He opens his home to me and introduces me to his unique world.
Paco Cao has an awe-inspiring academic carreer. He studied Art History at the University of Oviedo (Spain), where he received his Ph.D. He has lectured at many universities, including, Princeton University, New Jersey; Parsons School, New York, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; Göteborg Universitet, Gothenberg, Sweden; as well as, at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and Universidad Politécnica de Barcelona, all in Spain.
He arrived in New York in 1995 with his project "Rent-a-Body", originally launched in Oviedo, Spain in 1993. With a simple phone call, clients could hire "the body", meaning Cao, to do a variety of tasks. Cao was rented to do different tasks such as: a 3 hours trip on the subway, to perform a historical re-creation of Jesus Christ's crucifixion in a Lutheran church in Brooklyn, to be insulted and humiliated by the clients on the streets of Manhattan, or to perform a martyred saint on an s/m boutique. These first works, and many others, have been followed by the media and garnered a lot of interest. His work has been reviewed, among others, by The New York Times, The Village Voice, The New Yorker, The Los Angeles Times, ArtNews, El País, El Mundo, ABC, La razón; and La Vanguardia. On your website, www.pacocao.com you claim that you are "unfaithful to any particular medium", in the sense you don't want anything to limit you. In these days, that is difficult.
On your website, you claim that you are "unfaithful to any particular medium", in the sense you don't want anything to limit you. In these days, that is difficult.
HOW DO PEOPLE DEFINE YOUR WORK?
I know, as a matter of fact, that it's hard for people to understand my projects. The first reason is because they are process oriented, meaning that I need a long period of time to be able to create the whole project.
Usually, I CHANGE THE MEDIA ALL THE TIME: I can move from writing to film, photography, sculpture, performance and many different medias. It depends on what the project itself needs.
For some people it's hard to frame me. And people have the need to frame and to label and artist. And in my case they can't, and I don't care.
EACH PROJECT EVOL and HAS ITS OWN SPIRIT. I have an idea that is clear from the beginning and a direction that I'm taking, knowing that I will face unpredictable situations that I need to solve in the process. And resolving these situations in my way, that's the way the project is growing.
And when I feel the project is done or I'm tired... I just stopped and that's gone.
PEOPLE INTERACT WITH MY PROJECTS. Many of my projects are very interactive, demanding in many ways because they ask a direct action and intellectual interaction from the side of the audience.
They are demanding and also catchy and appealing; they have hooks to people so they can engage into the project.
My projects, in general, have several layers. If you have a lot of information about the subject I'm reflecting about, you will be have to access to all the layers. But if you don't have information, you will have access to some.
That's something that I always keep in mind. The audience is really important to me. It's not that art should be equal to entertainment. Art helps me to embrace other people.
I am demanding and at the same time I'm giving.
For me the audience is always present in the process of creating work. I think of the audience as an active agent of the creative process.
For example, in my new project "Eternal Rest. Contact the spirit of your music idols, know your future, and enlighten their path to eternal rest", I have created a deck of fortune telling cards inspired by the likenesses of Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, and Kurt Cobain. So I read these cards to talk about the future, and that's a direct interaction with the audience. I interact face to face with the audience and talk with them.
In the past, I used to have a strong need to have a direct contact with the audience., The "Rent-a- body" or the "Look-Alike Contest Series" projects are good examples of this need. Many years ago I was really active in that direction but in the last few years, I worked in another direction, for example, the book, "Felix Bermeu A hidden life?, the biography of a nonexistent character, that also included a contest, and in the Film "Dance Poison" with its own exhibition were much more isolated processes. Now I'll be more exposed with "Eternal Rest", I'm again interacting with the people without barriers.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE LIVING BETWEEN NEW YORK AND SPAIN? OR SHOULD I ASK, "THE WORLD"?
I have been doing this for 17 years. Many of the artist that are based in New York, are traveling all the time and working a lot outside of the city. We are all artist that live in a GLOBAL SITUATION.
I go to Spain four times a year or more. So I keep everything that I left. I'm traveling all the time and it's totally natural for me. It doesn't matter to be here or there it's the same.
When I first came here, I knew my perfect balance would be to be based here, and work in other places also.
I'm very interested about being able to have projects that I can explore in several geographical places. My idea is always to be able to explore a project from many different perspectives. I like to adapt my ideas to different situations: geographical, social, cultural and political.
Actually, it really works for him. Taking a look at the projects, they travel through many places: Belgium, Brazil, Germany, Dominican Republic, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Sweden and the United States. And many are in different countries as the "Museum of the victim" with a virtual space in Mexico, Italy, Spain and USA; the "Look-Alike Contests Series" looking for the muse of renowned paints, as "Bishop Sotgia Serra" in Sardinia, Italy, "Juan de Pareja" by Velázquez in New York, in the second contest and "Cornelis de Vos" in Gijon; or "Eternal Rest" starting in Italy and New York but without a local end.
WHY NEW YORK?
I don't know, most likely New York chose me.
I didn't expect to stay, I came just to visit.
I always open myself to New York in a big sense. New York is not only Manhattan, but Brooklyn, Queens or The Bronx. I've lived in each of these neighborhoods so I have quite an understanding of the social dynamic of this city.
New York revolves around the social interaction among people. New York does not only consist of the physicality of the city or neighborhoods. You can find people from all over the world and the most unexpected can happen.
Each day the subway is something unique! It is an anthropological observatory. It's incredible what you can see in the subway. It's amazing! You don't have this social interaction in another cities.
This is not a better city, it's just the one that fits me the best.
Don't miss Eternal Rest, October 30th through November 10th at (Art) Almagamated !!!
Published at Spain Culture New York, Consulate
General of Spain in NY's website, on October 17th 2012: http://www.spainculturenewyork.org/beta/cms/mapping-the-arts/spanish-creators-in-ny/spanish-creators-detail/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=29&cHash=28e8762732d578b3d53c9d26be9296bf