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Arts & Culture

An Interview With Julia Barbosa Landois

Photo: Ramin Samandari, License: N/A

Ramin Samandari

2013 was a very busy year for Julia Barbosa Landois, the San Antonio-based performance, installation, and video artist. Star-Crossed II, a video describing a woman’s relationship with Jesus through ranchera song, was included in the McNay “He Said, She Said” exhibition curated by Chris Davila. The more you honor Me, the more I will bless you, was visible as an around-the-clock video installation at Box 13 Artspace in Houston. Her Window Works Artpace installation Buried, not Dead, which traces the life of ant farms and human migration, wrapped up just on December 29.

Landois’  performance piece Culo de Oro is a collaboration with musician Erik Sanden about the sex trade in Boystown, Nuevo Laredo. For it, she interviewed men who had gone to the red-light district either to engage in sex, or to watch the notorious Donkey Show. As a live performance, Landois and Sanden perform pop and country tunes and interview excerpts in a satirical cantina atmosphere. Landois and Sanden reprised the performance for this year’s Texas Biennial.

In 2014, Landois will continue to collaborate with Sanden on a new performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, and in Montreal for the Hemispheric Institute Encuentro. About this work, Landois says “[it] will include original writing and music. It's about a journey, inspired by immigration, but also dreams and the drive to metaphorically ‘find your own way.’”

You've got an interesting combination of elements in your work. Do you use humor to make the dark themes more palatable to an audience?

Well, it's not necessarily just more palatable to an audience, humor also gets me through it. Because that piece in particular [Culo de Oro], doing the research was so hard at times. Interviewing people who I knew personally was not sobad, because there's an empathy there, and it's a lot more complicated when you know more about who they are. But [with] the web research, you can go down this internet rabbit hole, [which] puts you in this really frightening place.

I started researching it when I was in Philadelphia during grad school, and to be alone in this tiny apartment in the middle of the night looking at sex tourism websites was scary. [The johns on the sex tourism sites] say shockingly misogynist things, because they think that they’re the only audience. So I'm waking up in the morning, and I'm seeing men on the street, thinking “is it you? Is it you?”

To find a way to get in touch with how ridiculous it all is... how do you deal with knowing that that's in the world? It is absurd, and comedy is a way to deal with that.

It was interesting to watch the audience respond to (the Culo de Oro performance), because we were visible to you. It wasn't totally anonymous. You can make eye contact.

There’s nothing like eye contact. It's so powerful. It's such a small device, but it really takes people by surprise. Now we get even less eye contact, because we’re communicating by computer.

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