Dr. Elisabete Catia Suzana
Department of the Study of Religions
at the school of gender, culture and history.
Södertörn University – Stockholm, Sweden
A crossroads between raw body work and cathartic therapeutic sessions with no answers, no formulas, plenty sour mouths and abundant in questions and doubts. Not pretty to watch. The theme of Cruelty and Humiliation are a constant part of Ogando’s artistic researches. Frequent fetal postures of preferably naked or semi-naked bodies scream vulnerability. Maybe. The fetal position is also a space of departure, a preclude to a jump into the erotic darknesses of the world. This world, a self-centred Ismael is seeking to explore, create, challenge, question. Together with an active audience who is invited not only to admire the dramatic spectacle but also to participate in it. His work is powerfully suggestive, reflective and straight forward. Centred in his autobiographical notes from the Dominican Republic to the world and his struggles with racialisation and blackness, whitening and westernisation, queerness and otherness, often intersecting in the same piece. He addresses the places of individuals and the spaces for them to perform life without and within those corsets of labels, impositions, expectations. Inspired by cultural critic bell hooks, queer philosopher Judith Butler and critical race scholar Stuart Hall, among others, Ogando plays with provocative wordings such as “white supremacy” and“gender performativity”. Ogando invites us to explore how we shape identity in gestures of power, hierarchy and humiliation.
In the 1958 Notes on the Creation of a Total Art, Allan Kaprow contemplates “if we bypass ‘art’ and take nature itself as a model or point of departure, we may be able to devise a different kind of art by first putting together a molecule out of sensory stuff of ordinary life: the green of a leaf, the sound of a bird…” It is to this end that Ogando takes the human’s natural urge for hierarchy, power and subversion as a starting point for his performative research on how such elements of ordinary life aid in the construction of identity. Reminiscent of Butler’s notion of the “stylised repetition of acts”, as a mean by which gender identity is created and by which gender becomes performative, Ogando uses a set of routine readymade stereotypical acts of power that humans, consciously or unconsciously, exercise to frame their own and others’ identity.
The necessity to discourse and deconstruct these identity moulding units is supported by Stuart Hall’s publication Who Needs Identity? when he writes “Identity is such a concept – operating ‘under erasure’ (i.e. the deconstructive approach) in the interval between reversal and emergence; an idea which cannot be thought in the old way, but without which certain key questions cannot be thought at all.” By analysing f.e. the act of ‘spitting on one’s face’ Ogando puts this act ‘under erasure’. Furthermore, by situating this act in different geographical and cultural contexts, i.e. the connotation of spit as medium for humiliation, subversion and insult, but saliva also as an essential fluid for intimacy and sexual communication, Ogando strives at demystifying or isolating the act in itself. This performance is thus literally an effort to put together a molecule out of sensory stuff of ordinary life, while blurring the space between art and life.