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“Art can change the world” – an interview with Yolanda Domínguez

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Jem McCarron
WVoN co-editor

Yolanda Domínguez is a Spanish artist who investigates and challenges our gender conceptions through art.

Born in Madrid in 1977, Domínguez describes herself as a visual artist and performer. She studied Fine Arts and has a Masters in Art and New Technologies and in Concept and Creation.

In 2010 she received a grant from the Spanish Ministry of Culture for the Promotion of Spanish Art abroad.

She also teaches in Spanish women’s institutions and associations, lecturing on “Art as a tool of social transformation” and “Creativity”.

She challenges the viewer with her art through’Livings’, explained on her website as “experiences in which the spectators find themselves involved, while they are taking a walk, shopping or going to a restaurant.

WVoN: Your video entitled ‘Poses’ took an ironic look at the positions in which models are photographed in the name of fashion. How does the ‘fashion obsession’ affect women in Spain?

It’s amazing how many blogs about fashion and trends exist on the Internet, it’s a social phenomenon. The excessive value given to physical appearance coupled with the consumer desire of developed countries is generating a new kind of people who only live for fashion.

Wanting to be beautiful and attractive is natural (and necessary for the reproduction of the species!) but is really reaching worrying limits and Spain is no different to other countries.

My ‘Poses’ piece arose precisely from the need to question where the line that separates the healthy from the absurd of this “ideal” world they sell in the magazines lies.

Increasingly the models are younger, thinner, with more unhealthy postures. Is this what we want to emulate? Is this art, as some consider in fashion editorials and so acceptable or does it have wider consequences?

WVoN: “Livings” are a great concept, challenging art that involves the audience. Do the reactions of your audience ever surprise you?

Almost always! It’s wonderful to take your concerns and expose them through this medium and see how others react. I learn so much from the participants.

Somehow it’s the viewer who becomes the creator of the work, without them the work is not active and depends on them to take one path or another. If in the project ‘Poses’ nobody cared about the actresses it would have been totally different, valid, but different.

I never know what will happen … I just put the ingredients and leave the rest to the viewer.

WVoN: What are your formative influences, what prompted this particular focus for your work?

I began my studies at the University of Fine Arts but soon I looked for more contemporary mediums. I love painting but I think it had its moment and now no longer serves to make art.

Art is directly linked to its time and ways to communicate today have changed, it will inevitably be reflected in art.

Art is communication, feelings or emotions, but communication, there are posts and receivers so the language has to adapt to the times. Classical artistic languages: painting, sculpture etc. now only have an aesthetic function, without content.

Today I especially like the work of artists who not only have an aesthetic purpose but provide something to the viewer, which serves as a stimulus. Such as Santiago Sierra, Alicia Framis, Marina Abramovic and Maurizio Cattelan (I love irony and humor as a vehicle to discuss critical issues).

In order to reach people I decided to do my work on the street or insert them into everyday life and language.

WVoN: One of those new communication forms is of course the Internet and you created a blog under the pseudonym of Katy Salinas, documenting her obsession with staying beautiful no matter the costs. How do you feel about this work in light of the recent anger generated by other ‘fake’ blogging characters, such as ‘A Gay Girl in Damascus’?

Today the line between reality and fiction is virtually invisible in all areas and tends to fade more and more: what we see on TV, magazines, what we read, what we buy…how much is truth and how much illusion or manipulation?

Art has always been a fiction that aims to reality. Film, theater, painting … all always sought to be as real as possible to make the viewer feel more. Now the art is trying to sneak into reality through many strategies, such as street art, theater in the houses.

It’s an area that has yet to be explored and is going to generate many questions, but it is unstoppable.

Does the end justify the media? That’s something each artist has to consider according to their ethics and of course with full responsibility for what they produce.

That debate will undoubtedly be much discussed in the coming years.

WVoN: Would you call yourself a feminist?

Sure, feminism is an ideology that advocates equal rights for men and women, everyone should be feminist.

But my work has no feminist intention and arises only from the interest to know myself, to think about what happens to me and my worries as a human being and, of course, as a woman! I raise these questions and thoughts out loud through my work so I can share with others who are involved and see it.

WVoN: You believe that art can be used as a tool for social transformation, how do you see this working in practice?

Art does not change things but it changes people and people change the world. In that sense art itself is involved in building the world around us. Anything we launch into the world (pictures, words or actions) are issuing messages and have consequences.

Every time I create a piece of work I receive numerous emails from people who have formed some conclusion about what it means, what issues it raises and that is incredible. “Ever since I saw ‘Poses’ I do not see women’s magazines in the same way” …this is to change the world.

WVoN: One of your stated goals is to challenge the established attitudes of women. What are these attitudes and who do you feel presents the greater challenge when it comes to change?

I think it is the job of each and every person to see what they can do to contribute to change. Many women talk about “patriarchy” and what is “imposed on us” and believe it is men who have to change whilst maintaining attitudes that don’t benefit or help that change.

Gender roles are not independent and must be modified in both directions. This added to the social changes (legal, cultural, ideological) will enable a movement. Everything counts.

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