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Sebastian Hernandez

My work is an interdisciplinary practice that incorporates movement,  performance, sculpture, photography, video, and sound. I’m interested in performance that merges visual art and movement at an intersection that places  aspects of my gender and queerness in a difficult conversation with histories of power and racialized capital. This 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 working class Mexican and indigenous) 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; 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 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 entered UC  Berkeley.

In 2017 I developed and performed FTZ (Foreign/Free Trade Zone),a research based installation and performance. 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 from a project I started titled “brown commonz”. “Brown Commons” was inspired by the writtingsof queer thoerist Jose Esteban Munoz, whom wrote about the commonalities that bonds brown people by the ways in which they suffer and flourish under duress. It is a photographic project documenting contemporary brown masculine subjects coming and going to work along with images of objects, places, and people that physically represent a sense of brown to me; a furtive research  project that I practiced over the course of a year. I juxtaposed images from Brown Commonz with images from Leonard Nadel’s documentation of Mexican laborers being sprayed with a toxic pesticide to show a historical anecdote of the trauma and exploitative history the brown body in the United States. 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 reservoirs harnessing trauma from events I researched; 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 what it means to enact beauty in spite of fascism, the violence of globalization, and violence against indigenous women.