Lolo y Lauti

Lolo & Lauti
or
The artist as scenographer in their own community

(it’s a matter of feeling)

Friendship is the great Argentinean passion
Jorge Luis Borges

Adrienne Samos

How can intense, meaningful collaborations be established between artists and communities in Panama City? This question is the driving force behind the international public art project its curators have called Ciudad Múltiple 500, or CM500 for short, which is a successor of sorts to ciudadMULTIPLEcity, the mega-event held in 20031Los curadores de CM500, el proyecto urbano en curso desde 2018, somos Humberto Vélez y Adrienne Samos. Acerca del evento precursor, curado por Gerardo Mosquera y Samos en 2003, ver: G. Mosquera y A. Samos, eds. (2004), ciudadMULTIPLEcity. Arte>Panamá 2003. Arte urbano y ciudades globales: una experiencia en contexto, Ámsterdam: KIT Publishers; Rich Potter (2003), ciudadMULTIPLEcity. Arte>Panamá 2003, video, 50:02 min., https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpGd6vF8ALI; y A. Samos (primavera de 2013), «Panama City: A Pandora’s Box for Contemporary Art» en ReVista, the Harvard Review of Latin America: The Panama Issue, Cambridge: David Rockefeller Center, 50-53.. Adopting a different tack, CM500 has taken a more modest conception, to be unfolded over a span of several years and with people from the city itself, not just as subjects of attention and interaction, but as active participants. As artists.

Lolo y Lauti were the first artists invited to take part in this urban experiment. Why this Argentinian duo?2Los artistas bonaerenses Lorenzo Lolo Anzoátegui (1980) y Lautaro Lauti Camino (1986), cuya formación inicial proviene del teatro y del cine, formaron su colectivo en 2011. Exposiciones individuales incluyen Localidades agotadas, curada por Raúl Flores (Barro, Buenos Aires, 2021), El mundo del espectáculo (Casa Nacional de Bicentenario, Buenos Aires, 2019), Carmen (CM500, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, ciudad de Panamá; Malba, Buenos Aires; y la galería Vermelho, Sao Paulo, 2018), la adaptación de la ópera contemporánea de Robert Ashley Perfect Lives (Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, 2016) y la performance Me huevo loca (arteBA, Buenos Aires, 2019). Han mostrado su obra en museos, galerías y festivales en Estados Unidos, México, Colombia, Chile, Uruguay, Panamá y varios países de Europa. Son curadores de Perfuch, el festival anual de performance más grande de Argentina.. Plenty of reasons, some of which I will go into later. But, of all the human qualities that directly impinge upon their lives and their art practice, the crucial one is affection.

Ópera Carmen
Carmen, 2018-2021, single-channel video installation, wrought iron frame, electrical lamp, carnations, rose and bottle, 112 x 17 cm.

For CM500, Lolo y Lauti proposed making a filmed adaptation of the opera Carmen with members of Panama’s drag and trans community:

Dragis an art of aspiration and of appropriation that lies at the heart of contemporary sensibility, introducing a code of creative theft in which citation and mimesis are always springboards for ironically amplifying idiosyncrasy, caricature and exchange of knowledge. And so, we came up with the idea of a drag, contemporary and Panamanian version of our favourite opera, Carmen, by the French composer Georges Bizet (1875). Extravagant and over the top, this history of slut-shaming and femicide has got everything 3Lolo y Lauti (2018), Carmen de Panamá (propuesta preliminar, inédita), 1..

Lolo y Lauti flew to Panama City in October 2018 and stayed for over one month. A week after arriving, they were joined by the artist Rodrigo Moraes, a regular collaborator of the duo in several performances and especially in editing their audiovisuals4Rodrigo Moraes (Montevideo, 1985), artista, performer, videasta, dibujante, guionista y diseñador, es coautor (con Dani Umpi) del libro El vestido de mamá (Montevideo: Criatura Editora, 2011) y ganador de las becas Laboratorio de Acción (Complejo Teatral San Martin) y Yungas en 2019. Vive y trabaja entre Buenos Aires y Montevideo. Ver: rodrigomora.es.

