In a Portrait of an Artist: Conversations with Inventive Creative Women (Prestel), artist Hugo Huerto Marin combines intimate Polaroid portraits with interviews with 30 of the world’s most charming women. Below is an excerpt from the book of a conversation between Marin and singer FKA Twigs.
Hugo Huerta Marin: You have used a wide range of dance styles, from pole dancing to vogung, wushu and krump. Which type of body method works best for you?
FKA Twigs: This is difficult. I love them all. And I just love being among the people who make them. I haven’t fought in a long time, and it’s not because I don’t like it: it’s because I don’t spend that much time in New York. When I’m in New York, I like to go out with my friends who dress up, and I’m completely immersed in this world because it’s so authentic. I find that when I’m not in New York and trying to do it, I feel compelled. I tend to do things depending on where I am in the world … I just love to study and engage in culture and that’s why I sacrifice time to do it, because time is the most precious thing – the only thing that everyone we are leaking on. I love this conscious sacrifice to learn something. I find this so sexy … Being around something because you like it is beautiful.
HHM: How did you first discover the ball scene?
FT: In a strange way. I started talking when I was about twelve, doing my own routines. I only had a few videos, but I didn’t really know what I was watching. One of my uncles was in vogue, so he would teach me some exciting moves. But I didn’t know what it was, you know, I was a kid – I just knew it was dance, style, but I didn’t really understand its roots. Then, when I was making my album in New York around 2012, I was hanging out with Arca and Shayne [Oliver] from Hood by Air and I think maybe Arka was the one who took me to Esquelita for the first time and I completely fell in love with her. There I met a dancer named Derek Prodigy, who offered to teach me how to fashion and they just took me under their wing right away. I wasn’t a famous singer then, I was just a girl from London and they just … I don’t know, I liked them, and they liked me and I kept dating amazing people.
So, I started training with Derek Prodigy, and then with Alex Mugler, and it took me a long time to figure out what my style was, and honestly with you, driving is something I’m not very good at yet. I would say that I feel insecure and the reason I feel insecure is that I am not enough in New York. For me, voguing is not just a dance class, it’s not just practicing at home; for me it’s a coincidence with someone in the ballroom and I really understand what this scene is like. I think that’s why I love being in New York so much, because I just feel most authentic when I’m there and I do. So, I don’t know, I just love to try and find …
HHM: The soul of things?
FT: That’s right, the soul. I mean, I love wushu and I haven’t been to China yet, but I learned from people who are really legal in the wushu community. My first teacher, Master Hu, was a choreographer at the Chinese Olympics and starred in films with Bruce Lee – you can’t become more legal than that – so, I don’t know, I just like to immerse myself in the culture, even if it sounds a little naive.
HHM: I think that’s true. I’m not a big fan of electronic music, but every time I go to Berlin and visit Berghain and touch the core of electronic music, it just penetrates your spirit …
HHM: So, voguing uses body language as a formal structure and has always been a form of resistance.
HHM: And there has been a huge comeback in recent years. Do you think this will reveal other issues, as then? Or will it show how little things have changed for trans-colored women or strange colored people?
FT: I think this is a really difficult topic to comment on … Because even if voguing is part of the queer culture, I feel that people outside this community see only one side of it, the performative side. Voguing is painful, but it’s a very beautiful side of this culture, so I don’t know if voguing directly helps the gay, trance or queer community … How about when the voguers go home? So where does this trans woman live? How about where people work in the community? Are they safe? You know, someone who’s not part of the community can’t really understand these things just by watching someone hang out. To be honest with you, I feel the same way about the black community, in terms of how non-black people often experience blacks just through fun, dancing, music, or sports. It is almost patronizing and uninformed to just engage with one side of the culture … My opinion is that this is a double-edged sword. I would say that I am an ally of the queer community or I would like to think of myself as such, but it is difficult to talk about specific issues of which I am not a direct part. I guess I can speak as a minority, as a colored woman … So, let’s put it this way: I think that people who are not minorities themselves – who are not in a sector of society that is oppressed or misunderstood – can to be problematic when experiencing minorities only through entertainment and sports. I just feel that these things don’t paint a real picture.
HHM: Absolutely. It reminds me of the conversation I had with the artist Carrie May Weims, where she said that nowadays there is some change in the thinking of the culture, but the thinking is not complicated, it is reactionary. Some involvement of black or brown people in cultural projects … But the question is more, can we include you? Instead: What is the structure of your contribution?
FT: First of all, Carrie May Weims is my favorite artist. Let’s look at the work of Carrie May Weims – this is a very, very personal conversation that I have had with myself many times.
FT: I went to see Carrie May Weims’ work in Tate a few years ago and she had an exhibition where there were different pictures of black people with the title below – “cook”, “house” or “field” – and there was a picture of a black man with a lighter leather in a beautiful satin dress by Marilyn Monroe, surrounded by white men, and under the photo was written “accomplice” and this image hit me so hard, so, so hard … I understood very emotional and had to take a step back and think about what it means this for me. I mean, as a black woman, I can say that getting to what I am now was not easy. My stepfather stuck me at a very young age – I was seven or eight – and he told me, “Because of the color of your skin, you will have to work twice as hard as the white girl next to you, and if you want to win, you have to twice as good as the white girl next to you. “And when I get old and people ask me, ‘Branches, you’re such a good dancer, how are you so good?’ small — I had to be twice as good to get out of my position as a working-class family. You know, I grew up on benefits, I grew up with the government providing money for food, for my higher education. I grew up rich in love, but Sometimes we were really poor and in order to get out of this position, I had to train harder … Twice harder. Even now, at my age, I still feel inside that I am constantly in a state of survival and to be honest, sometimes it’s exhausting.But don’t get me wrong, I know I’m lucky and I know that all I ever wanted in life was to have a stable roof over my head, and now I’m lucky to have one. that I had to stay focused and know where I was standing, and when I saw the picture of Carrie May Weims, it It was a kind of reminder, because I don’t want to be like that, I don’t want to be an accomplice in everything problematic and I have to think about it all the time, about what I do, because I know where I come from and I know my roots and I know how hard it was. to work … I don’t know what exactly it means, but I know that this picture is always in my mind.
Hugo Huerta Marin is the author of Portrait of an artist: Conversations with experienced creative women (Prestel), from which this is subtracted.
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