miércoles, agosto 07, 2013

“I'm Not a Joke” – An Interview with Daniel Arzola

Fotografía por Luis Abraham Castillo

Daniel Arzola is a 24-year-old artist from Venezuela, whose work I came across when browsing “gay rights” related posts on Tumblr. Someone had posted a few of his “No Soy Tu Chiste” 
(“I Am Not a Joke”) campaign posters (described by Daniel as a “campaign spreading awareness for the LGBTI community through art and design”). I was impressed and thought they were extremely effective, so I downloaded them on my computer to post to my Facebook page Gay Marriage Oregon.

Have you lived in Venezuela your whole life?
-Yes, I have lived here my whole life; in fact, I have never had the opportunity of getting to know another country. That forms part of a dream that I still haven’t fulfilled.
Are you LGBT?
-Yes, since I can remember I have been gay.
What are things like for LGBT people in Venezuela?
-It depends. On TV, gay people are mocked, lesbians are seen as a male heterosexual fantasy, and the trans community is invisible. On the street, a simple gesture of care between same-sex individuals can bring some problems. The issue is that in a society as violent as the Venezuelan one, it’s hard to identify hate crimes. In fact, there is some silence regarding the matter. LGBT identities are typically generalized; everyone thinks that if you’re gay you must be feminine, be manly if you’re a lesbian, and that all transgender people are gay.
How long have you been creating art?
-Art has been the translator and catalyzer of my world. I used to draw much more than I spoke. When I write a story, a poem, or design an illustration, it’s my way of giving what I feel a form. Therefore, since I can remember, art has been a part of me. If I have a lot to say, I am going to make a lot things; I’ve written more than 300 poems.
Why did you start the “I’m Not a Joke” campaign?
-This question has a lot of answers. I grew up being attacked for being different; I’m an Aspie, and I’m gay. People would find something “weird” about me, and consequently would attack and make fun of me.
On one occasion, some neighbors tied me to an electrical post and threw fireworks at my feet. I was able to get out of that one, but some people don’t. In my city, a boy was burned alive for being gay. As he left school he was sprayed with gasoline and had a match thrown at him. Not a single means of communication here said anything about it.
“I’m Not a Joke” is about the art against bullying; it’s about knowledge against ignorance.  Mockery is a model for violence.
How long did it take you to create the posters? How many different ones are there? Will you be making more?
-At the moment there are 36 published posters; every one of them has variations in three languages. I am hoping to make 50 posters. I still have a lot of things to say; I am just giving way for them.
The poster I took the most time with took me three or four days to make; the rest take me about a day to make.
The process that takes the longest for me is forming them in my head and being satisfied with it. This can take weeks.
What are your goals for the project?
-My goal, dream, objective, or whatever it can be called is to take this to the streets, to see it in a bus stop, at the metro station, in schools. I would like to be able to go to other countries that appreciate this kind of work more. There are people out there that feel guilty of being who they are; that blame doesn’t belong to them.
There are lots of people that need to know that nobody has the right to hurt them for being different, that being different makes us valuable, and that it’s our right to be treated equally.
You can find Daniel Arzola on Facebook and Twitter (his personal Twitter and the “I Am Not a Joke” Twitter), and you can also visit his online store. $1 from each t-shirt sold will be donated to his campaign.

See more at: http://tinyurl.com/lpd9s53

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