, we can't divorce art from life', Chiachio adds.



The theme of the construction of identity is explored in crude and at the same time humorous way by the sexagenarian Argentinean artist Cristina Coll, who presents a video clip in which she plays with the figure of the singer Palito Ortega. The author, in her childhood, was an admirer of this performer and later, when she reached adulthood, she developed mixed feelings concerning her idol. In her audiovisual piece, she uses the songs 'Un muchacho como yo' [A Boy Like Me] and 'Una chica como tú' [A Girl Like You], showing different shots of a human body dancing to the rhythm of those old hits, creating, through the different frames, a counterpoint with the messages delivered through the lyrics.

She also exhibits her video performance "Errors" (2011), in which she plays the leading role of Napoleon Bonaparte, showing the military genius in his domestic facet. In the beginning, he is shown lazing in bed, unwilling to get up, until a servant serves him breakfast and brings him his clothes. The images of the military genius are mixed with fragments of the film "Desirée" (1954) and, as Coll explained, that project aimed to explore the theme of impatience. 'Today, where little patience is a human quality, let's hurry Napoleon so he dresses more quickly', the artist explained at the time.

Set in a much more recent generation, 31-year-old Argentinean Franco Mehlhose presents a photograph of a banana resting in a pink silk case. Taken against a black background, the image acts as the embodiment of sweet innocence that is about to come into contact with the rigours of the world. The idea for this composition was inspired by the reading of Paul B. Preciado's "Contrasexual Manifesto", where the separation between sex and gender, two independent concepts that, according to this author, are forcibly united through a "social contract" imposed by heteronormative forces, is proposed. This would give rise to an official version that is imprinted on bodies as if it were a biological truth.

Other artists included in the exhibition are Joey Terrill (United States), Rodrigo Mogiz (Brazil), Juvenal Barría (Chile), Max Colby (United States), Sebastián Calfuqueo (Chile) and Curtis Putralk (Chile/France). The virtual tour of the exhibition was developed by the interdisciplinary collective, and produced with the support of ProChile.

The promotional video for the exhibition uses 1970s Disco music, a style that symbolises the common space of the dance floor, a space open to all those who, at that point in the 20th century, were still excluded from the male, binary and heterosexual hegemony. In this repressive context, marked by discrimination and homophobia, there was the mass arrival of a female, gay, Afro and Latin diversity which, finding itself in an atmosphere of coloured lights, under a ball of mirrors, could finally celebrate by dancing to the beat of subversive hymns full of drama, pain, reflection and resurgence.

'Being able to transfer the experience we have of the revolution that music underwent years ago with the emergence of the music video, allows us to recreate or illustrate a discourse to bring us back to that time in some way. The on-site experience is irreplaceable, but this virtual exhibition format expands the world of possibilities for us to meet again, just as we did at an opening or on the dance floor', the curators explain.

Gallery director Isabel Croxatto notes that 'in these times of isolation, working on a collective project with artists residing in different parts of the world has been refreshing and hopeful'.

'I am grateful for Leo and Daniel's generosity, and that of all the participating artists, who accepted our invitation in such complex times, for daring to take on this unconventional challenge', the gallerist concludes.

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