24 June 2024

Emilio Bianchic, Impráctica II, 2016. Video, 2’23”

From an open call for artists from Uruguay, Emilio Bianchic was selected for a six-week residency that took place during spring 2024, supported by Fundación Ama Amoedo. 

Delfina Foundation: Alongside “time and space” to develop artistic practice, a key aspect of the residencies at Delfina Foundation is the opportunity for residents to share their work and forge connections with people based in, or passing through, London. This can be with co-residents, other artists, the audience that come to Delfina, arranged studio visits, as well as various occasions for making presentations to invited guests. I always enjoyed your presentations at our fortnightly Family Lunches. You would start by playing the 2018 video work that documents your attempt to paint your nails whilst riding a rollercoaster. I enjoyed observing the kind of emotional ride in the room as the video progressed: where, initially, people seemed unsure of what was happening, then the smiles began to appear when it became apparent what was being attempted, and finally a collective laugh when the final result of your endeavour is revealed. Can you talk about the role of humour in your work?

Emilio Bianchic: Humour is a very important part of everything I do, I can’t help it. However, I think humour is not that well received in the art world, and that made me feel a little conflicted at the beginning. I wanted to be taken seriously. Then I understood, that even if it took me longer to gain credibility, I can’t be an artist in any other way, I just can’t. The art world wants trauma. And I do have that, but I just relate to it differently, and so, for those who are open to looking beyond the surface, they can find more in my work, and for those who aren’t, at least they get a few laughs.

But for me everything is like that, a little funny, a little sad. I’m very interested in surprises, in visceral reactions. I think that’s how I organise my day: I wake up and think “what or who is going to fuck my brains out today?” I want to take care of these weird feelings, to push them to the front. I am seriously committed to stupidity, to that kind of vulnerability. I am slapstick. I love pratfalls. I stick to the first idea. I try not to change my work so much. That initial flame, I try to keep it burning until the work is done.

Humour disarms and I find that very special. If you can make people laugh, no matter what their politics are, no matter what they’re feeling, they’ll listen. At least for a little while, we meet each other on the same ground. And that’s beautiful! After that we can go back to being horrible.

Emilio Bianchic, Rollercoaster, 2018. Video, 1’45”.

Delfina Foundation: Rollercoaster (2018) is also shares of other themes that are common across your practice: the medium of video, performance, the lo-fi aesthetic, the body, self, queerness. Taking two of these, production values and queer aesthetics/approaches, do you see an intersection of these two things, at least in their manifestations in your own work?

Emilio Bianchic: Rollercoaster is a very special piece for me. In the video I paint my nails while riding the Coney Island Cyclone. I was sitting at the front of the rollercoaster and my friend was at the back, putting the camera on my face to create this kind of POV that is very important for the work. The final video is the second attempt we made. The first one was on a different rollercoaster that did a 360 loop, so stupid! I obviously dropped my nail polish and we couldn’t record anything. I think I still have that stained jacket somewhere.

I think the aesthetic of many of my videos, which you can call lo-fi or homemade, actually responds to an urgency I feel to tell these stories; to make these videos with the few resources I have around me. Like, if I don’t make those works right in the moment I would go crazy. I need to let them out of my system. I’m very influenced by YouTube. I remember being 16 years old and my brother showing me YouTube for the first time and I was like “this will never work”.

I also have videos with other “production values”, filmed with better cameras and a crew. But the truth is that I enjoy filming in the simplest and fastest way the most. Many of the videos we see every day are like that, but we make these distinctions with other productions and I don’t think that it changes the final result at all. I think it responds more to a fascism of the images or something like that… The only thing I can accept is that bad sound can take people away from your message, so I try to pay attention to that part. Otherwise give me a piece of green cloth and some tape and I’ll build you the Titanic.

About the relationship between this kind of images and queerness…I don’t know. I think queer people have always produced from the margins, with the leftovers. And fantasy and delusion is a lifestyle not a 8K camera and lights! I relate to my queerness through play and experimentation. I believe in these little queer moments that happen, like the rollercoaster. These expressions that get out of control. Out of the heteronormative obsession of being productive and effective every day. You can call these moments accidents, art, or magic. That is queer for me. More than a fixed identity or a persona. These little instants result in these other realities, opportunities for change. And that’s where I’m always trying to go with my work.

