For artist and activist Lyz Parayzo, the world is a battlefield, and her art, ammunition. In dealing with the violences that her feminine trans identity catalyses on a daily basis, her tactic has been to infiltrate spaces of power in order to amplify and diffuse her ideas to a wider audience. To this end, she took on the challenge of conceiving artworks that could be catalogued, exhibited and acquired by collections, while simultaneously providing a suitable medium to highlight and question the absence of dissident bodies in such spaces.
Propelled by this vital need for self-representation, Parayzo was conceived as an immersive installation that encourages the visitor’s physical and intellectual participation through the creation of an interactive ecosystem. The exhibition encapsulates an organism of biological architectures in which each of its cells is formed by the rotation of a line, relying on an organic interpretation of geometric abstraction. It marks the culmination of years of exploration into the domain of sculpture and jewelry-making with metal, a material which the artist dextrously recuperates from the hyper- masculine realm of welding in order to blur binary conceptions of gender.
On the other hand, this new research on movement is not only a continuation of her series of self- defence objects (which plastically cite concrete aesthetics based on concepts such as gestalt, cut and fold), but is also an attempt to spatialise her work and create new areas of tension and attention within the exhibition space. In her re-interpretation of kinetic and optic sculpture, she draws from an international constructivist heritage — a heritage that is not, like its Neo-concrete iteration in the Brazilian context, related to the public’s collaboration, but rather in the opposite intention to make the spectator active through the simulacra of danger. In so doing, she likewise appropriates a territory that is historically reserved for cis-heteronormative elites.
Pursuing concretism’s impulse of interaction between the audience and the work, the artist establishes a direct relationship between the visitor and her metallic sculptures. This is especially true of her gyrating buzzsaws, or “mobiles”: these indented aluminium entities mechanically spin on their own axis, and are interspersed across the two rooms that make up the exhibition so as to outline the spectator’s path around the expositive space — the threat of physical injury inspired by their proximity is in this instance very real. Surrounded by pink halos of light, the mobiles simultaneously invite and repel, thereby articulating a dichotomy between universal signifiers of femininity and the violence evoked by the work’s mobility and materiality.
This same tension is echoed in the series of small-scale works Joias Bélicas, which can be seen as material testaments to the oral histories of travestis Lyz Parayzo encountered throughout her years as a fine arts student in her native Rio de Janeiro. As both wearable accessories and art pieces, the jewels’ functionality is offset by their sharp edges and serrated design—the symbolic evocation of self-defence in her large-scale sculptures is here actualised in the work’s potential to be used for retaliation. In this mechanism lies the crux of the artist’s oeuvre: as much as the installation on view is composed of polished aesthetic objects, these are in fact weapons for survival. Through them, she conducts a therapeutic strategy to redistribute the violences that are regularly waged upon her body. The other structures which line the walls of the first gallery room replicate this bellicose sentiment
— perhaps most blatantly, the Escudo Ouriço stands imposingly at a height of 2.4 metres in the centre of the main gallery wall. In its rapturous monumentality, it epitomises the artist’s desire to assert herself in a social reality that routinely obscures and alienates non-heteronormative subjects. In Lyz’s own words: “I was never invited to be in the space of art. I had to conquer this place with violence”. Art, in her practice, is continuously activated as an instrument of resistance through which to disrupt and re-signify the cultural seats of power traditionally occupied by white, cis-male artists.
At the same time as she tackles questions of performativity and gender that are ubiquitous in a poststructuralist reading of society, her work is importantly rooted in a symbolic production that is specific to Latin America. Disposed along the northernmost left corner of the first room, the wall- mounted installations “popcretos” reference the re-signification phase of Concretism in the work of the Italian artist Waldemar Cordeiro, author of the Brazilian concrete manifesto. Allusions to the Brazilian Neo-concrete project place the artist’s practice in constant dialogue with the local and the global: her work lies at the intersection between universal issues related to non-conforming gender identities, and the subjective realities of the Latin American context resulting from a violent history of colonialism and miscegenation.
The exhibition concludes with an audiovisual work that provides an insight into the different elements that make up Lyz Parayzo, while also didactically exposing the issues that are collectively faced by the T community in Brazil today. Displayed in the second room, Trojan Horse delves into the artist’s personal journey as a Masters student in the prestigious School of Fine Arts of Paris, where she deals with questions of dysphoria and the construction of identity. With the use of symbolic imagery and dreamlike scenarios, it visually depicts a reality in which a trans immigrant body can gain access to education and professionalisation.
Parayzo hinges on a belief in the construction of new imaginaries to ultimately shape the lived realities of marginal bodies. It erects an expositive labyrinth that is highly aestheticised yet decidedly political — itself a tangible imaginary of the artist’s own ideation. In constructing this microcosm, Lyz Parayzo strives to materialise and display quotidian experiences of violence from an autobiographical perspective. Through the exercise of self-determination, she continues to defy and denounce the political structures that have fostered and enabled such violence to persist unchecked.