Meet the artist…
Francisco-Fernando Granados is an artist currently based out of Toronto. He is performing the piece “spatial profiling…” in Surveillance Signal, an exhibition at the Satellite Project Space on Thursday, July 6.
Ahead of his performance, Francisco-Fernando shared some thoughts on the origins of his art and the abstract, political bodies he illustrates.
What sparked the piece “spatial profiling…”?
[The work] spatial profiling… started as a formal experiment in my studio when I was still an undergraduate student at Emily Carr University. One of the first images of performance art I saw was a short clip from Margaret Dragu‘s Eine Kleine Nacht Radio. It’s this beautiful performance from 1999. At some point, Margaret presses her body against a wall. As she turns, she leaves a series of lipstick imprints behind. Something about that moment stuck with me.
Soon after, I started working on a series of works called contact studies. I would press my body on architectural surfaces for extended periods of time. At some point, I grabbed a marker and traced the outline of my profile as the discomfort forced me to shift my neck. That was my imprint. I saw that if you moved along the wall, an abstract pattern could result from the accumulation of the tracings.
I didn’t understand what I was doing, and I didn’t like it because I thought it was too abstract, not political enough. That is, until Amy Zion, a good friend of mine who was so instrumental during those years, said to me: “your body is the politics of this piece.” I called it spatial profiling… after that.
You have described “spatial profiling…” as a way to “explore the relationship between time and space through the body, as well as racial politics and the tropes of identity-based art.” Could you expand on that? What is that relationship as you see it? What are those tropes?
One of the things I noticed about performance art as I started to learn about some of its more mainstream histories was that in much of it there is an expectation, even a demand, to have the artist’s body at the centre of the work. A demand for the artist to face the audience, to be identifiable. For their likeness to appear as the image of the work in the documentation.
My work owes so much to identity-based practices. They have carved out political space within the art world to address race, gender, queerness, and a much wider range of positions that need to exist within a public sphere.
I came to Canada as a refugee from Guatemala. There was no space to talk about those politics or articulate those identities when I started to make work in Vancouver around the time of the 2010 Olympics. So that space is important, without a question. And yet at this moment, when it comes to my body now, a body that I understand as quite privileged in its ambiguity, there is a need to turn away from that demand for identification. Certain instances where it is important to refuse identification.
We are increasingly surveilled and over-identified by governments and tech companies. Self-portraiture is now available to everyday consumers. Because of that, rethinking the idea of the artist’s body must be at the centre, [and] feels important for me.
What were your thoughts in deciding to include other performers in your piece?
The decision to include other people in the performance came with a realization. I needed to displace my body as the expected artist/performer, or at least challenge and re-imagine it. So, I did a participatory version of the work for a drawing festival in Vancouver in 2014. I found that there was a certain skill in teaching the action to another person, as it is quite challenging for the body. There are things you need to do in order for it to not become torturous. I’m interested in endurance, but I am not interested in self-imposed suffering. So sharing the action is an interesting challenge.
Conversations with curator Christian Camacho-Light leading up to a version of the project we presented at Bard College last spring brought up how important the resulting drawing is to the work. Having different people with different heights and profiles adds dimension. This time, the work is called spatial profiling… (extended) as a way to acknowledge how the performers add to the work.
You have performed “spatial profiling…” in several venues and locations. What have been some of your most interesting experiences from this piece?
It’s a piece that requires quite a bit of focus, so the experience tends to be more inward than outward. There was a version we did in Toronto in 2013 for the Mayworks Festival, which looks at the intersection of arts and labour. I was able to collaborate with Margaret Dragu, who was doing an action for the camera live-streamed from Vancouver. Jessica Karuhanga was a co-performer who would roll dice to determine when I would change the colour of the markers. There was beautiful vibration to the room with all those elements.
On a greater level in our society today, what happens when we reduce people to a set of data points?
The problem with reducing bodies to data, and what we can identify at the very surface, is that it fails to recognize that there are moments when we are more than what we can name as an identity. There are moments when what bodies feel, what bodies do, is impossible to articulate. It’s important to remember this about the body.
You can learn more about Francisco-Fernando Granados’ work on his website. In addition, be sure to check out the performance of spatial profiling… Thursday, July 6 at the Satellite Project Space as part of Surveillance Signal.
Featured photo by Manolo Lugo of spatial profiling… (2011-14); performance, site-specific drawing