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A project by artist Carlos Motta to interview and document the work of transgender and intersex activists recently went public, in the form of an online archive. Titled Gender Talents, the site includes 34 interviews conducted between February 2011 and August 2013 in the United States, India, Guatemala, and Motta’s native Colombia.
“Every person and every community deals with gender identity politics differently. I am interested in making these specific contexts visible to resist the wave [of] normalization that seeks to make blanket statements and single handed narratives about social struggles,” Motta said in an interview with Creative Capital, a major supporter of the project. “My intention with every portrait was to facilitate a video space where the activists could re-present themselves in their own terms, to establish a conversation where they could determine the way in which they wanted to be ‘portrayed.’”
Appropriately, the series features interviews with subjects from every walk of life, from Hida Viloria, an outspoken activist with Organization Intersex International in Los Angeles who once appeared on Oprah, to Amitava Sarkar, a worker with SAATHI (Solidarity and Action Against The HIV Infection in India) fighting to secure rights, social benefits, and basic safety for trans and intersex people in small communities in India where they have very little support. In some instances, Motta’s project focuses on people who aren’t activists in the formal sense of being affiliated with a specific organization or working on a specific issue, but whose very public and outspoken places in their communities make them de facto role models for other intersex or trans individuals who may be struggling with discrimination or abuse. The latter include Daniela Lux, a trans woman who runs her own restaurant in Guatemala City, and La Gata, a rapper and singer in Cali, Colombia.
In addition to the online database, Motta sees live events and performances as an essential element of Gender Talents. Previous events have taken place at Tate Modern in London, as part of the 19 Bienal de Arte Paiz, in Guatemala City, the Künstlerhaus Mousonturm in Frankfurt, and elsewhere.
“The physical events are ways of bringing these conversations to a physical place,” Motta told Creative Capital, “to occupy institutions with non normative bodies and to create spaces that are uniquely diverse through an experience that is not based on the problematic notions of ‘tolerance’ and ‘inclusion.’”
The entire Gender Talents series may be viewed online. Carlos Motta will be speaking at the Art Social, Change and the Urban Sphere symposium on March 26 at 6pm at the City College of New York (Compton Goethals, Room 249, West 140th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, Harlem, Manhattan).