‘The exhibition aims at challenging stereotypical narratives around Latin American identity, by deploying the gender-neutral term Latinx, which implies a higher degree of inclusivity of diverse communities and people’, say curators Fiona McKay and Xenia Capacete Caballero of collective White Line Projects.
Latino/a are highly problematic terms, first coined in Europe by French intellectuals and later used in the US, to refer to individuals from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. These terms contribute to creating a singular narrative, who erases the multiplicity of Latinx identities, such as indigenous or Afro-centric diasporic communities.
‘Mundo Latinx’, on show at Fashion Space Gallery until 4 May 2019, brings together the work of visual artists who address questions around representation and identity to reveal some of the struggles for visibility, empowerment and justice within current social, political, economic and cultural structures.
Incorporating a wide range of media, the exhibition displays a series of photographic projects, juxtaposed to interactive displays of Instagram feeds, illustration, as well as textile and fashion design.
First, I came across the series’ Los Primos (The Cousins)‘ by German photographer Lena Mucha, one of the only non Latin-American practitioners featured in the exhibition.
‘Los Primos’ documents the reality of indigenous transgender women working and living around the village of Santuario, in the mountains of Colombia’s coffee region.
The coffee farms become a safe-space and a shelter for a growing number of transgender women from the native Emberá community, who have been rejected from their biological families due to their identities and labelled as ‘primos’.
As Mucha recalls, ‘On these coffee farms they are recognised. They work hard and every evening after returning from the fields, they wear their typical dresses, jewellery and embrace their feminine side’.
Second, I was captivated by the work of Mexican photographer Diego Moreno for its sinister yet intimate allure. Hailing from San Cristobál de las Casas, Chiapas, Moreno explores ancestral rituals through questioning notions of identity and memory.
The photographic series ‘Los Panzudos Mercedarios’ (Guardians of Memory) revolves around the experience of Moreno’s Aunt Abuela (great aunt), who suffered from scleroderma, a disease that causes thickening of the skin and affects blood flows and internal organs. The deformation is made evident in the representation of the ‘panzudos’, created as guardians of his hometown, part child-like puppets, part monsters.
The use of symbolism both from pre-Hispanic and Catholic tradition serves the cathartic purpose of rebuilding the image of his great aunt by focusing on the interconnections between individual and collective subconscious.
Moving to fashion, Guerxs is a Mexico City-based modelling and casting agency, founded by 21-year-old María Osado as a protest against Eurocentric standards of beauty of the Mexican fashion and media industries. The agency gives a platform for more inclusive notions of beauty, by incorporating a wider spectrum of identities, body shapes and skin tones.
‘I used to buy the most conventional magazines that were around me, and one day I realised beauty standards were so far from how both I and most of the population in Mexico look. I decided to create a project that could question the rigid standards of the dominant industry in Mexico, so I started an agency with the help of my friends who are now the models’ (María Osado, founder of Guerxs in an interview with Dazed)
The name ‘Guerxs’ is a wordplay on the Mexican term ‘güeros’, which refers to people with lighter, European features . The addition of the ‘x’ at the end embodies the aim of the agency to dismantle het- and cis- normative structures in Mexican fashion with an ethical and inclusive approach to street casting. For instance, Osada hangs leaflets on the streets around Mexico City, encouraging new submissions.
While in Brazil, Brechó Replay is a creative studio and intersectional art collective pushing against normativity and beauty conventions through performance, styling, online content and fashion events.
Initially envisioned in 2015 by ballet dancer Eduardo Costa in response to the little representation of POC in the arts community and to the discrimination faced as a black man, the agency was later joined by stylist and “healer” Victoria Carolina who, growing up in a favela, never had the access to the arts due to socio-economical reasons.
Multi-media artist and producer Viviane Lee Hsu, is the last addition to the team. Brechó Replay casts independent designers and artists to create fashion editorials and videos to create a platform for people who are left out and marginalised by the draconic Bolsonaro’s regime.
‘Brechó Replay is about the connection of people, (and) it’s about context,’ Costa says. ‘It’s about more than just a pretty image – it tells lots of stories’.
Other artists on show are: José Ballivian, Hugo Canuto, José Castrellón, Sabrina Collares, Lucía Cuba, Carla Fernández, Jahel Guerra Roa, Natalia Iguíñiz, Dorian Ulises Lopez Macías, Silvia Röthlisberger, John M. Valadéz, Guadalupe Rosales (Veteranas & Rucas), Adam Wiseman, and Amanda Witkins.
Mundo Latinx is on show until 04 May at Fashion Space Gallery, London College of Fashion, 20 John Prince’s Street, London, W1G 0BJ. Entry to the exhibition is free www.fashionspacegallery.com