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After the Body’s Absence

Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera
Interview with Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera and a Response Poem

Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera’s recent BOLT Residency exhibition In the Absence of a Body included the artist sequestering himself behind a gallery wall for three weeks, acting as an invisible presence in the audience’s encounter with the installation. The work gathered widespread attention for its timeliness (it opened less than two months after President Obama’s announcement reopening American-Cuban relations), its simplicity (a wall, a vent, a microphone, two video screens­), and the rendering of mobility, absence, and our relation to power structures present in the work.

A consequence of the durational performance aspect of the exhibition was that it allowed Diaz-Perera time to reflect on the nature of his practice. I sat down with him in the month after In the Absence of a Body to ask him what effects the experience has had on his thinking and his work.

Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera. Photo credit: Cara Megan Lewis.

What follows is transcript of parts of those conversations. It has been edited for length and clarity.
An audio version is included below as well as a creative response to experiencing In the Absence of a Body.

Schmalz: Tell me about where the BOLT Residency exhibition has taken your thinking about making work.

Diaz-Perera: New ideas are coming from making the piece itself, and new pieces I already have in mind are coming from the experience I have inside the wall.

Schmalz: Can you talk a little bit about that, and about the ways in which the new pieces are being influenced by the experience you have?

Diaz-Perera: I am thinking more in the art that I did after I was inside this space. I saw the reactions of the audience and how they related to the wall and attention of myself being behind it, everything. I am thinking more: “how can I create this space is for creating a tension and a self-awareness of your own body in relation to the space?” And, I'm thinking more in using the space itself, so, trying to find the answers for whatever I'm going to do in the space that I'm going to work in: how to use that space as a tool, physically, architecturally, or because of history—how space relates to the audience as an individual.

Schmalz: So, influencing gallery-goers?

Diaz-Perera: When I think about the audience, I'm not thinking just audience as people who go to gallery to see a show. I also thinking of anyone—members of society—and how the gallery acts as a space to bring people together. Or an art event is a space to bring people together. How you can use that.

From In the Absence of a Body. Photo credit: Cara Megan Lewis.

Schmalz: This work feels more explicitly political than some of your other works. How do you navigate politics in your work?

Diaz-Perera: I've been working on trying to not be too direct when I talk about politics, because I don't want to create an artwork that is belonging to one side. Meaning, I don't want to be from the left or from the right, or to have a position that is politically—by itself—already established.

Schmalz: So, reflecting rather than having an agenda.

Diaz-Perera: My intentions have always been in a way of meditating about it. I mean, politics are important because they're part of our daily life, and at the end they shape our society and they shape the way we live, and the way we inhabit space. By creating a meditation and trying to make people understand, or meditate, and think about their space as a political one and their bodies as something they relate with the context they're living in. From that meditation, I think you can always have a more sincere answer, a less judgmental answer.

Schmalz: How do you see those politics manifesting itself in space and in structures such as the wall itself?

Diaz-Perera: The same way I was saying politics as related to the individual, in which you are part of a greater, or a bigger situation that's happening in your context. But you as an individual relate to that greater thing in a different way. So, that translates in the way that you also relate with space. The same way that you relate to that: between individual and a greater entity of power, in the middle of that politics, is in a way the same as how you relate as an individual to space. And it goes to different sources, different ways: it's architectural structure, physical structure, the elements are playing in context, or the historical implications of the space itself. I think empowered structures have many facets in everyday life and anything you can think about. But, basically what I'm interested in now is how they manifest in our relation with space. So, our daily life again, but in this case, it’s specific to the architectural elements, which are totally part of our daily life.

Schmalz: How do you see empowered structures as related to the physical body?

Diaz-Perera: So, basically, if you can understand that an entity has power over you, or that you're a person, your body is part of this bigger thing, and that you can also inflict change on it as it can inflict change in you. For me, that's a better way to, not destroy the icon, because that will not lead to anything, but at least to be aware of it, and you're kind of set free by doing that.



In the Absence of a Body


At the border


people say his name


A. occasionally knocks

seeks exile

takes no measure of his limits


silence (…)

ellipse as fill-in

between intentions

in space both public and derelict

built for x, now used for y

a mark

begun as testimony

exceeds us

untouchable wound

sum of absences (still

a fold felled a shirt skirted

apart from soot stain

have I forgotten

My legacy

lamp emanating from the floor

Uncanny angle

Sometimes I have to turn it off

spirit accumulated

should become silent

when all you have is a microphone

one wind and swish                         

no longer heard

only air intends to escape

profanity (escapes)

(the poets are)

allowed to stay

any other way

invisible beyond


how do you feel now?

void devoid   

no longer

fire hidden under

quite different events

science (eloquence)

political violence

implicates activists

roots in definition

to slash (to hyphenate

wall’s spine

would keep you here hours on end

I have a right to interiority

via microphone (puncture)

say with me:

on second thought

in me

to live on (consequences)

as intense presence

I ate breakfast with a man

on the other side of a vent


who freed himself through memory

is a notional presence

protected by the state

(if he cut out
took in a movie
a spirit flown)


durational acts

appropriated functions

chairs all in the air

(microphone knock)

forced imprint

to bring about one’s own demise

even the least ambitious

between animate and inanimate

behind a vent

dresses the part

three weeks’ work negated

ritual put in place:


tiresome illumination

oblique angle extreme fragility

sit in the dark

tabula rasa

mental (neural)

everything looks like a wall

disappearing weightless

nothing to be said

aftermaths matter (solid)

allow appearances anew

wheat from concrete

and/or go

defined as mettle

something understood

forced migration


three ways impossible

not yet retrieved

hyper brilliance sensed

impulse (reasons

the intersection

as ethos (therefore funereal)

in their own here-ness

language (barrier) border

practice has no place

gathers together drops of water

I am just a beginner

bring me rooftops

sheetrock shorn away

Shibboleth       Saragossa       CRACK

all that remains

nothing more                                    

constraints embraced

recesses (memory vacuum)


Fred Schmalz's recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Spinning Jenny, Conduit, Pinwheel, and Another Chicago Magazine. The field guide Claes Oldenburg's Festival of Living Objects and the chapbook documenta 13 Daybook were published in 2013. He is currently collaborating with the visual artist Susy Bielak on a multimedia art project about hotels. He publishes Swerve Press.

Published by Nuria Sheehan on Tue, 04/28/2015 - 11:55am
Updated on Fri, 05/01/2015 - 9:58am