Friday #ArtCrush is a weekly blog series highlighting students in their final year at OCAD University.  

This Friday’s #ArtCrush is Sebastian Perez Vicentini, a fourth year student majoring in Photography.

In this issue, Morgan and Sebastian talk about the politics of responsibility in representing other peoples’ stories, working within multiple mediums and complicating ideas to create new possibilities in art.

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Who or what are your main artistic inspirations?

I tend to become obsessed with some artists work at different points in my life. I used to do a lot of self-portraiture and could stop looking at the work of Blanca Haddad, and the early work of Adam Neat, I liked it so much that I just wanted to do exactly what they were doing. Eventually I stopped looking and began doing my own thing, developing my own style and obsessions until my work overpowered their influence. So, I like to understand my influences in depth rather than saturate myself with images or ideas or anything.

 

What subject matter do you tend to spend the most time working on?

In the past few years I have spent most time working on themes of violence, protests, and how our bodies are political. I have touched on these issues in many different ways, and trying to reinvent the ideas, contradict them and see what happens.

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Can’t be called dead, 2015

 

What drives you to work with that subject matter?

I guess I am trying to understand the part I play within these issues. I think sometimes is an act of denunciation, or self-criticism. Definitely I am always looking to detonate emotions and ideas in others and myself.

 

Do you work in any other mediums and how does that inform your work?

I try to work with any mediums that help me communicate and complicate an idea. I enjoy working with sculpture, printmaking, and drawing; using hands and making tangible things that I can later develop through photography or something. So, mixing disciplines opens up my field of view and keeps me interested and at play. But I still find photography to be the ultimate mediator, it’s like the Avatar because it can embody all the other disciplines, and contrary to what most people say I find the beauty and social value of photography in its reproducibility and dissemination.

 

What body of work are you currently working on?

I am currently creating a body of work for thesis that focuses on the student protest of 2014 in Venezuela. In this work, I am making sculptures and photographic explorations of some of the students that where killed during these protests to speak of issues of institutionalized violence, memory, fear, and social division.

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Praying card in honour of Bassil, 2017.

 

The work you are doing for your thesis explores the artist’s responsibilities while sharing other people’s stories, especially when they are related to social and political violence. How do you navigate this emotional attachment you can find with the individuals you are highlighting, specifically when their lives are or could be similar to yours (age, gender, nationality wise)? Have you had any significant reflections while doing this work?

I think we all have responsibility to speak about these issues, not only as artists but also as human beings. Because although my artwork is specific to Venezuela and its complexities these type of issues are happening all over the world at different levels; violent repression in the United States, Mexico, you name it. I think that is were the emotional attachment comes to play, there is social discontent, and people receiving political bullets in a lot of places (and not far away from Toronto), and yes we are all participants of the violence. But when you think one of these students could be you, then this issue doesn’t feel alien and un-relatable. The thing is that back home it is normalized.

 

What do you see as the artists’ responsibility in reflecting the current social and political environment in which they live?

It is important to reflect on the day-to-day, and the mundane to understand our position in the social environment, the personal is political. Everything we do is political without being directly about politics; our sexual life, the way we eat, how we move through the public space, and the way we relate to institutions. These interactions transcend into bigger social implications and it is our responsibility to reflect on them.

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The critique boat, 2016

 

Your work touches on social, economic and political issues in Venezuela. How do you navigate being Venezuelan and working around social issues in Venezuela, but working in Canada?

Well I work around issues that preoccupy me on the daily. Sometimes I feel it is not effective to talk about Venezuelan issues in the context of Toronto. But I think that tackling these issues symbolically can detonate emotions and creates reflections about what happens here too.

 

What do you think the value is in being a multi disciplinary artist and interweaving multiple mediums into your art practice?

I just think it opens up the possibilities. If I work in one medium for too long I develop tunnel vision and become stuck. Especially as students discovering ideas and techniques there is no reason not to use all the OCAD toys.

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Saint Students (work in progress), 2017

 

Are their any specific OCAD U Faculty who have influenced your work? A specific discipline or course?

So many teachers have influenced me throughout my time at OCAD. I have learned the most from teachers like Katherine Kiloh, Jonathan Groeneweg, Simon Glass, and Paul Dempsey. Also, I remember in first year I had a class with Peter Bowyer; on the first day he took us dumpster diving to find materials for the class. I kept up with it, and I can proudly say that half of my living room and art materials come from the dumpster.

 

Do you have any advice for students beginning to study at OCAD?

Play as much as you can, and use all the facilities that OCAD has. Don’t just go about doing assignment after assignment; I think it is important to start creating themes early on, doing whatever you want and making the assignments fit to your personal practice.

 

To see more of Sebastian’s work, check out their website

 

See Sebastian’s work at the

102nd Graduate Exhibition at OCAD University, May 3rd-7th.

Friday #ArtCrush is a weekly blog series highlighting students in their final year at OCAD University.

Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams

About the writer: Morgan is a fourth year photography student and runs the Friday #ArtCrush series on the OCAD U Photography Blog. She loves speaking to other artists about social justice, how to break barriers within artist communities and nurturing the arts in alternative spaces. She is the Art Director for The RUDE Collective, a student representative on the Photography Curriculum Committee and has done workshops on intersectionality and allyship relating to LGBTQ folks. To see more, you can visit her website or her instagram.