They met the CM500 team and a lot of other people, explored the terrain and moved to the city’s old quarters to live in the large attic of the building that once housed the country’s first conservatory..

They spent long hours in that beautiful, symbolic and somewhat ramshackle space, day after day, casting all the different candidates for roles in Carmen. (They were all chosen). And that’s where they rehearsed, filmed and edited their contemporary opera.

There was a lot more to the casting than a mere series of conventional auditions. It involved no more nor less that making friends. Upstairs, in the vast attic with the big balconies and tall windows of the former conservatory, Lolo y Lauti (and Rodri) created a relaxed, open and intimate atmosphere. Life stories, rituals of dressing and make-up, performances and lip-syncs of each one of the drag divas’ favourite songs and, naturally, the arias from Carmen: it all went into the footage for the production of the film.

Lolo y Lauti
En las garras del doctor Quijote (In the clutches of Dr. Quixote), 2020, aluminium and iron structure, fan, television screen and multimedia player, 100 x 80 x 80 cm.
Lolo y Lauti
En las garras del doctor Quijote (detail).

The second thing that fascinated us about Lolo y Lauti was their will to bring into play many different alternative presents. They not only erase the boundaries between art and spectacle, but also between artist and audience5«… antes de que la performance se llamase performance ya estaba Nacha [Guevara]». Ver Delfina Bustamante, «La saciedad del espectáculo», A*DESK, 24 de junio de 2019, https://a-desk.org/magazine/la-saciedad-del-espectaculo/. Making the most of any resource at hand (if there is money, good and well, but if there isn’t, too bad) they appropriate highly disparate codes in order to keep giving our sensibilities another amazing twist of the screw.

Their iconography comes from showbiz, internet and television but also magazines and theme parks. Fictional characters like Mafalda and TV divas like Moria Casán are put under the same spotlight in a LSD remix riddled with theatrical nods. And just as they include elements of the mass media in art, they conceive art with mass media strategies. They neither overstate nor malign their references, but rather hypertrophy them to the point in which critique and fanaticism meet6Lolo y Lauti, loloylauti.com.

In his essay “The Artist as Ethnographer”—in allusion to “The Author as Producer” (1934) by Walter Benjamin—Hal Foster describes the anthropological shift taken by the committed artist to get beyond “exclusionary definitions of art and artist, identity and community”. In essence, the attention has shifted from the field of economic relations to that of cultural identity. Having said that, the artist is still personally distanced from “the site of political [and] artistic transformation.” So, where then is it situated? Benjamin’s scathing reply is still valid today: it is usually “that of a benefactor, of an ideological patron: an impossible place”7Hal Foster (1995), «The Artist as Ethnographer» en G. E. Marcus y F. R. Myers, eds., The Traffic in Culture: Refiguring Art and Anthropology, Berkeley: University of California Press, 302-309.

What then is the place of Lolo y Lauti? They are artists committed with getting beyond all exclusionary definitions, but their place is not somewhere else. For them, otherness is not over there or down there, but right here. The subject of their artistic research is none other than their own community. A community with which the Argentinian duo reinvent themselves with total freedom. They pick and borrow from here and there, as if everything was to be found in an old trunk of theatre props, and they rehearse with a wide range of strategies, representations and ideas. A very Buenos Aires community, which, at once, embraces people like Liza Minnelli, Claes Oldenburg or drag queens from Panama. A performative community, because it comes into play in a thousand ways (to start with, in its parties and in its smartphones). Its members pose and speak for themselves. They are all artists. They are all goddesses.

Lolo y Lauti
Me huevo loca, 2019, eight-hour performance, arteBA, UV gallery, Buenos Aires. Photo: Santiago Orti.

Precisely on the day that Carmen by Lolo y Lauti was being premiered at Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Panamá (MAC), it occurred to the president of China to visit his Panamanian counterpart. For his personal safety, he gave an order (yes, Xi Jinping also gives orders in our country) to cut off traffic in the streets of a large part of the city, including the one that leads to MAC.

