The photographs of Damian Siqueiros illustrate his recurring concerns surrounding the construction of identity. They do so through the elements represented, as well as the technique used. Content and form are woven into a fabric of continuous reflection and open to questioning our self-representation and the world, what we consider to be essential and true. Each image constitutes the aestheticized shaping of a struggle that is at the same time intimate and social.
The creation of his images brings him to have a multidisciplinary practice: He becomes a make-up artist, stage designer, director, photographer, and digital artist. The first stage, preproduction, focuses on creating the character. The choices made about styling and make-up are fundamental. The photo shoot comes right after, either in studio or on a set.
The last part of the process is the postproduction, where the image is slightly retouched or constructed according to each project. But most importantly, it is the part of the process in which images get a lot of their rich texture.
In terms of content, the construction of gender identity is a constant in Siqueiros’ works, and this is particularly relevant in his series Life as an Everyday Performance, Sacred performances: a Couple of Rules and The Heroides (The Heroines). Over the last decades, the definition of identity in relation to the biological sex and its social representation has become increasingly complex – in great part trough feminist and queer theories. The artist values keenly the ideas of Judith Butler, for whom ‘gender’ becomes a performance. These notions take form in the preconceived ideas that surround masculinity and virility, and set in opposition (or not) to femininity that constitutes “the other”.
His work can be read, then, as an allegory of the performativity of identity. It is an attempt to represent what cannot be seen. It is a colourful way of treating the incongruity of the unitary and unchanging conception of the human being. ‘Allegory’ seems to be an appropriate term to describe the works of Damian Siqueiros, as they are closely related to classical painting, as the photo-painting style rendering of the images suggests.
The different levels of relation to the real that have united and separated painting and photography since the latter’s invention become a tool of aestheticization for Siqueiros, but also a way to highlight the surface of the image by incorporating textures that echo the material character of canvas and paper on which the image is printed. This added emphasis on the surface increases the need for awareness of the ‘film-like’ character of identity, the perception it offers to our own gaze and that of others.
It is through the visual poetry of the dialogue between the bodies in the space and the observer, a dialogue that revolves around the understanding of our selves, that the artist asks us to revise our beliefs. The images drive us to question our selves and our identity; how the bodies and the history of their representation define them, how the space reacts to my behavior and how I, the observer, identify myself with it. Written in collaboration with Christelle Proulx, drawing from the text about the artist “The Allegory of Performativity: The work of Damian Siqueiros“.