Art questioning the privilege of enjoying art
In a tucked-away street in Limpertsberg, an old storage unit for trams, the Tramschhapp, has turned into a venue for young artists from Luxembourg. A new exhibition is a cross-section of the Grand Duchy’s art and cultural scene, showingcasing the creative talent of local youths.
In a maze-like white space, the variety of the artists and their works at this show organized by the Cercle Artistique du Luxembourg, is impressive. The general theme – faux-pas – has pushed the artists to demonstrate their interpretation of that term. From a collection of pictures of older men goofing around to a triptych of a brightly coloured being picking its nose, the space allows for sometimes lighthearted and amusing works.
But the photographs of Bruno Oliveira reach much deeper into the crevasses of the viewer's subconsciousness, reflecting on the status of minorities. The work examines the theme of diversity itself, and the social taboos surrounding it. It is a set of three photos, the first a self-portrait showing the artist dressed in a drag-like manner, an alter ego that appears to be flying up in smoke.
The middle photograph is a modern interpretation of a mother-goddess. Instead of a virtuous depiction of what could be the Virgin Mary, this saint is more sensual and empowering. The final photograph shows a more agitated character, surrounding by flowing pieces of white cloth in some kind of a forest. A traditional piece of Cape Verdean fabric, discreetly set by his feet, perhaps shows an urgency for the character to ground itself in his roots.
The aim of these photographs was to combine the realm of dreams with the struggles of belonging to a minority as a queer immigrant, Oliveira said in an interview. He chose his subjects because of their oppressed identities, as a personal social critique of Luxembourgish society. His aim is to collaborate with other marginalized identities through his work, to create a new narrative. The ambiguity of his work allows the viewer a chance to find out for themselves how these works speak to them, with many interpretations left open.
The works are also a criticism of the people viewing or buying the art. They question those who are lucky enough to be a part of the Luxembourgish art scene, and create a moment for them to be uncomfortable with their privilege. It is their power that decides what is a “faux-pas”, and leaves marginalized identities at the mercy of their judgment. And so the works are a faux-pas in themselves, because they do not comply with their marginalization.
A text, written with rage, accompanies the art: “If daring to be, as we are, not as you want us to be, is a faux pas, then so be it. These three portraits express the exaggerated yet soft desire to be seen, respected and appreciated as we are. Not as you wish us to be, because it makes the majority of you more comfortable. Not as you would prefer us to be so that your perfect bubble can be preserved and continue to shame and blame upcoming generations. No. […] We will always choose a faux pas if it means to us to be free.”