Miguel Sebastian Hernandez

 

ARTIST STATEMENT

My work is an interdisciplinary practice that incorporates movement,  performance, sculpture, photography, video, sound and drawing. I’m interested in performance that merges visual art and movement at an intersection that builds up and deconstructs aspects of my identity, gender, queerness,  history of the brown body, race, and power. This merger manifests through the transformation of materials I interact with in my work. It’s important for me to work with materials that are commonplace in working class, Brown (Latinx) communities. These materials range from fruit, to decorative party objects, and utilitarian objects like grocery bags. These objects are culturally specific and together inform what I consider a Brown aesthetic. It’s this aesthetic that I interrogate through performance and attempt to understand as a language. These materials also function as works in and of themselves as objects I exhibit in gallery spaces. 

In 2013 I attended a 2 day conference at The Hammer Museum titled ” Dancing With the Art World” where critical reflection was emphasized on the historical relationship between dance and art and particularly dance within art spaces like museums and galleries. At the time I was familiar with performance art in Los Angeles but had not really taken into consideration the presence of “dance” as an included art form. Yet I had grown up with dance in church performances, house parties and Aztec dancing that would eventually become a foundation for my natural understanding of movement. This conference remains seminal to formative ideas I have about my practice as a maker. It prompted me to seek formal training in dance once I was established at Berkeley. 

FTZ (Foreign/Free Trade Zone) was a research based installation and performance where the material of the performance was sourced from my investigation. The installation/performance initiates a transaction between the viewer and myself, exchanging intimate photos concealed in an envelope with money. The transaction is contextualized in a space surrounded by photographs of brown men, a project I expanded on called “brown commonz”, taken by me without their permission as well as documentation of Mexican laborers being sprayed with a toxic pesticide. The installation implicates the viewer in making a trade for a product unbeknownst to them with a value only revealed if the trade is made. In the performance which culminated in a dance space near the gallery, I used plastic bags filled with colored water as channeled reservoirs for the trauma I had been exposed to from the historical anecdotes I contended with; such as the dehumanizing treatments of Mexican migrant workers in the Bracero Program (1942-1964). I embellished my body in pink foil curtains which I wore as a headpiece representing an Aztec headpiece and walked in pink heels, presenting myself as a gender queer body. I painted cardboard Aztec glyphs on cardboard and spread them around space as grounding objects of my cultural heritage. I used movement scores improvised to sound and voice over texts by Comandante Esther from the EZLN (Zapatistas) demonstrating  through my recuperative dance that gesture towards flourishment and duress, beauty in the face of devaluement. 

One of the opportunities I had to show art objects in a gallery space was in an exhibition called Pasado Manana where I presented both a video and sculpture. In a video titled Brown Zero,  I layered a mélange of video documentation and visuals of combat video games, vogue dance, Cumbia dancing, and personal footage of my Aztec dancing, overlayed with lasers, Latino queer porn , rose petals falling and images of buildings getting destroyed. The video was a meditation on the feelings, and dance styles I draw inspiration from. Riffing off “ground zero”, Brown Zer takes a turn away from Eurocentric art canons to make work from an indigenous perspective that too often feels like building from scratch and very few remnants of knowledge of my cultural history due to colonization. Adjacent to the video, I installed a sculpture titled Falling Up that was composed of materials I had previously been familiarizing myself with in performances. I created a cascade of plastic water filled bags hung from the ceiling with jute twine that created a yellow to dark green ombre effect. The sculpture represented the vulnerability and fluidity of my trans femme body through its undeniable presence in space and fragile vaporizing ephemerality. 