Delfina Foundation: Ok, and perhaps we could touch on two more of those aforementioned aspects that weave through your work: self and performance. You, or perhaps to be more accurate, your body – or parts of it – are often central in your works. Could you speak a little to the subject of self and performance in your work?

Emilio Bianchic: I think the closest person I have around is myself! And I really enjoy working alone, setting up the camera, setting up the shot and performing. Most of my work features my feet or my hands, kind of separated from the body. Performing very small, domestic actions.

I’m interested in the way we access everything; this idea of our hands as tools and constructors of meaning. I have a series of videos titled Impráctica (referring to impracticality) where I perform a series of actions like changing the light fixtures or putting ice cubes in a glass with extremely long nails that make it very difficult to perform.

After too much hands and nail art I started to focus on feet. I did it as a way to escape from those ideas, to work with the senseless, clumsiness, being irrational or silly. An example of this is my Feetshion (feet fashion) runway shows or my performances playing the piano with my feet. This is where I developed what I call “feet thinking”, an anti-rational and not-so-serious way of action, coming from the opposite side of the brain: the feet. That’s when I started doing feet paintings that I still perform to this day.

Emilio Bianchic, Uhlalala, 2017

Delfina Foundation: I enjoyed learning the term ‘Myrmecophily’ from you – the love of ants. We can come back to the specifics of your interest in ants, and your focus on them during your residency, but maybe let’s start with insects and animals more broadly. Butterflies, fish, sharks have all made significant appearances in your work: or at least their cultural representations have. What is it that has draws you to these subjects?

Emilio Bianchic: I think there has always been something animalistic in my work and performances. But in relation to non-human animals, I think I started working with butterflies a million years ago. The word “Mariposa” (butterfly in Spanish) is used in Uruguay to describe someone queer or very flamboyant, like “fairy”. So, I started to work with this image. My video Crossfit is about a group of butterflies that want to cross the street, inspired by the migration of the Monarch Butterflies. I’m also interested in thinking about how the image of the butterflies became an empty symbol, totally disconnected from the real insect. They are everywhere, in every store and every T-shirt. Butterflies are also the #1 tattoo!

Emilio Bianchic, Mariposer, 2022. Video, 4’5”

I went to visit the Monarch Butterfly sanctuary in Michoacan, Mexico, and it was very powerful. They are on the verge of extinction. The thought of it makes me very sad. A few years ago, the park ranger was murdered, because there is a lot of illegal logging and very sinister things going on there. But it is very interesting how butterflies are seen as these insects of good, as the beautiful bugs, linked to love and beautiful feelings. Whereas cockroaches and spiders bring all these negative feelings to people.

Insects are the trash of the animal kingdom, to the point of being left out of the very idea of animals in our culture obsessed with pets and mammals. They create a lot of anxiety in people. First, because they question all our ideas of individuality. And second, because we see them as aliens, like little monsters. They are engraved in our imagination as vectors of disease. Dirty, disgusting, shit-eaters. Movies and television exploit all these terrors and anxieties, like Survivor or those shows where the contestants have to sing in a bathtub full of bugs. People see them as excessive, so much so that they don’t deserve to live, or rather, their deaths don’t count. And the truth is I love them, we depend on them to survive and they’ve been on earth much longer than we are and there are billions of billions per person!

Emilio Bianchic, Wildlife, 2015

Delfina Foundation: Ok. So back to ants. I understand this your research here is contributing to an ongoing and long-term project on this subject. Could you tell us about this, and how it has evolved during your residency?

Emilio Bianchic: My project at Delfina Foundation consisted of researching ant colonies to make a film about them. It’s a movie that is going to take me a long long time. On one hand, it’s about all these colonial ideas linked to ants: order, hard work, status quo, the queen. And on the other, the people who work with them. Scientists and myrmecologists and ant fanatics. The film will cross many territories and also includes a lot of performers and dancers. I want to delve into the chaotic and randomness of ant colonies, these complex biological systems that have historically been used as examples of our societies and political systems.

Thanks to the residency in London, I was able to visit the Natural History Museum, where they have the largest and oldest entomology collection in the world. I was also able to exchange with other artists and researchers, setting this project in motion. And I know this will go very slowly… but I am very excited to share it with everyone very soon.

Emilio Bianchic, Picnic con hormigas, 2020. From the series, Feetpainting

Interview conducted by Helen Gale, Head of Marketing and Communications at Delfina Foundation.