What could we do? Fear and trembling, as K, the Dane, said.

Lolo y Lauti
La One, 2021, single-channel video installation, television screen, wooden ballet barre and metal brackets, dimensions variable.

In the composite version Lolo y Lauti (and Rodri) put on of the opera Carmen, each drag queen played their own version of Carmen, the wild gypsy woman whose name means charisma who is stabbed to death by her jealous lover. The cast, with their stage names, comprised Rosario Arias Castaño, Laidy Boo, Lana Michelle Visser Carangi, Charlie Chiskei (who also played Don José), Ja’la De La Fressange, Galilea De La Fressange, Lanesys Nicole Harts, Miss Veneno Fraimpark (R.I.P.), Conchota Grande Iriarte Fraimpark, Lolita Starfish Fraimpark Von Dee, Bubblegum Fraimpark, Alexa Fraimpark, Lorena Iriarte Fraimpark, Libia Fraimpark, Cordelia Fraimpark, Jamie Rivers Fraimpark, Angela Victoria Jhanono, Yineth Layevska, Brittany Yokasta Smith King and Dragnessa Williams.

Lolo y Lauti
El mundo del espectáculo (The world of showbiz), 2019, exhibition curated by Mariana Obersztern, exhibition view, Casa Nacional del Bicentenario, Buenos Aires.
Photo: Santiago Orti.

“The drag scene in Panama is very diverse and sophisticated.” (Lauti)

“The Fraimparks are, for us, perhaps the best young art collective in Latin America right now.” (Lolo) 8Ambas citas fueron tomadas de «Art is a drag: el arte de la performance», la charla impartida por Lolo y Lauti el 20 de noviembre de 2018 en el MAC Panamá.


The third thing I learned from them is how they use humour as an exercise in irreverence, partying, loving and destabilizing certainties. Humour as “a tool to address issues like sexuality, drugs, death and art” 9Op. cit., https://loloylauti.com/information. I would say that is it an ethical and even queer humour.

Lolo y Lauti
Escape de la dimensión diminuta (Escape from the tiny dimension), 2020, aluminium and iron structure, television screen and multimedia player, 170 x 50 x 50 cm.

The spectacular overture of Bizet’s opera, with its spirited, festive and cheerful music, is also the beginning of Lolo y Lauti’s Carmen. But, apart from that, their version of the opera does not follow the plot of the original. In fact, it does not follow any formal or narrative plot. It has another kind of logic. The film focuses on the very process of making it: on the interviews, on the rehearsals and on what generally takes place behind the scenes. At the same time, it points to the elaborate, ritualist, seductive, exaggerated (monstrous), performative, nocturnal and hyper-extravagant combinatory art of the drag queens. Art is to don a disguise and to remove it. To create illusions and to shatter them.

The camera in this film by Lolo y Lauti (and Rodri) is another game of mirrors: a kind of metaphor in continuous metamorphosis. It’s another Carmen! It reveals and hides. It is protean, provocative, bizarre and hilarious. It rambles, splits, darkens, flickers, expands, compresses and multiplies. The shots, sequences and special effects—like the artists on stage—subvert any clear-cut identity. They captivate while at the same time showing their seams.

The intention of this Carmen can be gleaned right from the beginning of the video-opera: to pay homage, from Panama, to the grand art of drag-queenism and to the community that came into being from its countercultural practice. After all, as Esther Newton argued and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick further endorsed, “drag is less a single kind of act than a heterogeneous system, an ecological field”, whose relationships are defined internally within this social and spatial field, as much as by the norms of the dominant culture it challenges10Ver Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (2003), Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 9. Ver también: Esther Newton (1972), Mother Camp: Female Impersonators in America, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Frozen 2, 2021, customized Coca-Cola Light bottles, polyester resin, acrylic and MDF, 40 x 165 x 40 cm. Photo: Florencia Lista.