Earlier this year I applied to present a work where I could integrate ideas I had about movement and my interest in working with art objects. This merger became the space where Hypanthium was born. Hypanthium is a trio performance I presented at REDCAT theater that confronted my own experiences and ideas about sisterhood, space and power through an  experimental collage of  elements such as collaboration, video, movements, and sound. I created an experimental video of myself that used slow motion, quick cutting and layered video effects.  It initiated at the beginning of the performance where an emotionally distraught femme figure ran across a bridge that connects the East Side of Los Angeles to downtown while fireworks were exploding in the sun setting background. The video queered and took note of the violent war like political climate we find ourselves now. I worked with self identified “dancers” to choreograph a performance and dance that was a fast paced, flowy, and grounded. The dance incorporated an emphasis on rigorous floor work that mixed modern dance technique with subtle gestures of vogue and every day feminine body gestures. The dance balanced masculine and feminine energy. The audience was never addressed throughout the performance making it about the trio’s synergy and how we executed each moment. A live sound score curated by myself followed our every move. I curated a contemporary list of sounds like electronic dance,  heavy industrial soundtracks, experimental poetry,  gabber and a hint of pop that kept the flow of the performance exciting, intense, and erotic.  A significant part of this project was inviting and collaborating with artist who’s visual and performance work I’ve resonated with and whom I had exhibited and worked with in the past. I invited artist Maria Meae who works with ice and fruits in her art making. We collaborated on making “fashionable” ephemeral ice bags that the trio would use during performance. I also collaborated with Rafa Esparza to make a version of one of his dramatic wooden chairs, one chair for each performer. I brought artists and their aesthetic lineages into a theater space where materials used by performers were not props but instead valued art objects that together worked with dance and performance art. 

 I’m continuing to experiment with my relationship to art objects and movement by building on future iterations of Hypanthium. I’m currently working on a series of mixed media self portraits on brown paper that I want to exhibit in public space. I want to continue to push myself to make challenging work and generate objects where I can engage a deeper exploration of my practice and space. I’m committed to contributing culturally and politically significant art that makes a queer trans femme and decolonial identity of Browness visible.

CV

Education 

2016
B.A. University of California, Berkeley, Art Practice and Dance and Performance Studies ( Double Accepted Fall 2016) 

Select Exhibitions 

2018Here:Zero , for (de)- Color-Es, Human Resources, Los Angeles, CA. 

2018Dialogues in Times: Charting Genealogies and Intersections of Gender, Referentes” ArtBo Fair, Bogota, Colombia. 

2018Hypanthium, “REDCAT NOW Festival”, REDCAT, Los Angeles, CA. 

2018Saliva, for Una Obsesion Peligrosa//A Dangerous Obsession”, Human Resources, Los Angeles, CA.  

2018Econorotic Complexity,TRIO Magazine Launch”, ICA LA, Los Angeles, CA. 

2018FINA, “De La Calle/ A La Calle”, ICA LA, Los Angeles, CA.  

2018Suavemente, “SCUM x Cyclona for Dirty Looks”, Chicos, Montebello, CA. 

2018Violent Erotics: A Dream With A Vaquero, “With Land”, Artpace, San Antonio, TX 

2018Falling Up, “Pasado Manana”, Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles, CA. 

2018El Corazon Del Espantapajaro,PST: LA/LA”, LACMA, Los Angeles, CA. 

2018Corpo Ranfla, Variedades”, The Mayan Theater, Los Angeles, CA. 

2018Rafa Esparza: cumbre: look as far as you can see in every direction—north and south, east and west, MOCA Geffen, Los Angeles. 

2017FTZ, “Coastal/Borders”, Angels Gate Cultural Center, San Pedro, CA.  

2017Beto And I for For You and the Sky, Atkinson Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA. 

2017Tragame Tierra, Alta Dena Recreational Park, Los Angeles, CA. 

2017Puesto, Pues No for Fantasies and Fallacies, Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles, CA. 

2017XALA, Civic Center Studios,  Los Angeles, CA. 

2017After Entering Exits, Redcat Performance Space, Los Angeles, CA.  

2017Encuentro 37, Human Resources, Los Angeles, CA. 

2016Suspended Susto: A L.A. Flor, Human Resources, Los Angeles, CA.  

2016Violent Flowers/Fatal Prisms, Zellerbach 170, University of California Berkeley, CA. 

