A/O is a video-poem collaboration between the poet Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz and film-maker Luke Beekman. They unveiled the film on July 5th at Main Street Books after the “Finding Identity” poetry reading. After watching it, the crowd spent an hour discussing the project with Aurelio and Luke and looking deeply into the nature of identity. I wanted to post the film for those who missed it, and share some of what we discussed in the form of a short review.
A/O, on one level, attempts to pin down an identity from the many binary-oppositions at work within Diaz. The film is visually structured around the elemental duality of light/dark, day/night, Sun/Moon. Interestingly, this visual dichotomy is repeated, albeit obliquely, in the artist’s name, Luna Diaz, where Luna means ‘Moon’, and Diaz means ‘Son (sun) of Jacob (who cunningly ‘bought’ his birthright and later wrestled with God!).’ Diaz’s middle name, Villa, seems to capture the tension that arises when we attempt to establish a fixed identity upon the instability of binary opposites. A villa is a home on the outskirts of the city. A fixed identity is akin to home, a place of safety and respite, closed off from the ever-changing world. The name Villa suggests an ineluctable impulse to establish a home (identity) in the ever-changing seasons of sun and moon (Diaz/Luna). This home, this villa–if it can be settled at all–will always be outside of the city, or outside of the established community center. In this way the very name, Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz carries the scent of the nomad; the scent of one who enters the city by night and escapes by day.
In the Q&A that followed the screening, Diaz clued us into the meaning of the title A/O. A and O are common suffixes used to denote masculine and feminine in both Spanish and Italian. This is important because the poem’s central dichotomy is that of Gender. Gender is often seen to be a rigid and indisputable quality of our identities, but A/O presents gender as unfixed and malleable. While this was cause for more than a few people squirming in their seats during the screening, it has led to broad support in the LGBT community.
As the poem unfolds other binary opposites emerge: American/Mexican, Internal/External, Inhale/Exhale, Writing/Speaking. However, by the end it is clear that identity is not to be found in any of the binary opposites at work within the individual, but in the liminal space between opposites. We encounter “True Self” like an illusive scent in the passage between what can be readily pointed at. Identity is not the “A” or the “O”, but the transition between. Identity is the /. – Jason Kaufman
Press Release for A/O
Human identity has new faces: ‘A/O’
Diaz reveals a video art piece dealing with dualities of human identity.
MANSFIELD, OHIO (EMBARGO: July 5, 2013) – Ohio-based artist and poet Aurelio Villa Luna Díaz will reveal his new video art piece titled “A/O” at the Main Street Books in downtown Mansfield, Ohio, on July 5, 2013 at 8:00 PM. Known for his bold approach to shaking the core of human identity, Díaz once again challenged the way the audiences see the gay, bi-sexual, and transgender community.
The three and a half minute video production features the artist’s transformation,
from an every day look in a man’s attire, familiar to family members, friends and acquaintances, to an evening female persona, unknown to many.
The transformation is captured over a time period, via stop-motion video, from daylight to nighttime, to dawn, and finally full morning light. Additionally, each video frame is paired with the sounds of wind chimes and a desolate melody composed by Diaz to accompany each step of the transformation. Aside from the sound effects and distinct melody, during the entire process, Díaz recites his poem, also titled “A/O,” in two languages: first in English and then in Spanish, one read in a deeper voice while the other in a higher pitch.
When asked to describe the motive behind this video creation and his bilingual poem, Díaz, a Mexican-American artist, states the following: “While this video art piece does not represent my own reality, I wanted to capture the human identity as a broader topic that transcends gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, cultural, and internal dualities.”
Luke Beekman, the video production specialist responsible for the time-lapse videography and the editing of the piece, commented by saying: “It was an incredible opportunity to work with an artist of such caliber. To say that Aurelio is a diverse artist would be an understatement. From the very beginning of this project I knew this wouldn’t be the traditional way of capturing transgendered transformation. The whole process, from start to finish was magical. We simply couldn’t recreate it with the same authenticity. The poem and film was a moment captured,”said Beekman.
All who are familiar with Díaz’s art already know this is not the first time he has challenged the notion of human identity. In a recent art review of Díaz’s photographs “Scary Mary’s Ivy” and “Katsu III,” artist/critic Jason Kaufman said, “[Díaz’s] photographs strike me as fiercely authentic…”and, “in a world where identity is pre-scripted according to race, geography, gender, and sexual orientation, Díaz’s art becomes an exercise in burning the damn script.”
Additional “A/O” Reviews:
“What fascinated me the most is the Samson and Delilah effect of the piece. While majority of video documentaries about transgender transformations begin with the application of make up and finish with putting of the hair piece, almost as a form of crowning; Diaz reverses the process and starts with the hair piece, serving as the symbol of strength, needed for what is about to come next.”
~Violeta Chinni, Owner, Niàbos Art Gallery, Mansfield, Ohio
“Diaz’s pieces provokes people in ways that make them confront their own phobias regarding race, homosexuality, masculinity, effeminacy in men. Those issues are heightened when we are dealing with a person of color as the face of the issue.”
~Obie Ford III, Founder, FThreeO Productions, Columbus, Ohio
“Diaz skillfully uses stunning visual images to enhance his poetic writing and creates an impactful short video that will make you dig dip into your own sense of self.”
~ Domenick Danza, Director & Teaching Artist, Cultural Academy for the Arts and Science, New York City, NY