MARIA
LEGUIZAMO

31  •  BOGOTA, COLOMBIA

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Hunting for the gaps in the building we live in, I try to find my way out of it. I want an alternative to this text that you are reading right now. Creating a hole in comprehension, I want to open a space for unknowingness. Thinking about a revolution of the minutia as personal utopia, I constantly try to erode the fundamental organization that governs my life. Finding surprise is what drives my practice. Bewilderment is the fissure that challenges our preconceptions about purpose and social life.
 

La Rebeca (2019), oil based modeling clay bowl attached to the wall containing saliva and water.  Gesture inspired in La Rebeca, a feminine fountain-statue in Bogotá´s downtown.

During my working hours, I practice the exercise of doubt. I examine my surroundings in search for -hints-failures-patterns-details- that can reveal alternatives to what is understood as real. I explore the potency of irrelevant things to accumulate knowledge on how to survive monumental power. I am invested in erosion as a strategy of disobedience. As the river that rounds the sharp edges of its stones, the touch of infinity of hands wears away the details of a public monument. I am intrigued by the possibility of erosion of a lick, the touch of breath over a wall or a piece of furniture. Every action, however minimal, has consequences and generates an undeniable transformation in the agents and materials involved.

The work usually presents itself in the form of objects, drawings and videos treated sculpturally. Like the strategies employed by famous prison fugitives, my research articulates around the poetics of escape and discretion. My practice works as an accumulation of vanishing points that celebrate the power of fragility and irrelevance while drawing a way back to the failures of the building we inhabit.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO?

I am a sculptor working on video, drawing, performance and writing, currently  consolidating a project for a cultural center with my brother. I am also a member of Da Peeblz, a pop-rock band for children integrated by a set of amazing artists and musicians based in Philadelphia, Providence and New York (Kelsey Skaroff, Teresa Cervantes, Lisi Raskin, JoJo Ballettiere, Maia Chao, Jorge Galván, Daniel Zentmeyer, Filipe de Sousa and Daniel Stern).

WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?

I was born and raised in Bogotá, part of a middle class family with great sensitivity towards art, pedagogy and music. With their support I was able to enroll in a BFA at the largest public university of the country (Universidad Nacional de Colombia). At that school I experienced my first student strikes and protest demonstrations, along with tear gas attacks and government intimidation. I already knew about the political turmoil we were involved in from the news and my parents fear, but during those years I understood the performativity of conflict among an educated and divergent collective. I took a class about violent displacement and that, along with a related personal experience, fed the first body of work that inaugurated my professional portfolio. In 2015, I got a Fulbright fellowship that allowed me to pursue an MFA in Sculpture at Tyler School of Art (Philadelphia). Now I’m back in Colombia trying to make a living, making work and trying to get a teaching job.

 

MOLLOY

MOLLOY is a series of stones partially covered by human skin. Inspired by the character of Samuel Beckett, this work tries to extend one's existence from the possibility of clinging to a rock.

LA RUINA DEL HABLA/ SPEECH SHAMBLES

Materialization of words like phantoms of meaning -carved and burnt objects: jar, head, column-, these objects are vessels that contain water and seep, as if writing on the ground and on viewer’s hands, expanding and drying up over time.

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON?

 

I’m currently routing towards a new set of coordinates that the work of the past few years left. I’m still at the germination stage, but I can give you an idea of what has me sketching. The first project that I feel is getting solidified, pivots around the idea of the ghost. An invisibilized presence that ostensibly imperceptible and unimportant, yet affects the state of current affairs. More specifically, I’m working towards the construction of the  room dwelled by a woman ghost based on a historical figure that lived in Bogotá between 1942 and 1960.  The question that guides the project is: How this ghost would hunt a gallery space by intervening the architecture and the regular activity that the space holds? A second idea that is pushing my practice has to do with the screen from a sculptural point of view. I’m currently interested in screens as architectonic places like borders and walls that connect us and separate us at the same time. I‘m conceiving a series of video objects (Tvs, cellphones, displays, tablets, etc.) with intervened or replaced screens, with organic materials like dirt, bugs and construction materials. This way, asserting the screen as a place where the content gets mediated by a dislocated visual and tactile experience.

 

 

Columnas, carbonized broken column that contains water inside and drips at different speeds, installed on a steel structure designed with dislocated vertical and horizontal axes based on the study of angles different to the standard 90 degrees.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MAIN THEMES OF YOUR CREATIVE PROJECTS?

For few years now, I’ve been working from a concept that appeared in my work when I couldn’t find an equivalent word and meaning in the dictionary. The concept  was named Impoder, a neologism in Spanish that signified the power of the most invisible and fragile, the ostensibly irrelevant. A kind of potency and capacity for transformation determined by the difference with the governing power modus operandi. From there, my work got implicated with erosion as subversive strategy and transforming movements that need darkness and other ways of invisibility to thrive. Before that, my investigation was engaged with a more visceral representation of the contemporary experience of displacement and privatization of land, therefore vertigo and bodily struggles with lightness and weight. I could say my whole practice is pierced by the idea of the border: political, architectonic and subjective.

