The photographs of Damian Siqueiros illustrate his recurring concerns surrounding the construction of identity. Doing so by the represented elements, as well as the technique that he uses. Content and form are woven into a fabric of continuous reflection and open to questioning of our self-representation and the world, of what we consider to be essential and true. Each image constitutes the aestheticized shaping of a struggle that is at the same time intimate and social.
The creation of his images brings him to have a multidisciplinary practice: he becomes a make-up artist, stage designer, director, photographer and digital artist. The fist stage, the pre-production, concentrates on creating the character. The choices made on the styling and the make-up are fundamental. The photo shoots comes right after, either on the studio or on set. The last part of the process is the postproduction, where the image is slightly retouched or constructed according to each project. But most importantly it is a part of the process where the images get a lot of their richness of texture.
In terms of content, the construction of gender identity is a constant in his oeuvre, and this is particularly relevant in his series Life as an Everyday Performance, Sacred performances: a Couple of Rules and The Heroides (The Heroines). Over the last decades the definition of identity in relation to the biological sex and it social representation has become increasingly complex. In great part trough feminists and Queer theories. The artist values keenly the ideas of Judith Butler, in which ‘gender’ becomes a performance. These notions take form in the preconceived ideas that surround masculinity and virility, and that is set in opposition (or not) to femininity that constitutes “the other”.
His work can be read, then, as an allegory of the performativity of identity. It is an attempt to represent what cannot be seen. It is a colourful way of treating the incongruity of the unitary and unchanging conception of the human being. The ‘allegory’ seems to be an appropriate term to describe the works of Damian Siqueiros, as it is closely related to classical painting, as the photo-painting style rendering of the images suggests.
The different levels of relation to the real that unite and separate Painting and Photography since its invention become a tool of aestheticization for Siqueiros, but also a way to highlight the surface of the image by means of incorporating textures that echoes the material character of canvas and paper in which the image is printed. This added emphasis to the surface increases even further the demand for awareness of the ‘film-like’ character of identity, the perception it offers to our own gaze and that of others.
It is through the visual poetry of the dialogue between the bodies in the space of the image and the observer, a dialogue that revolves around the understanding of our selves, that the artist ask us to make a revision of our beliefs. The images drive us to question our selves about our identity; how the bodies and the history of their representation define them, how the spaces react to my behavior and how I, the observer, identify myself with it.
Extract of the text Life as an Everyday Performance: Allegory of Performativity by Christelle Proulx.