Untitled, selection from the series Acts of Aggression by Mario Santizo. Digital drawings, 2017.
Laura Wellen: Where did the idea for Acts of Aggression come from? what was your process?
Mario Santizo: Well, it came from a conversation with Gail [Cochrane] about how the art community in Guatemala is divided.
LW: She was asking about that?
MS: No, we were just talking about it - she told me that it seemed as if everyone was divided, conflicted.
LW: And so why did you think about hugs? Is it like a gesture to unite the community?
MS: Well, even before that, a friend left an apple in the studio and I took a bite from it and I said, that's an act of aggression. So, that's where the title came from. Afterward, I thought about the hugs because for me at least physical contact is difficult. I don't know, to hug someone is uncomfortable for me and I thought it was a good way to make other people uncomfortable too. From there came the idea that the hug could be an aggressive act.
LW: That's interesting - so you see it as an aggression, what you do to the other artists, but in the form of tenderness.
MS: I had thought before about making a work with other artists. This is about making the other artists part of my work, but what's most important in this is that you don't see my face; in most of my works, I appear.
LW: But why don't you want your face in these images?
MS: Because I'm not important in this work - the important thing is the other artists. And the hug can be both an aggressive act and one of tenderness for them and for me. And for me it was important to do it in a drawing, at least it helped me to make the body of the others with my body; the drawing has this as well - it becomes a filter.
LW: Yes - interesting.
MS: Well, that, more or less. There are several things in one work.
LW: And did you feel that the hug was aggressive for you? From them?
MS: More the act of asking for it.
LW: Because their responses were very different? or why?
MS: Yes, and the hugs were different; some were sincere, others were acted.
LW: But how do you know that a hug is being performed? what is the signal?
MS: You can see it in the position, in the act of the hug some look more posed and others more natural. You can tell who is comfortable and who isn't.
LW: How was my hug?
MS: Now you've seen it - what do you think?
LW: I felt comfortable. But also, every time I feel comfortable in Guatemala, they tell me that I'm acting with aggression.
MS: You can see it in the drawing.
LW: That I'm aggressive?
MS: That you're comfortable.
LW: Thank you. And how did you feel it?
MS: Good, comfortable, but I think I had gotten used to it by then, it helped me to break this barrier I had in myself. I think now it's easier for me to give hugs and to have this physical contact.
LW: Maybe it's about practice. And the act of asking, which is never easy.
This conversation published in the catalog Acts of Aggression, in conjunction with the exhibition of the same title at SMU's Pollock Gallery, September 9 - October 14, 2017.