Ricardo Bouyett has been selected as a ShopColumbia EXPO CHICAGO 2017 artist to represent Columbia College Chicago. We asked Ricardo a few questions about his work and presenting this year at EXPO CHICAGO.
Trigger warning: This body of work addresses sexual assault.
Give us an update about recent projects/artistic life events.
2017 has proven to be one of the more challenging and defining years thus far, both artistically and personally. I moved back to the city in January on a whim and stayed with a bunch of strangers in an apartment above a bar in Wrigleyville. Completely out of my comfort zone, I still put myself to work and came out with four film projects. My most recent film, “No Love For Fuckboys”, has been making its rounds in film festivals and I was fortunate to sit down with The Independent and talk a little bit about the meaning behind the project. The film is a visual odyssey into a sexual assault survivor's journey through love, sex, violence, and hope post-assault. It has been doing well, it was recently nominated for best editing in the Bucharest Shortcut Cinefest this past June. I’m still awaiting some more responses but in the meantime I’ve been focusing all of my attention into my upcoming film projects Paloma, Vanilla, and a new photo series called Sugarcane.
My work is rooted in finding a sliver of peace from the traumas I’ve endured from being raped and abused in previous relationships and it seemed obvious to throw myself back into my work after enduring another sexual assault this past summer. I moved out of the city to start therapy and find healing in a different way and now that I’ve done that I want to keep making artwork. Before I focused a lot on healing, forgiveness, and moving on, now I want to dive deep into the darker psychology behind trauma and sexuality. These next projects will certainly explore that realm and I’m excited for it.
What will you be presenting at EXPO CHICAGO 2017?
At Expo I will be presenting an expansive series of photos and short films that examine the complexities of manhood and rape culture all the while dissecting my recovery from being raped called "Oh, Bouy". This project sheds a different and often unheard perspective on rape culture and I think it’s important to push for more male involvement in topics of sexual violence. Not many male artists make work about it, let alone queer male artists that aren’t white. It’s exciting, it’s scary, people aren’t always comfortable talking about rape culture, consent, or racism. In the last year since I’ve been pushing the work out I’ve found myself receiving a lot of wonderful messages from people who’ve been affected by men’s violence and issues of rape culture and telling me how the work has allowed them a moment’s peace. Being able to do that has been a blessing and I feel that the more people get to see this type of work and feel like their voices matter, the more likely they will be to create their own works or lift up their own voices.
What inspired you to create this series of work?
I got the idea to make the body of work around the end of 2015 when I was struggling with continuing my career as a photographer. I didn’t know if it was right for me or if I was good enough to keep going and then I decided to make photographs and write about them without talking about it to anyone or sharing anything about it on social media. Then once I felt more confident in it I started opening up casting calls and scheduling studio shoots, etc. What really catapulted me into creating the project was the need to breakaway from what everyone expected me to make. In college I had made quite an impression on the faculty and the students by producing surrealistic photo manipulations. While yeah, they were great, they weren’t authentically me. I wanted to cut that out and create work that was inherently me and it was scary because I didn’t know how everyone would react to it. I had never worn a dress before, I had never called out systemic racism so publicly and I had never called out my peers for contributing to the culture that took so much from me. But I did it. I created the work and when I first released it I felt free. It’s hard to have publications, art platforms, and galleries tear the work to shreds and say there’s no audience for it but it's these same distribution channels that I’m critiquing in the work for sustaining a culture that’s obsessed with objectifying and hyper-sexualizing the human body. So, I just take the rejection with a grain of salt and keep pushing forward.
In what ways do you think you will benefit as a professional artist from EXPO CHICAGO 2017?
I’m not necessarily sure, but I definitely hope that I catch someone’s attention long enough for them to look at my trade books and decide to google my name. Hopefully they’ll stumble onto my film work, my writings, and think about how rape culture exists in their life. All I hope to get out of Expo is getting people to react and respond to the work. With what’s happening in our society, under this presidency, I want everyone to think critically about their involvement or lack of involvement and reflect on what that means.
As a visual artist I focus on sex, love, and violence. I create stories about survivors of sexual violence in an effort to transcend the tragedy and promote visibility and a voice for a demographic of society that's often silenced. In exploring the complexities of men’s violence and how it affects all people, I invite viewers to reflect and examine how they themselves operate within this culture of toxic masculinity.
"Oh, Bouy" is an expansive exploration into the complexity of manhood in contemporary American society. Informed, inspired, and directed by my personal experiences with rape, racism, and domestic abuse, I created a collection of photos, poems, and films that helped me navigate both my recovery and the social landscape of the American male. The series is a culmination of four bodies of work spread out through year of 2016 as I was just beginning to speak out against rape culture and advocate for survivors. My mission with this body of work was to navigate my recovery all the while promoting the need for more men to be involved in discussions of consent and sexual violence in hopes of better educating the next generation of men. With this said, the series as a whole examines rape culture, toxic masculinity, and the psyche of a recovering rape survivor.
EXPO CHICAGO 2017
September 13-17, 2017
Navy Pier, Festival Hall | 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago IL 60611
ShopColumbia Booth #867
Wednesday, September 13 6:00pm-9:00pm
*A benefit for the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, presented by the MCA Women's BoarD
Purchase Vernissage tickets here
Thursday, September 14 11:00am-7:00pm
Friday, September 15 11:00am-7:00pm
Saturday, September 16 11:00am-7:00pm
Sunday, September 17 11:00am-6:00pm
*ShopColumbia's storefront at 619 S Wabash Ave will be closed for the duration of EXPO CHICAGO. Visit our Facebook page for updates.