2015BROWNSKINHAZEL, Mustache Mondays, Los Angeles, California 

2014no water under the bridge, Boyle Heights, CA (performance in collaboration with Rafa Esparza) 

2014chino, indio, negro, Perform Chincatown, Chinatown, CA (performance in collaboration with Rafa Esparza) 

2014A Gut Reactionpt. 2, University of California Berkley 

2014A Gut Reaction, University of California Berkeley 

2014I Get So Frustrated, University of California Berkeley, California 

2014Dia De Los Muertos, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, CA 

2013Global Motions World Dance, The Broad Stage Theater, Santa Monica, CA 

2013Lucha VaVOOM, The Mayan Theater, Los Angeles, CA 

Prizes and Awards 

2016Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities Research Scholarship Recipient 

2016Theater, Dance and Performance Studies Workshop Awardee 

2015 Independent Art Honors Awardee, University of California, Berkeley 

2014 Best Sculptor Award Scholarship, Santa Monica Community College 

Residencies and Fellowships 

20172017-2018 Show Box L.A./We Live In Space Artist Residency Program for Choreographers 

Publications 

Art Viewer, “Beatriz Cortez and Rafa Esparza at Commonwealth& Council”, Art Viewer, March 1, 2018. http://artviewer.org/tag/sebastian-hernandez/ 

Relieve Contemporaneo, “Pasado Manana”, Relieve Contemporaneo. http://relievecontemporaneo.com/pasado-manana/ 

Bibliography 

BESE, ” Finding Liberation in Art with Sebastian Hernandez | Be You, BESE, December 7, 2018. https://youtu.be/iYYFkZsrxXo 

Matt Stromberg, “The History of  A Major L.A. Trading Port Surfaces In A New Performance”, Hyperallergic December 13, 2017 https://hyperallergic.com/416754/the-history-of-a-major-la-trading-port-surfaces-in-a-new-performance/ 

Laia Garcia, “Latinx: Art Angels”, DAZED, August 23, 2018. http://www.dazeddigital.com/art-photography/article/41042/1/south-central-los-angeles-latinx-art-whitney-biennial 

Alana Reibstein, “Alana Reibstein On the NOW Festival at REDCAT, Week Two” , Riting, August 1, 2018. http://www.riting.org/post/176533516634/alana-reibstein-on-the-now-festival-at-redcat 

Art Viewer, “Beatriz Cortez and Rafa Esparza at Commonwealth& Council”, Art Viewer, March 1, 2018. http://artviewer.org/tag/sebastian-hernandez/ 

Relieve Contemporaneo, “Pasado Manana”, Relieve Contemporaneo. http://relievecontemporaneo.com/pasado-manana/ 

Irana Contreras, “A Moment of Respite: Looking Back at PST LA/LA…”, Art Practical, April 10, 2018. https://www.artpractical.com/column/features-a-moment-of-respite/ 

Monica Uszerowics, “Artist Build a Lush Landscape Where Diversity Takes Root”,  Hyperallergic, February 23, 2018. https://hyperallergic.com/428693/artists-build-a-lush-landscape-where-diversity-takes-root/ 

Jenny Yurshansky “Searching For Home/Leaving Yourself Behind” notes on looking: Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, September 15, 2015 http://notesonlooking.com/2015/09/searching-for-home-leaving-yourself-behind/ 

Carol Chen “Rafa Esparza with Sebastian Hernandez no water under the bridge, Fourth Street Viaduct” Another Righteous Transfer, March 15, 2014 https://anotherrighteoustransfer.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/rafa-esparza-with-sebastian-hernandez-no-water-under-the-bridge-fourth-street-viaduct-march-15-2014/ 

Work Experience 

2018Arts Assistance, Mexica Hi-Fem by Rafa Esprza, Ceremonia, Toluca, Mexico. 

2017Art As Gendered and Queer Space, Panel Discussion at Vincent Price Art Museum, Los Angeles, CA. 

2017Art Assistant for Rafa Esparza for Arca Music Show, Boyle Heights, CA. 

2017Art Assistant for Gabriela Ruiz, for HAUS, Los Angeles, CA.