Nicaraguan artist Fredman Barahona spoke in the Gallery Forum of the Elaine Langone Center on the afternoon of Feb. 26. Introduced by Assistant Professor of Art and Art History Eddy López as, “blurring the lines between academia, art and activism” within his work, Barahona discussed his work regarding Nicaraguan and international LGBTQ+ issues. Barahona is the founder of Operaciòn Queer, an organization devoted to visibility and equality for individuals marginalized on the basis of gender or sexuality. Through his work in performance art, as well as video and photo installations, Fredman explores the construction of LGBTQ+ identities, cultural practices that defy traditional gender norms, and the historic root of these perceived norms. While his work often challenges historic notions of gender and political powers, Barahona also called his art, “my personal space for healing.”
Within his talk, Barahona described the piece he created for the Ninth Biennial of Nicaragua in 2014, “Sòlo fantasia…” A performance piece of the artist walking the streets of Nicaragua in an elaborate dress, headpiece, scepter, high heels and mask. the aim was “to create a fantasy dress to create a visual tour of the power dynamics of my country,” Barahona said. According to Barahona, the entire outfit took over two months to complete, as “each sequin of the dress was hand-stitched and each gemstone of the headpiece was hand-placed.” However, only hours before the Biennial, Barahona was barred from performing by the government. Upon receiving this news of his expulsion from the official event, Barahona asked the director of the biennial, “I have never asked permission to perform in the streets of Nicaragua, why should I do it now?” Barahona played footage of his performance. Without the official photographic equipment of the Biennial, all footage of the performance was taken on the cell phones of members of the crowd walking alongside the artist. Barahona was subsequently reinstated as an official performer of the Biennial “I had press. That was a bad look for the Biennial,” Barahona said.
Other works described by Barahona included his 2015 performance piece, “Devenir Todovenda” in which he depicted himself as a golden deer and took part in an indigenous Nicaraguan carnival devoted to the Catholic saint, St. Jeronimo. This performance aimed to illustrate the lack of space for members of the LGBTQ+ communities within traditional religious ceremonies. Additionally, the artist discussed a future work in which he plans to create a dress from machetes collected from farmers in his own childhood community. Machetes will stand to depict the “continuous imposition of a patriarchal and heteronormative society,” Barahona said. Upon the completion of this art work, Barahona plans to “use this dress in the same streets where I grew up as a kid and where I was taught how to be a man.”
On the work and talk of Barahona, Professor López said, “I think his work is really strong both aesthetically and conceptually. This is such an enriching opportunity for the University to see an artist from a small South American country dealing with the issues of the LGBT community.”
“I found it important to come to the United States because my work is about creating alliances between borders and I believe that political borders should be questioned. Even though we do have different political contexts, we can always create resistances and alliances,” Barahona said. The talk was sponsored by the Bucknell Department of Art and Art History, Spanish, Latin American Studies Program, Department of Theater and Dance, the Women’s and Gender Studies department, the Samek Art Museum, the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Gender, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Office of the Provost, the University Lectureship Committee and the Bucknell Arts Council.