Visual artists Alex Plumb and Gui Taccetti talk queerness in Latin culture and themes of identity and desire in their respective art practices.
Sarah: Firstly, thank you so much for taking the time away from your studios to chat today, I’m very excited to have both of you together to discuss the similar themes you explore in your art practices.
I want to start by asking you, Alex, about the themes in your latest body of work, how do you navigate the relationship between desire and identity with regards to Latin Culture?
Alex: This particular series came out of a recent trip to Bolivia where I spent some time in the city of La Paz catching up with various relations.
I was struck by how much the city had changed and how things have vastly shifted, socially and politically since the first indigenous president took to power. A new kind of empowerment but simultaneous chaos seemed to be present everywhere. It was this sense of chaos and uncertainty that inspired me to look at identity. I spoke to people who appeared free to forge new meaning and identities and also many who felt great loss and nostalgia. What I was particularly drawn to was this aspirational quality in both groups of people and that’s how Rosario was born.
Gui, in regards to your last body of work, how did you come to explore fetishisation and religion?
Gui: I think, like you, identity and desire are themes that have always inspired me but it was during my post-graduate studies that I got a bit more into theory and texts around fetish and sexuality.
Being born and raised Catholic has given me the drive and purpose to now denounce the historical animosity of the Christian Church against homosexuality. The cross between fetishisation and religion is in the fact that rituals of the church have a lot in common with rituals of sex (fetishes), particularly gay sex. In a nutshell, it creates a sense of community and unity, binds queer people together and it’s an affirmation of worth and dignity. I’ll borrow a quote from David Graeber, anthropologist and anarchist, who wrote “a fetish is a god under process of construction”
I’m curious about indigenous rituals in your culture and how it has interacted with the postcolonial norm. Does it have any influence in your work?
Alex: Not yet and it’s something I want to explore further. Rosario is the first series I have made within a Latin context. Most of my previous work has been around masculinity and the everyday. I’ll hopefully be returning to South America later this year and can make another body of work. I’m quite fascinated by this bizarre mix of Catholic ideals, western values and indigenous rituals and beliefs that are all mixed together and expressed in everyday life.
I like the way you talk about rituals and fetishism in relation to religion and sex. When you are putting together your images and working with your models, how do you explore these different fetishes? Do you have an image in your mind or do you just play on set?
Gui: I do plan key images prior to the actual shoot. Although I value the importance of improvisation and the great results that can come out of it, I always walk into the studio with all the images sketched out. If there’s a creative blank they are the guidelines to follow through. It gives me the peace of mind that I will end the day with substance. And where there is peace of mind there is more room for insights and new ideas. It might sound rigid at first but my approach is very fluid and organic.
Apart from returning to South America, what else does 2018 hold for you, Alex?
Alex: I’m currently working towards my next short film, Golden Boy. It’s a dark, psychological fairy-tale about desire and sacrifice. Design-wise, it’s the biggest film project I have ever taken on so I’m very excited to take this into production.
That’s interesting in regards your methodology. I have a very similar way of working so I totally get that. I always build a detailed image in my mind first and then when I arrive on set and look through the lens, I respond to what I’m looking at intuitively and rebuild the image. Looking at your images, I can see a lot of different stylistic inspirations from classical painting to theatre and fashion. I’m curious, what sort of things inspire or motivate you in life?
Gui: Ice cream and a good nap. How about you?
Alex: Ha sleep, yes. If I don’t get my 8 hours, It’s all over the next day.. but also travel – I need that constant exposure to different people, behaviours and spaces to fuel my creativity.
What are three things you can’t go without when shooting a work in studio?
Gui: Water, coffee and baby oil.
Alex: Mine are music, plastic flowers and green tea.
Gui: I look forward to staying in touch with you Alex and as an admirer of your work, I can’t wait to see what you come up with next. Thanks for the chat and thanks express for the opportunity.
Alex: Thanks Gui and likewise! I look forward to seeing more work from you!