In Conversation: Rydel Cerezo
Rydel Cerezo’s BAF exhibition, “New Ending,” is an intuitive mixing of various modes of imagery, encompassing family portraiture and cinematic landscape, fashion photography and sculptural documentation. Deeply personal, the photographs are infused with Cerezo’s perspective as a queer Catholic Filipino man navigating desire, cultural conditioning and shame. Through the work, he processes his own entanglement with colonial mentality, religion, and racialized identity.
Read on to learn more about Cerezo’s process, interests and curatorial choices.
Can you tell us a bit about your process? How do your reading practice, your photographic practice, and your sculptural practice intersect; what is their relationship?RC
As an emerging artist, I’m still figuring out what my process looks like. What I am learning at this point is to be open to leaning into my curiosities and pleasures. My reading practice simply comes from enjoyment that naturally inspires my work. At the same time, I’ve found that too much reading also inhibits the process of picture-making. So juggling both practices is something I had to be better at during this residency since, in the end, I am a photographer and making pictures is my priority. For Tsinelas (2021), the sculptural part came out as an experiment to fulfil an image I had in my head for months. I can’t confidently say that I have a “sculptural practice” per se, as the encounter that I created between these objects ended up being represented through photography.
New Ending seems to have a very personal tone, as well as a more broad aesthetic and political one. Would you share with us your particular interest in coming-of-age stories and failure?RC
My interest in coming-of-age narratives and failure comes from personal experience. Reading queer literature has amplified my experiences of failure and betrayal in mythic and poetic ways, and that has inspired me to make them visual. As an immigrant from the Philippines, living out my childhood there and my teenage years here in Canada, I have felt that my coming-of-age story has never ended, as I’ve had to grapple with not only shifts in culture but also reckon with my sexuality. I have also become frustrated with the idea of coming-of-age being limited to the time between childhood and adulthood when in reality a queer person’s coming-of-age never truly fits that time frame or never really ends.
Your practice seems interested in colonial histories of photography. How do you navigate the tension between using the medium of photography in the spirit of self-reflexive critique while recognizing that by doing so you risk replicating the same systems and problems already embedded in the medium?RC
I think realizing the medium’s involvement in colonial histories can be paralyzing and artistic paralysis is a dead end. What does fuel me to continue with photography, despite the risk of replicating the same systems and problems already embedded in the medium, is curiosity and a sense of fearlessness. Self-problematizing and awareness are as important as making the work, so I think being unafraid to work through these questions and problems visually with photography for me is exciting.
Can you tell us about the curatorial choices you made—the red paint, the clusters of photographs, the sizes?RC
The choice to paint the gallery walls came from the urge to transform the space. I was already wary of picking the colour red before going into the shop to pick the paint. Once there, however, I had an immediate gut response that this was the colour to choose. I enjoy its boldness, its history and the highly visceral physical and emotional response it draws from viewers. In regards to the way the photographs are curated and their sizes, I took this exhibition as an opportunity to play and experiment—it is a residency, after all.
We understand that New Ending is only the beginning kernel of a much bigger project. Where do you see these themes taking you? What is the larger vision that you’re hoping to communicate?RC
If I knew where these themes would take me I don’t know if I would be excited to continue pursuing this project. It is an early attempt to explore this bigger project and it is constantly in flux, so I’m enjoying the mysterious turns it is taking. In regards to a larger vision, for now I’d like to communicate that the things that seem disparate can be similar and the tensions and complexities that are drawn between their relationships are beautiful.
See Rydel Cerezo’s exhibition, “New Ending,” at Burrard Arts Foundation until June 19th, 2021.