Perhaps it is not surprising that it has been female artists like Orlan or the recently deceased Genesis P-Orridge who have responded more viscerally to male objectification of women’s bodies. Those responses have created a controversial but now well-known body altering art form in the hope of eliciting cultural change. Brazilian Luiza Prado, who sees herself as a body artist, agreed to answers seven questions for our readers
Would it be fair to say that your art belongs to that lineage of female artists using their bodies as a focus and canvas of their artistic production? If so, what would be the advantages and limitations of that approach?
Yes, without a doubt. I also identify myself with many of the Radical Women’s Movement 1960-1985, so I see this trend also as a Latin American one. I remember being mentioned by researcher Roberta Barros as part of a series on feminism presented at Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil. It was about a turning at the beginning of the millenium when this strategy of using the body as a canvas started to be employed by more and more Brazilian artists as a criticism of beauty standards, counteracting market strategies of eroticism and sensuality, and all in tune with current feminist discourse.
The limitations are, I think, market forces and our own social structures. Men using bodies of naked women in their work are considered transgressors and usually given more physical space in museums and galleries. Women, on the other hand, when taking the lead of their sexuality in their works, are more often than not linked to pornography. This happens especially when we attempt to demystify the feminine body which, in my view, is not delicate as most masculine representations of it show. The feminine is, above all, visceral.
I have some projects that involve more intense bodily changes, but I am gathering the courage to make them happen.
What is your opinion of an artist like Orlan, who at 70 is still trying to reinvent herself? She is famous for what is now known as “Carnal Art.” Some people see her as a sort of artistic martyr, a woman prepared to maim and change her appearance to convey a message. Do you share this opinion? Are you a fan of her work?
I think she is wonderful and I wish one day to reach that point of complete detachment from my body for the sake of art. I have some projects that involve more intense bodily changes, but I am gathering the courage to make them happen.
But, I believe, our visions are similar. I see my body as an artistic medium, not as a body full of taboos. The body as a canvas to question about not being within certain standards and specifications. I see the body also as a portal to materialise what is needed for an artistic proposal, even if it takes me to death one day. I will die happily if it happens that way. And in addition to artists like Orlan, I equally admire Genesis Breyer P-Orridge.
You are an artist who works with photography, video and performance. How do they complement each other in what you do?
Hmm… I see everything as one thing: photography, video and performance, I see them as tools that organically complement each other. But I think I see them in that way because I started with self-portraits. In self-portraits you basically do a performance for the camera which can also be recorded. But I really like experimenting with new tools, I am eternally curious.
You lived in Berlin for a while and are a young Brazilian artist. How much the experience of being outside your country has changed what you do and the way you approach your work?
It mainly helped me to understand the Latin body as a form of colonial territory and how important it is to ridicule and question certain structures. During the time I lived in Berlin and Los Angeles I also noticed how political my body is and how necessary it is to convey that message.
Brazil is a country with a phenomenal tradition in visual arts. It would take a few paragraphs to mention some of the artists from your country who have had and are still having an impact in the world of visual arts. How do you see yourself within that tradition? Does it matter to you? Is that relevant to your art?
I love Brazilian art, especially marginal underground artists, because that’s where I am and I’m happy being one. We have a lot of work and artists who are not well known, but many of them with a powerful and strong body of work. I also like peripheral and indigenous art. I came from the periphery and whenever I find Brazilian peripheral artists winning awards or marginals ones being properly recognised, it makes me very happy. I feel validated and I identify myself with them.
The feminine is visceral, strong and powerful.
When a female artist uses her body as a form of expression, she tends to suffer misconceptions and misinterpretations of her work. What kind of misconceptions or misinterpretations would you like to dispel about your art or the way people talk about your work?
I think misconceptions and interpretations are difficult to dissipate, especially when dealing with the tabooed body. Perhaps for this reason I like to ridicule standard and heteronormative concepts of the female body. Some of my work use pornographic language with those intentions.
As I said before, usually when a woman artist takes possession of her sexuality she is considered pornographic and I believe this happens precisely because we show the true face of the female that is often not pleasant for those who fetishise her.
The feminine is not a delicate construction of fragile women wearing a pink bow in their heads. The feminine is visceral, strong and powerful. Similarly, the feminines are women, independently if they are cis, trans, or whoever behaves in a feminine manner. All can suffer femicide just for being what they are and that is why just living in a feminine way is an act of power and resistance and not merely a body to suffer the process of eroticisation built by men.
Do you think this pandemic will change anything for artists and the art world?
I think it’s already changing. The questioning of the presence, of the object, of the collection and of the way in which the commercialisation of art is done. We are starting to see how monumental images become fragile and to realise that weaknesses is good for growth.