Searching for the heart of the scarecrow

Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, Obsidian Mirror, 2018. Woodcut, 40 x 40 cm.| Photo courtesy of Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa.

Corazón del espantapájaros (Heart of the Scarecrow), an upcoming art project hosted by the Audain Gallery at the SFU Jan. 17–March 9, will feature Canadian Guatemalan artist Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa in his third iteration of a serial project that originated from a 1962 Guatemalan play with the same name.

The project will exhibit some of the artist’s woodcut works but the main element will be performance art: one by the artist himself and one by students from SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts theatre.

Third iteration of the play

For this iteration, Ramírez-Figueroa will focus on the central character and namesake of the play, and query, “Who is the Scarecrow and what is its heart?”

“What is the heart of the scarecrow is not explained in the play,” Ramirez-Figueroa says. “This will be the first project where I explore what is the heart of the scarecrow, it will be a solo show. It will be my own meditation on what is the meaning”.

The artist explains that the original play, with all the power figures in clown faces, could take place in any country; however, it does have special elements that echoed political and historical situations that occurred in Guatemala. The play was reinterpreted in 1975 by students at El teatro de la Universidad Popular de Guatemala and provoked one of the most severe censorships of the arts during the Guatemalan Civil War (1960–1966). The 1975 performance inspired the artist to further reinterpret the original script in his own art works.

Ramirez-Figueroa says that although the play has inspired other artists, he himself has never been able to grasp the play’s heart.

“It has never really congealed into something that I can say this is what it is all about. That is why I am still working on it. I explore different aspects of it. It will be more an improvised performance.”

The first iteration he says, was a series of etchings, also shown by SFU a few years ago. From the etchings, he was invited to the Sao Paulo Biennial in 2016 to produce a performance.

SFU students will perform their own interpretation of the play based on an English translation of the original script in the gallery in tandem with Ramírez-Figueroa’s performances.

“This series of performances will be part of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, and we hope to offer a specific way of experiencing art at the gallery,” says Amy Kazymerchyk, curator at the Audain Gallery.

A multi-dimensional artist

Ramirez-Figueroa, grew up in Vancouver, earning a BFA from Emily Carr University and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He works with multiple mediums but does most of his works in three dimensional spaces such as sculptures, installations and performances. He is a recipient of the Mies van der Rohe Award in 2017 and a DAAD fellowship in Berlin in 2015 to 2016.

Often drawing from literary and poetic sources, as well as collaborating with field experts, the artist is intensely curious.

“I constantly have things floating around in my head. Why are things the way they are? Why am I in a particular part of the world? Why this? Why that? The answers are always complicated and interesting to research,” Ramírez-Figueroa says, shedding lights on his creative process.

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