Maria Del Pilar (PILI) Lopez-Saavedra
AMOR IGUAL, 2017, projection, audio, 48 x 72 inches
Your practice revolves around the discussion of identity, including sexuality, race, and gender. Have you always considered art as a medium/vehicle to discuss and bring attention to social subjects? What kind of impact does the current political climate have on both you as an artist and your work?
My professional practice really began when I started to see art as an outlet for my internal struggles with sexuality, religion and family life. As I became a bit older, I became more aware of how intersectional my identity is and how crucial art is to conversations surrounding politics and social issues.
I think art practices which deal with the individual identity of the artist work in two ways to benefit these much-needed conversations: On one hand, they humanize the identities society deems inhumane, (in my case, Latine/x, Queer, Non-binary, Immigrant, Brown) in order for those who cannot relate to these experience to gain some insight on them, on the other hand, it creates representation, hope, and proof of existence for those who have similar identities and experiences.
The current political climate has definitely given me a sense of urgency in the need to show my work and cultivate more conversation and unity within my communities. The relationship between representation, self-love/image, and the way in which we exist in the world is so intense, that I want my work to create a sense of representation for those who identify with my experiences/identities.
I have also started to view my work not just as art, but as activism and my practice as a social one. I am a member of La XENTE, a Latine/x collective in NY and I see my recent work in La XENTE as crucial to my practice, because being around so many brilliant creators + activists opened my eyes to how art and activism do not have to be separate things. Art is always political, always.
still from AMOR IGUAL
The concept of Sameness is something that you explore in your work, and seems especially prevalent in your piece AMOR IGUAL, where you address both LGTBQ and racial stereotypes. Can you talk about the intersection of oppressed identities, and how Sameness affects both the Latinx and LGBTQ communities?
The concept of Sameness is one that I developed while looking at the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s, one of my biggest inspirations. In my work, the concept of Sameness relates to the presence of objects/bodies which are seemingly identical and, therefore, representational of the LGBTQ/QPOC experience.
My intersectional identity is one which I often reflect upon and draw inspiration from. I believe that reflection on the numerous ways in which my individual identities relate to each other is beneficial to understanding these identities individually but also serves as a tool through which I can attempt to capture the layers of an intersectional experience.
When developing AMOR IGUAL, I wanted to view Sameness through an intersectional lens dealing with my Latine/x and Queer identities. I was able to capture Sameness through a video installation of a performance which I did with my partner at the time, Alina Vazquez. AMOR IGUAL is presented as a video installation which showcases two separate videos of the Alina and I kissing our own reflections. However, I edited the performance documentation in order to create the illusion that we are kissing each other.
Through the use of seemingly identical bodies within the AMOR IGUAL performance I came to understand how Sameness can be used to confront/comment on Queer and racial stereotypes. The act of kissing one’s own reflection is thought of as BOTH Queer and narcissistic. Whether Sameness is found in a partner or in one’s own reflection, loving one’s own image, is looked down upon. To assume that the core of LGBTQ relationships is self-obsession instead of love for another is a harmful microaggression that is often ignored but perpetuates homophobia. The concept of loving one’s own image comes to mind when discussing Queerness and self-love but, more importantly when talking about race.
The concept of Sameness is inherent within racial discussions because the generalization of people is the first step in their oppression. Once a group of people lose their individuality and are perceived as identical to one another, their perception becomes dictated by stereotypes, which allows for unfair treatment and systematic oppression. The generalization of people in order to invalidate their identities is something that is very prevalent today.
These conversations of Sameness further affect Queer POC because of the intersection of oppressed identities. Therefore, I’m interested not only in discussing POC’s self-love as an act of self-decolonization but also in exploring the transformation of POC’s self-love when paired with LGBTQ identities. Depending on your identity, loving your own image takes on various levels of courage and bravery because of internalized colonial ideologies. However, when we do break free and decolonize our minds and bodies, we commit the revolutionary act of true love. LGBTQ POC self-love and same-sex love are revolutionary.