“I want to see myself represented with dignity”
Ana Sofia Esteva (AE): Let´s start with: How old are you? Do you have a hobby? What´s your zodiac sign? What´s your favorite music?
Fabián Cháirez (FC): I´m thirty three years old. I´m a Sagittarius. My hobby… I love to style wigs.
Emilio Poiré (EP): Really?
FC: Yeah Yeah. I have mentioned I do drag. I love combing wigs and designing little models and that tipe of faggotries. I love them because they´re still something creative and something I enjoy but they are also a bit different than what I usually do.
My favorite music… I love electronic and classical music. Starting there, I can listen from techno to Vivaldi. I don´t like to become absorbed in myself, I think that´s very negative to creativity.
EP: In your work, you represent various characters from the country´s history and culture. Why do you think it is important to recontextualize these characters, characters that are very fixed inside the mexican culture?
FC: I think that it´s a constant discussion I have with the spectators because I resignify these characters to talk about our topics, which have been erased from history. They made our heroes invisible. Therefore, it´s important that, if we don´t have any, I use the ones that already exist to communicate this message, that we fight too and that we can take the same national examples of resilience for our movement.
Adding to this, I like that people usually reassert their homophobia, because they argue: “Don´t mess with my heroes or symbols”. But, who is the owner those symbols? They are not just symbols for the heterosexuals, they are symbols for every single person that wants to use them.
AE: Do you thing that figurative art has lost importance in contemporary art? Why?
FC: It did loose a lot of importance during several decades. It was said that figurative painting was overvalued and surpassed. But I think that in the information era, where we communicate mainly with images, figurative painting is gaining back power and it is because of how easy it is to understand an image. I see that many people are interested in figurative art once again, and not only for the facility of language, but because people are fed up with installation and conceptual art.
[However], I´ve always believed that progress and transcendence belong not only to one technique. I believe that looking forward and evolving the concepts means we need to integrate all disciplines. In art, there isn't only one truth, there are several.
AE: Making your work touch reality.. Is that an intention of yours? Would you allow for the representation, the artwork, become the subject itself? For example, every time that a situation similar to “La Revolución” happens…
FC: Actually that happens thanks to figurative painting. Zapata´s image hadn´t been transformed the way I did. Even the rest of the artworks in the exhibition, they tried to transform Zapata´s image, but they failed. It was through figurative painting that I managed to create another symbol that referred to the same character, but in my own way.
AE: To what extent do you want your painting to become the subject that is being represented?
FC: Sometimes it gets out of my hands -Fabián laughs-; when you paint something, it can´t be neither loved by everyone, nor hated by everyone. So it´s very interesting to see what happened with my work because people had appropriated it before; they even changed the name.
EP: It was called `Viva Méxica´, right?
FC: No! It´s called “La Revolución” but they did call it that. It´s amazing when people appropriate an image. It´s one of my biggest achievements as an artist.
EP: Before the Bellas Artes exhibition [Zapata después de Zapata], there has been an increment in LGBTQ, feminist or indigenous artists being represented. Some would say it´s just for the trend and for institutions to look politically correct. What do you think of this?
FC: I don´t doubt that many people do it just for the trend. I don´t doubt it; it´s something that happens when someone initiates a different conversation, especially if it works inside the art market. However, I also think that another possibility is because society is evolving. That is undeniable because art is the object, the outcome of the experiences a subject has inside a specific context. Of course all the struggles, the thoughts and the tiredness will be reflected in art. That is the part I like about when this happens, even if it seems like just a trend.
Actually, it is very interesting how my paintings are from 2009 and it´s until now that they have gained their importance. In 2009 I didn´t know what the hell I was doing. I just knew I was fed up with having the same guys I flirted with call me a fag, not wanting me because I was too obviously gay, or because of my skin color, or because I´m effeminate. That´s when I said: “I want to see myself represented with dignity”.
EP: During all the time in this interview, what you have mentioned the most is that you do drag. From the information we gathered, no one seems to ask you about this, but you say it anyways. What has drag given to your life? What is your name when in drag?
FC: Uff! It has been the most important tool to deconstruct myself. Thanks to drag I realized the performance implicit in gender and I could experience it. For me, putting on some high heels, painting my nails, wearing a wig means a lot. Even though these are only objects, think of all the significance and social connotations these objects have! Drag has helped me erase the limits, and I love it because that has been fundamental to build the freedom I have now.
EP: What´s your name when in drag?
FC: María Magdalena. It was my grandmother´s name, but she didn´t like “María” because she considered it a lower class name. Once again, this comes to show the classism and racism I was raised with. And these are things I´ve deconstructed and reconstructed from my own experiences. All of that is reflected in my work.
EP: Last question: if a genie where to appear and grant you three wishes that could change something in the country, your job, and the LGBTQ community, what changes would you wish for?
FC: Uff. Nice question
In the country I would wish for empathy. Definitely. I think we are lacking it in our society. We live in very opposite poles and empathy is necessary to realize we are the same. We´re people.
In my job… giving myself enough time to build all I have always hoped on building. I still don´t know -Fabián laughs- don´t know where I´ll get, but I hope my conscience and patience endure so I can enjoy it.
In the LGBTQ community… not forgetting where we come from, even when we have earned those places of recognition. Also, that this critical consciousness that living on the outskirts has given us is something permanent. Memory, memory.
We want to thank Fabián and Rodrigo for their time and support for this project. It´s an honor to talk with such an innovative voice inside the community, and it´s important to listen to this young and relevant voice inside the art world. We admire you, Fabián.
-Interview by Emilio Poiré and Ana Sofia Esteva