Queer Filipino photographer Rydel Cerezo invites audiences to fail. He sees failure as a means to open new possibilities for queer and marginalized bodies to thrive. His exhibition at the Burrard Arts Foundation Gallery (BAF), entitled New Ending, investigates the space between sexuality, religion, and race, and how these disparate themes coalesce metaphorically and visually.
As Ada Dragomir’s presentation text for the exhibition acknowledges, “For most people, to fail is to not achieve, not accomplish, not understand, a cessation of power, systemic collapse, an unexpected betrayal – a loss, a flop, a letdown.”
New Ending, however, asks: what happens on the other side of failure? Through Cerezo’s lens, potential answers to the question are the opening of new worlds, the refusal to care about systems that do not care about people, the magic of queerness, the unlikely possibility of a world where anything is possible.
“I think failure is a powerful act of resistance for queer bodies,” says Cerezo, who holds a Bachelor of the Fine Arts Degree from Emily Carr University and is Vancouver resident. “Failing against western and patriarchal standards of success opens new possibilities for queer and marginalized bodies to thrive. The resistance to reiterate and perform what history has handed us empowers us to create our own realities.”
“The title New Ending came from one of my driving inspirations, Autobiography of Red (1998) by Ann Carson,” says Cerezo about his solo exhibition. “It’s a poetic novel that deals with coming of age, queerness, and photography in a very mythic way. Additionally, it seemed like the opposite side of the coin to the first words of the Bible: ‘In the beginning…’”
Dragomir notes that New Endings dialogues with the artist’s coming-of-age stories, his images being infused with the experiences of a queer Catholic Filipino man navigating desire, societal and cultural conditioning, sexuality, and shame.
Her description of one of Cerezo’s pieces goes: a sculptural grotesquery, a blood red flip-flop impaled by three 10” spiral landscaping spikes, also red. In Dragomir’s analysis, the object manages to connote the culture of global capitalism, while simultaneously invoking its indispensable presence in Filipino life. In the context of the exhibition, however, “it is neither a serviceable flip-flop nor a wearable high heel, but a picture of pain and violence, of queerness and unbelonging, an unexpected crucifix nailed to the wall.”
“How can artists ever be apolitical?” Cerezo asks. “I think a role or a hat that I put on as a photographer is being constantly aware of the power dynamics between myself as a photographer and the subject or the community I’m photographing. In a photograph, I try to achieve a physical and emotional reaction first and foremost.”
Dragomir ends the exhibition’s introduction by arguing that belonging can also be read as forced cohesion, and that in a heteronormative hyper-masculine hazing ritual-society that keeps unquestioning – playing oppressive norms on repeat – unbelonging serves as a powerful queer and feminine antidote. Unbelonging, then, can be perceived as an act of resistance, a possibility of betraying compulsory social positions.
“As an artist, I happen to choose to speak to my identity as it’s a massive well of inspiration for me. Deciphering why and how is difficult to unpick because as an artist who lives in this body and moves through the world with this identity, making art this way is a cathartic impulse,” Cerezo concludes.
Visiting new ending
The exhibition will be open to the public until June 19 (Saturday) at the BAF Gallery on 258 E 1st Ave, Vancouver. Tickets are free and the gallery is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 12–5 p.m.
The exhibition is a result of BAF’s on-site artist residency, an initiative that offers creative support and professional development to qualified Vancouver-based artists.
Recognizing that Vancouver is a city where the space, time and financial resources needed to create art can be scarce, BAF’s on-site artist residency helps artists overcome these barriers, providing a dedicated space for creative production, and facilitating work that otherwise would not have been realized.
To know more about New Ending, interested audiences can visit: www.burrardarts.org/exhibit/new-ending-rydel-cerezo/.
To know more about the BAF Artist Residency Program, artists can visit: www.burrardarts.org/residency-program.