Elio Rodriguez

Independent Scholar

Biography

Spring 2015: Cohen and Afro-Latin American Research Institute Fellow

Corridas y Venidas

Project Description

Corridas y Venidas

My goal is to continue to explore the complex relationships between being Cuban, being black and, as both Cuban and a person of African descent, member of wider diasporic communities that cannot be contained by the traditional geographic boundaries of the nation state. How do these identities and labels evolve in  place(s) of residence that do not easily coexist with or sustain them?

Identity, I mean the forces and influences that shape our understandings of identity, is central to all my work. I understand identity as experiences that are anchored in judgments, prejudicial notions, ideas and preconceptions that conform visions about a person and about groups--from racial groups to national communities. These judgments, which circulate in our families, our social networks, in social spaces of various kinds, and indeed transnationally, are never stable, but many of them have endurance and permanence beyond borders and across time. Racial prejudice--all that is associated with race and particularly with being "black"--is a good example of this, of how certain judgments shape people and who they are, regardless of place of residence.

Taking these topics into account, I wonder: does "blackness" need to be black? Can we conceive of "blackness" as an achievement--that is, as something that ceases to be "black"? How much mixture of influences or "identities" is needed for a black artist to cease to be perceived as just black? This project is built on a on ongoing effort on which I have been working for several years. Titled "Corridas y Venidas" (www.machoenterprise.com), it plays with language (as "corridas" is the term used to describe bull fighting in Spain, but it also has sexual connotations) and with disparate visual influences to build images in which people of African descent do not easily fit, at least according to stereotypical visual codes.

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