I doubt whether Lolo y Lauti are interested in manifestos. The artists are too open and inclusive. But, for that very reason, their art seems to pay homage to Yvonne Rainer’s No Manifesto, only the other way round:

Yes to spectacle.
Yes to virtuosity.
Yes to transformations and magic and make-believe.
Yes to the glamour and transcendency of the star image.
Yes to the heroic. Yes to the anti-heroic.
Yes to trash imagery.
Yes to involvement of performer or spectator.
Yes to style.
Yes to camp.
Yes to seduction of spectator by the wiles of the performer.
Yes to eccentricity.
Yes to moving or being moved.11Ver Yvonne Rainer (1965), «Some retrospective notes on a dance for 10 people and 12 mattresses called Parts of Some Sextets, performed at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, and Judson Memorial Church, New York, in March, 1965», The Tulane Drama Review, 10(2), 168-78.


Lolo y Lauti
La casa del teatro

The fourth thing I learned from them (I’ve inventing the order) is their fascination with the infinitely transformative power of bodies and their disobedient, erotic, playful, poetic and political relationship with other bodies. Their theatricality.

Lolo y Lauti
Mundo Fever, 2021 single-channel video installation, projection on MDF screen[B1] , carpet, metal stands, 700 x 400 x 300 cm.

Despite being born before and just around the end of the bloody military dictatorship, the performers and conceptualists of Lolo y Lauti’s generation possess, as Roberto Jacoby claims, a strong “family bond” with three phases of a past that transgressed institutional art: 1. In the 1960s and 70s, young artists introduced the historical avant-gardes into popular culture, the streets, alternative spaces, political action (“Tucumán Arde”) and into the mix of different disciplines; 2. During the turbulent decade of the 1980s, in the middle of the dictatorship, a key strategy for resistance was “joy” (Jacoby once again). Danceable museums proliferated, as did shows at the Rojas gallery and the precarious self-run spaces of artist groups, rockers and people from experimental theatre; 3. No less meaningful was the prolific, daring conceptualist and underground scene that sprung up in the mid-nineties and the beginning of the new century12Ver Ana Longoni (1993), «Arte y violencia en los últimos años sesenta. Entre la representación y la acción» en Arte, sociedad, cultura e identidad: I Jornada de Sociología y Antropología del Arte, Buenos Aires: Instituto de Arte Argentino y Latinoamericano, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, UBA; A. Longoni, ed. (2011) El deseo nace del derrumbe. Roberto Jacoby: acciones, conceptos, escritos, Barcelona: Ediciones de La Central; y Francisco Lemus (2020), «Conceptualismo adolescente/Conceptualismo didáctico» en Orgullo y prejuicio: arte en Argentina en los 90 y después, Buenos Aires: Nora Fisch, http://norafisch.com.ar/conceptualismo-adolescente-conceptualismo-didactico


https://vimeo.com/304520211/6556782788 (link a video)

By the time the Supreme Leader of China finally boarded his plane, it was already late and the traffic jam was colossal and what was usually a fifteen-minute journey to get to MAC took us two hours. We were able to see sensational drag queens perched on their high heels, getting out of cars and buses stuck in the bottleneck, and walking the rest of the way to MAC to get there quicker.

Little by little, the museum gradually filled up until no more could fit in, largely with people who had never set foot in the museum before. Finally, the director welcomed the audience, the deputy mayor reiterated her solidarity with the LGTBQ+ community, Lolo y Lauti expressed their gratitude and gave a brief summary of their time in Panama, Jamie Fraimpark spoke on behalf of the cast, Rodri said hello and the lights were turned down.

On the largest wall of the largest hall in the museum, with the aid of a powerful projector invented to show astrophysical phenomena (on loan), over two hundred people sitting on the floor were able to experience, between screams, tears and laughter, something really bigger than life.

