Desi Santiago

 For the past year I have become obsessed with the work of Desi Santiago, and I was finally able to meet him and see his work in person at Envoy Enterprises (http://envoyenterprises.com) for his solo show on view concurrently at the gallery’s two locations.

Beyond the fact that he was a Club Kid known as Desi Monster [I am extremely fascinated with this era], his work operates in non-descript intersections of art, performance, and fashion.  Drawing from his experiences through club culture and identity politics, he is sort of an amazing artistic figure at the moment (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/29/fashion/desi-santiago-is-an-artist-in-the-moment.html?pagewanted=all).  He recently helped construct fashion sculpture and objects for the Marc Jacobs x Luis Vuitton exhibit in Paris, as well as assist designer Guido Palau with the construction of masks to accompany garments for Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last year.

Transcendence of Identity and Identity as Performance has become integral pieces to my own practice, and to see someone take those ideas on, and create his own language is fascinating.  Santiago utilizes ritualistic performances to transcend notions of identity and embark on a journey of otherness.  Identity politics isn’t a new field of exploration, but seeing as he is Puerto Rican, I am always intrigued when artists of color deal with notions of race, age, gender, sexuality, and other notions of identity that we as a society assume to be concrete.  Beyond his large physical intimidating stature, lies a mind that seems to create a web of fiction that references the artist’s own mythology.  His own personal history of body transformation and transcendence are directly linked with his childhood and teenage years.  Seeing loved ones, specifically his brother, die from AIDS, he began a search for his own identity.  The feeling of existing as an empty shell would affect the way he perceived identity, specifically his own.  He says that he wanted to become “A thing”, to transcend definitions as a means of self-discovery. 

“I took female hormones as well. I wasn’t interested in being a woman, but I was interested in not being anything, in being nothing. I was an alien. I was manipulating my flesh and doing a lot of body modification, corsetry. I wanted to be a thing.” -Santiago

I was at first annoyed with the fact that he doesn’t have a website, but he has said that he likes the idea of lurking in a metaphorical cave, waiting for the right people to find him.

As a metal-smith, his exquisite craftsmanship and programming have produced these creepy yet intricate robotic heads, equipped with chattering teeth and moving eyes.  This sci-fi fantasy yanked from a costume shop is mesmerizing.  Now if only I had the courage to approach this intimidating genius of a Monster… I should hold a ritual of my own to summon some courage to talk to him.

Robotic head in action (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUsKnLPU1Ok)

Interview: http://dirty-mag.com/02/art_desi.html

- IBX

This post is posted on Friday 14 September 2012.
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