 

WHY DID YOU WANT TO BE AN ARTIST?

When I didn’t know what it was, I decided to go to art school with the intention of becoming an animator for kids movies. I loved the creation of characters and imagined universes. Later on, when taking my first sculpture class, I  got fascinated with the possibilities of tactility and sensorially through the contact with the infinity of materials. I also understood that everything is sculpture and that the world is made out of things that are products of socio-economical structures. I interpreted unexpected transformation of materials and objects as poetry. After this realization, I re-chose art. Today I’m still pulled by two almost opposed forces: the need for an alternative, imagined reality and a heavier sense of the concrete power dynamics that command our lives.

Lenguas, India ink on cotton paper, then scratched with pointed tools as earrings and needles. As a silent writing exercise designed to hone handwriting, these tongues are accumulations of blank spaces that reveal the inside of the paper. The resulting surface resembles a skin or leather full of pores like the texture of a tongue.

Lenguas one: Now Here.Nowhere (video still), a video of a walk through the city where I speak to the walls. I repeat constantly the phrase: "digging in me towards you", with subtle variations and alternating between English and Spanish. The phrase is said and the almost invisible stain of saliva remains.

DOES YOUR WORK COMMENT ON CURRENT SOCIAL OR POLITICAL ISSUES?
 

I think it is impossible not to comment on social and political issues. An active avoidance of political consciousness is a way to judge your own agency. It’s sad that this approach is so common though. For me personally, the social frustration is what have motivated my practice for the past 10 years, but the work presents itself without placing the political claim in the foreground. I believe this happens given the importance of a more abstract and elusive strength that I seek to discover through the work.

WHO ARE YOUR BIGGEST INFLUENCES?
 

My family is my biggest influence but I have come across poets, artists and authors that have informed my approach. Thinker-poets like José Watanabe, Agnes Martin, Suely Rolnik, Looney Toons, Gloria Anzaldúa, Silverstein, Hortense Spillers, Giorgio Morandi.. don’t stop feeding my practice. 

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST 
ACCOMPLISHMENT AS AN ARTIST?

 

Recently I was able to make a public space installation with institutional support in Bogotá that has been up for almost a year and now it seems like it’s going to remain there until -the work in heights safety- regulations of the place change. 

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT SOME EVENTS THAT HELPED SHAPE WHO YOU ARE AS AN ARTIST?

 

Everything…, but the one event that comes to mind is to watch king Arthur trying to pull a sword out of a stone in a Disney Movie. Also, a conversation I had with Doris Salcedo and comping across the work of Félix Gonzáles Torres.

La Rebeca

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PIECE OR ARTIST?

I have seasonal favorites and I’ve been thinking a lot about La Rebeca, a marble statue and fountain (the first public female nude installed in Bogotá on 1926). The sculpture has been violated in every possible way and it shows. It is also taken care of with -seemingly- a lot of affection. My most recent piece is inspired on it and carries the same name.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PROJECT YOU'VE DONE?

I don’t have a favorite but I’m still learning and getting surprise from the  series of saliva graffiti I made for my MFA’s thesis (Now Here. Nowhwere, 2017). I think it is a project that needs to unfold still and has no rush. It makes me laugh and ache and that’s why I like it so much.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE FUTURE?

I really want to teach in an art school. I definitely need to pay my student debts! I want to find a way to join my band in releasing our first album… I'm harvesting my experience to be able, in a few years, to collaborate with peers towards the first draft of an insurgent pedagogy for artists and non artists.

To Soften the Street, Carpets placed on the street on top of potholes and big cracks. We had meals and danced salsa with friends and neighbors on the carpets. They transform overtime and eventually disintegrate, disappear or blend with the asphalt. 

Geometría, Photo that portrays the search for an archetypal-like figure to measure the proportions of a hair in relation to the scale of the hand. 

WHAT ROLE DOES THE ARTIST HAVE IN SOCIETY?

I think an artist should promote doubt and a space for bewilderment among the people who surround them at different levels.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR HIGH-SCHOOL SELF?

Respect the dignity of your experience and do not take your self so seriously.

 

WHAT DO YOU DISLIKE ABOUT THE ART WORLD?

I don’t like that is mainly exclusive and endogamic. 

WHAT IS ONE THING NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOU?

Just few people know that my favorite things are breakdance and essential oils.

HOW HAS YOUR WORK CHANGED OVER TIME?

I started thinking that I wanted to craft fantasy. Later, I realized my responsibility and fell in love with sculpture and performance. Now I’m trying to find other fields where I can applied what I've learned while still practicing this thing. 

WHAT JOBS HAVE YOU DONE OTHER THAN BEING AN ARTIST?

I’ve been a waiter, an English and Spanish teacher, an entrepreneur, an illustration assistant… I’m currently in charge of taking famous people’s hand prints for a 

Hollywood-walk-of-fame-memorial that is going to be built in Bogotá (laughs).   

Intemperie, series of coats installed on top of the facades of the Luis Angel Arango library and the MAMU museum in Bogotá. The coats are connected to a rainwater collection system that causes them to drip through the pockets, falling onto the street and pedestrians.

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