Oli Rodriguez is an interdisciplinary artist working in video, photography and performance. His projects conceptually intersect and dialogue within consent, queerness, childhood and sexuality. Currently, he is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Photography Department at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Rodriguez has screened, performed, lectured and exhibited his works internationally and nationally.
I entered into media literacy in the dark, dark nights of Time Bandits, Terry Gilliam incessant darkness on laser disc, embodying the boy through history and fantasizing about his sexual escapades as well. Same thing with Atreyu in The Neverending Story, I wanted to be him and fuck him or him fuck me. No AIDS or STIs to worry about. A type of free sex that I didn’t understand, while literally growing up in a gay disco and AIDS devastation visible all around. Tales from the Darkside, Monsters and when Freddy Kreuger hosted his own show, Freddy’s Nightmares. Friday the 13th: The Series, where I wanted to do Mickey and Ryan all at the same time and maybe Jack watched. I was so intertwined with them finding the magical object and otherwise… I read every single Stephen King novel by the age of 12. That was many years of reading pleasureable horror. I know the real ending of It, it wasn’t just about a clown, but how the children all had an orgy to kill the monster at the end. The abject was all here and I was so attracted to this type of desire. There was so much of my desire that was deemed wrong.
I have always been other. Gender wise, sexuality, race, partner preferences. I have always been interested in the multitude of possibilities of sexualities and innumerable gender permutations. I love porn and art. The aggressive camp, John Waters, and the sexualixed.The complicated notions around race and passing and privilege. The implications of colonized peoples and language, cultural appropriation and throughout countries. Why are languages spoken in certain countries?
This ultimately led to a course I teach, Confronting the Abject. My love of the ‘other’ infused with sex, sexuality, S&M with death with intersectional conversations in race, gender, sexuality; resulted in these seminal obligatory medias:
#1 La Concejala Antropófaga (The Cannibalistic Counselor)
Pedro Almodóvar – 2009
The first film I saw of Pedro Almodóvar was All About My Mother as a teenager. My Ma and I cried through the whole thing. It was our life on the screen, minus the compartmentalization. Everything was out in our family. Out all the time. My Papi (dad) was queer and died of complications of AIDS. Perfect combination with Almodóvar. Also, his campy and fetishitc style lives well here. I feel so attached to this abject desire.
#2 The Couple in the Cage
Paula Heredia and Coco Fusco, performers Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gomez-Peña – 1993
This is a seminal work that I show to every class/person/student. This is an accessible amazing piece where colonization and institutional racism is blatantly visible through live performance, appropriated footage and historical research. This piece is a riveting, vicious exploration and exposes our colonial worldview. “The Couple in the Cage was an ironic reenactment of the imperialist practice of displaying indigenous peoples in public venues such as taverns, museums, World Expos, and freak shows. By performing “The Couple in the Cage” in various museums, Fusco and Gómez-Peña were exposing the racism, colonialism, and voyeurism of the frame in which they appeared.
For more on this project click here.
#3 The Panhandler Project
Barbara DeGenevieve – 2004-2006
I fell in love with Barbara DeGenevieve with this project and before of course. This project was so complicated in challenging ethics and the public as collaborator. Barbara invited panhandlers to pose for her nude for 100$ with a free hotel stay. This piece challenges the ethics of her privileged standing and the “disenfranchised subjects”, in conversation with the power of the lens both in photography and video. She is a badass queer, feminist mentor that I love and love. This piece is a pivotal queered, racialized, conceptual piece before I knew what I was the hell that was. I am indebted to her always. I love Barbara DeGenevieve and I love her for my ability in learning and teaching. She taught me everything I can be.
Episode I shot with Barbara: 14:22-19:41
A guest appearance by me, pre-transition at 18:42
#4 The Reflecting Skin
Philip Ridley -1990
Cameron Dove: Why don't you go play with your friends?
Seth Dove: They're all dead.
Dolphin Blue: It's all so horrible you know, the nightmare of childhood. And it only gets worse. One day you'll wake up, and you'll be past it. Your beautiful skin will wrinkle and shrivel up, you'll lose your hair, your sight, your memory. Your blood will thicken, teeth turn yellow and loose. You will start to stink and fart and all your friends will be dead. You'll succumb to arthritis, angina, senile dementia, you'll piss yourself, shit yourself, drool at the mouth. Just pray that when this happens you've got someone to love you, because if you're loved you'll still be young.
Subtext. Period. Impeccable cinematography in the best depiction of the dysfunction of the nuclear family in the 1950s. The loveable father who loves boys and the murderous 1954 Chevy of young boys.
#5 The Grandmother
David Lynch -1969
A definition of abject in childhood with contrast lighting, animation, painting all in film. The best possible way to wet the bed and your father pushes your face in it and outgrows your supportive grandmother. The wonderful beginnings of David Lynch cinema.