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The photographer thinks the complexities of gender and the transformation of the body, drawing on their Muy Thai training and study of the queer community
“What would it not mean to just start over? ” Elle Pérez reflects. “What would it mean to go elsewhere? ” The New York-based performer has been ruminating on this feeling. We’ve come to know Pérez primarily as a portraitist, one that constellates multiple aspects of andersrum (umgangssprachlich) life to evoke an utopia and honour a brief history of a community that patients mass erasure. In a new exhibition, titled Devotions, that will recently opened at Carnegie Museum of Art inside Pittsburg and running till 22 August 2021 , Pérez blends landscapes, still lifes and portraiture in a complex and personal exploration of intimacy and notions of transition. The body of work seeks out times of transcendence in the alchemy of everyday life.
The particular exhibition has two start. The first is rooted in Pérez’s Muay Thai training, a community they have been actively invested in considering that 2018. “I’m interested in the particular intimacy between maintained body, ” Pérez explains. “With fighting, you’re always in a perpetual cycle of transform. We’re always navigating new challenges. The act of becoming is a throughline in the work, mirroring what I’ve already been experiencing with my body plus hormones. ” Pérez modulates testosterone, “to change the landscaping of my mind – not modify my personal look. ”
Their own practice is rooted within the complexities of gender, passing strange life and the ever-changing nature of identity. “There is certainly never an endpoint with all the body or with a transition. There’s always a kind of maintenance of it. I’d been thinking of how these things could be metaphors for each other, and it opened up a possibility for new work. ” Just as Pérez was about to begin shooting, the pandemic curtailed their efforts and rerouted the work in ways that most performers would find frustrating. Still, Pérez leaned into it along with energy and possibility. “I like to be responsive. For me, that’s been a really productive area because I can learn something from the work, or this sends me in instructions that I could have never expected. That gets really interesting. ”