  • 1
    Los curadores de CM500, el proyecto urbano en curso desde 2018, somos Humberto Vélez y Adrienne Samos. Acerca del evento precursor, curado por Gerardo Mosquera y Samos en 2003, ver: G. Mosquera y A. Samos, eds. (2004), ciudadMULTIPLEcity. Arte>Panamá 2003. Arte urbano y ciudades globales: una experiencia en contexto, Ámsterdam: KIT Publishers; Rich Potter (2003), ciudadMULTIPLEcity. Arte>Panamá 2003, video, 50:02 min., https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpGd6vF8ALI; y A. Samos (primavera de 2013), «Panama City: A Pandora’s Box for Contemporary Art» en ReVista, the Harvard Review of Latin America: The Panama Issue, Cambridge: David Rockefeller Center, 50-53.
  • 2
    Los artistas bonaerenses Lorenzo Lolo Anzoátegui (1980) y Lautaro Lauti Camino (1986), cuya formación inicial proviene del teatro y del cine, formaron su colectivo en 2011. Exposiciones individuales incluyen Localidades agotadas, curada por Raúl Flores (Barro, Buenos Aires, 2021), El mundo del espectáculo (Casa Nacional de Bicentenario, Buenos Aires, 2019), Carmen (CM500, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, ciudad de Panamá; Malba, Buenos Aires; y la galería Vermelho, Sao Paulo, 2018), la adaptación de la ópera contemporánea de Robert Ashley Perfect Lives (Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, 2016) y la performance Me huevo loca (arteBA, Buenos Aires, 2019). Han mostrado su obra en museos, galerías y festivales en Estados Unidos, México, Colombia, Chile, Uruguay, Panamá y varios países de Europa. Son curadores de Perfuch, el festival anual de performance más grande de Argentina.
  • 3
    Lolo y Lauti (2018), Carmen de Panamá (propuesta preliminar, inédita), 1.
  • 4
    Rodrigo Moraes (Montevideo, 1985), artista, performer, videasta, dibujante, guionista y diseñador, es coautor (con Dani Umpi) del libro El vestido de mamá (Montevideo: Criatura Editora, 2011) y ganador de las becas Laboratorio de Acción (Complejo Teatral San Martin) y Yungas en 2019. Vive y trabaja entre Buenos Aires y Montevideo. Ver: rodrigomora.es
  • 5
    «… antes de que la performance se llamase performance ya estaba Nacha [Guevara]». Ver Delfina Bustamante, «La saciedad del espectáculo», A*DESK, 24 de junio de 2019, https://a-desk.org/magazine/la-saciedad-del-espectaculo/
  • 6
    Lolo y Lauti, loloylauti.com
  • 7
    Hal Foster (1995), «The Artist as Ethnographer» en G. E. Marcus y F. R. Myers, eds., The Traffic in Culture: Refiguring Art and Anthropology, Berkeley: University of California Press, 302-309.
  • 8
    Ambas citas fueron tomadas de «Art is a drag: el arte de la performance», la charla impartida por Lolo y Lauti el 20 de noviembre de 2018 en el MAC Panamá.
  • 9
    Op. cit., https://loloylauti.com/information
  • 10
    Ver Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (2003), Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 9. Ver también: Esther Newton (1972), Mother Camp: Female Impersonators in America, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • 11
    Ver Yvonne Rainer (1965), «Some retrospective notes on a dance for 10 people and 12 mattresses called Parts of Some Sextets, performed at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, and Judson Memorial Church, New York, in March, 1965», The Tulane Drama Review, 10(2), 168-78.
  • 12
    Ver Ana Longoni (1993), «Arte y violencia en los últimos años sesenta. Entre la representación y la acción» en Arte, sociedad, cultura e identidad: I Jornada de Sociología y Antropología del Arte, Buenos Aires: Instituto de Arte Argentino y Latinoamericano, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, UBA; A. Longoni, ed. (2011) El deseo nace del derrumbe. Roberto Jacoby: acciones, conceptos, escritos, Barcelona: Ediciones de La Central; y Francisco Lemus (2020), «Conceptualismo adolescente/Conceptualismo didáctico» en Orgullo y prejuicio: arte en Argentina en los 90 y después, Buenos Aires: Nora Fisch, http://norafisch.com.ar/conceptualismo-adolescente-conceptualismo-didactico
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