Artist Interview: Alexandra Velasco

ALEXANDRA VELASCO is an artist, performer and filmmaker born in Mexico City. Her work emerges from her constant search of another more fantastical dream/nightmare reality. Alexandra recontextualizes imagery and iconography to find new meaning. Focusing on the use of body in art, Alexandra explores the many facets of the female body, combining the physical and the mystical, in order to create beautiful, yet discomforting, images.

When did you first start playing with art making materials?

Art has been a part of my life since I can remember. I used to draw since I could hold objects with my hands. I remember flipping through magazines and feeling the smoothness of the pages, cutting out images that I loved and making them my own by drawing them out.

What ideas, themes, and inspirations do you find yourself coming back to time and time again?

Love, fear, death, need, loss, desire.

Seminal Circles, 2012

How has your physical location affected and influenced your work?
Every place I’ve been to, lived at, visited, explored, has a different feel to it, a different beat, a unique rhythm. The place affects the pace at which I create work, but the work seems to still be cohesive, the work always looks as if it were from the same family, related. I guess it is because my work comes from inside, from my psyche, a place in my soul that stays the same no matter where I go.

What places inspire you most?

Sunny places, rainy places, open spaces, dance floors, libraries, outdoor cafes, a lover’s bedstead, endless fields, shiny waterbeds.

How and why do you use collage? How does it influence your 2-dimensional work, your films and your performance?

I am a very visual person, I could spend hours looking at something, or someone, really exploring with my eyes, without saying a single word. Images talk to me, they move me. I use these images and make them my own, I recontextualize imagery in order to give it a different meaning, one that relates to me on a personal level. Collage let’s me do that easily, I can make ten collages in one sitting, back to back, and feel like I am in my own world.
I think of video as being a “moving collage”, I capture reality, convert it into sur-reality, put images together to create something entirely new.
My performance work is an extension of my video-work, I generally use myself as a subject in my videos because I am always readily available, and I am willing to experiment on myself and with myself. So I then took myself out of the video world into the real world and worked to transform the real world into a physical dream world, one where the audience and I can be in at that particular moment.  I want to make dreams and nightmares a reality.

When did you dub the name “Dreams Incarnate”? How does dream state affect your process?

I wanted to create a website URL that spoke about me and my work without it having it be my given name. Dreams and nightmares are a crucial part in my work. There are several times where a dream has given me an idea for a piece, like “INCARNATE” a performance piece I did earlier this year.
Incarnate means “in the flesh” and is normally used in pious speech. Both my admiration and apprehension towards the Catholic religion seeps through in my work, I am moved by religious imagery and rituals, and wanted to incorporate that in the name I chose. So Dreams Incarnate is literally “dreams in the flesh” which explains my work succinctly.

Explain your thought processes before and after a performance? Do you take on a character? Do you access another part of yourself? How do you pick and use materials and props? What happens if you lose character during the performance?

I have to remember to breathe. Five minutes before the performance starts I breathe, deep. Then it is as if my body and my soul are inside a translucent cloud, I move around the space, I perform, I act out what I am meant to, but I am detached, I am detached while simultaneously being more aware. I am more aware of myself and I access other parts of my mind and soul and being that I don’t normally access when I am walking around leading a normal life. It is hard to explain but it is as I am having an outer body experience while being in the deepest alcove inside my body, it is a paradox that only makes sense while I am performing.
The materials I use come from me wanting to work with objects or textures that attract me. In my last performance “CORPO_REAL”, I read about a love spell that involved placing your beloved’s photograph inside a honey jar and lighting a red candle while saying a love chant, this would enchant the person into falling in love with you. I took this love spell and made it a reality, but changed it into trying to enchant every person that went to the show. The props needed for the spell were honey, glass and red candles, all very attractive to me. I then wanted to incorporate flowers in a way, since I work with flowers a lot (be them real or only symbols), and they are the epitome of beauty, life and desire, so I added the use of flowers to the spell. I used oils as well, and sage, in order for the audeicne and I to incorporate all of our senses, vision, touch, smell and hearing, to create a true audiovisual out of body experience.

From CORPO_REAL, 2012

From Julieta Negra, 2012

Describe your relationship to failure.

It is not an option, it is unreal, I want to believe that failing does not exist.
If you “do” [things] you will never fail, if you don’t “do” then you fail, so I am just going to keep on doing, keep on working, keep on moving.

How do you move through artist blocks or lulls in creativity?

I go somewhere new, I seek a new feeling, a new emotion, a new rush. I go dancing, I go walking, I just get out of the zone that is making me feel like I am nothing, and by feeling I realize I am alive and then that gives me inspiration to keep on working.

If you could collaborate with any person, who would it be?

If wormholes were real and effective I would love to collaborate with Maya Deren, Ana Mendieta and Francesca Woodman. All beautiful women, who inspired me to let go and do what was inside me all this time, follow my artistic path.
For now I want to collaborate with all of my friends, all of them at a certain point of my life, with everyone who has ever given me something important in my life, I would like to create a piece with them and have that memorialize us forever.

It's What We're Seeing, 2011

Your two most recent shows Corpo-Real and Conosco were very successful, talk about your different pieces and involvement in each. How were they different than other shows you have been in before? What did you learn?

Conosco was a group show curated by my good friend Paula Rezende, she was so beautiful and created an event where a lot of her favorite artists could just have a space to show their work and get to know each other as well as other people.  Paula wanted to push me to create new work for Conosco, so I did. I made five collages specifically for the show and mounted them on wood, something that I had never done before. I went past my work into something new, and I liked that.
The collages I made, I made in two days, they use the same color palette, they are fueled by the same thoughts and emotions, so they are part of a series entitled “Ecdyses”.
The collages speak of the same themes my work does, about love, about myself, but they were a bit lighter, more about growth, they were about finding a new me, about a phoenix rising from the ashes. One piece, entitled “ A Cicada Moulting” depicts a female torso separated in two, from the separation emerges a second torso, as if the person were shedding their skin and being reborn.

CORPO_REAL is my first solo show. For the show I decided to use the space (AMO Studios) and turn it into a new environment, one that would enchant the audience, where they could leave their inhibitions at the door and become someone else in the room, someone open and in love.  I opted to transplant one of my many dream worlds into the real world.

You often use the female body, intimacy and a feeling of opening and excavation in many of your works. Speak on this, and your relationship with your own body.

My body is my creative vessel, without my body I couldn’t explain what goes on inside my body. Native Americans used to dance and move their bodies fiercely until they hallucinated and experience powerful, life-altering visions, and in certain Haitian rituals they do the same. I believe that the body, the mind and the spirit cannot live without each other, everything one does the others feel. So when I use my own body in my work I access my mind and spirit and make them communicate in a freer more open way.
I am a woman, I work with what I know, I know my own body, I know my own thoughts and I know my emotions, so the feeling of being a woman, and the things that come with being a woman, is present in my works.

Ritual, 2011
La Vida de Arriba (He Hovers), 2011

All work copyright Alexandra Velasco.