By Velvet Zoe Ramos. Aruba
EL PRAN Projecten. Curatorial Accompaniment
The trial and error construction is a heuristic method based on obtaining both propositional and experimental knowledge. It consists of testing a process and verifying its possible functionality. Precisely, the Aruban artist Velvet Zoé Ramos moves between multiple disciplines to build that trial and error dynamic that her work intrinsically has. She is a transdisciplinary artist with great power of installation, processual and essayistic; she is a culturist of hybrid forms where she has turned her experience and technical development into graphic arts, mixed with the language of performance and the participation of the public.
The artistic operations of Velvet Zoé Ramos have a high dose of performativity and necessary exchange with the other. She becomes both a reader of the discourse and a participant in it. She confronts those involved and endows her creations with a relational aesthetic that favors the public’s identification with an informal, quasi-homelike and intimate context. Hence her artistic link with the culinary as a process translated into a sort of immersive experience in which the public plays an essential role. And I refer to an intimate environment insofar as the staging that Velvet deploys in its interaction with the culinary subverts the classic image of food and the cooking process to draw attention to the shortcomings, needs and experiences of the other.
The author’s test consists of a Malandra artistic operation in the fullest dimension of the term, taking as a sample of analysis the discourse and praxis that Velvet has developed over the years, specifically from the approach to three of its artistic operations.
We're All in the Same Boat
In this artistic operation, Velvet Zoé Ramos discusses roles of equality, synergies, community, vulnerability, the island condition that we Caribbean people carry in our blood, about horizon and escape, present and longing for the future… We are all in the same boat, is an installation with a markedly poetic, inclusive, and empathetic nuance. Velvet recognizes a possible system of equality of conditions and motivations that lead us to be in and share the same vital space.
The first version of this author’s proof was a boat made of bread, an operative that encloses multiple symbolic readings. It was a boat built from the vulnerability of food that melts in water: a boat of dreams with an expiration date as soon as it sets sail. The poetics sweeten the different ways in which she approaches the inevitable failure, but with also the possibility of an uncertain, yet longed-for escape… This bread boat, which speaks of insularity, sunstroke, and fragility, was part of the collective of emerging artists from the Dutch Caribbean, curated by Elvis Lopez, and held as part of the PAN, Ateliers 89 exhibition.
The second version of this author’s test has been developed by Velvet outside the visual arts to discuss the poetics of the sea as a ‘sine qua non, condition of the history of the Dutch Caribbean, specifically Aruba, and became part of the permanent collection of the Archaeological Museum of Aruba.
The third version of the work presented a twist in its aesthetics and concept as the bread boat mutated into a pot boat, in which the culinary and empathic condition of food as a pretext to promote dialogues of human communication, takes it again as a resource to create its author’s tests. This version was presented at the Mykonos Biennial in Greece, and Velvet was one of the Aruban artists who represented the island at the event.
We’re All in the Same Boat. Paper ideas
We’re All in the Same Boat. Ateliers’s 89, Aruba. Nro. 1
We’re All in the Same Boat. Museo Arqueologico, Aruba. Nro. 2
We’re All in the Same Boat. Bienal Mykunos, Grecia. Nro. 3
Artistic Operation: Cachupete cake.
The Chuchubi entrepreneurship
Translating the concept and strategy of any given venture into the production of contemporary art is in itself a badass twist. As a cult of trial and error, Velvet applies in ‘El Emprendimiento Chuchubi’ the empathic state she cultivated in her various versions of the feast and advocates for author’s tests to carry out unique recipes that she elaborates based on requests made by the clients of said “business”.
Her role as a culinary artist allows her to develop an aesthetic operation that varies towards exclusivity as it turns into signature cuisine whose results break patterns of decoration and preparation, highly influenced by the artist’s mood, the moment or circumstance of elaboration, the close relationship or not between the client and her…
The repetition and versatility of a recipe, as a pretext for her error-proof essayistic operation, in collaboration with the artist Irvin Aguilar, allows her to generate different procedures, proportions, decorations, formats, and multiple experimentations of the same perspective to create varied author’s proofs.
Artistic Operation: Cachupete cake. No. 1
Artistic Operation: Cachupete cake. No. 2
Artistic Operation: Cachupete cake. No. 3
Artistic Operation: Cachupete cake. No. 4
Artistic Operation: Cachupete cake. No. 5
The Feast, A Banquet of Crude Empathy
El festín is the materialization of trial and error in the artist’s career. It is the result of an author’s test translated into three different versions and, consequently, rich and interesting in their particularities. Velvet began her first feast in 2011 and has managed to experience three different dynamics of the same concept and symbolic-sensory experience.
The first feast consisted of self-service for the participating public. The artist conceived and prepared a banquet-like buffet that in its essence, was an edible installation, which was modified as the public interacted with it. In this first rehearsal, the artist did not interact with either the work or the audience. She played the role of threading the whole possible operational process and observed what the public was leaving after their contact with the piece. The aesthetic and conceptual twist of the work lies in the utensils offered to the participant for the self-service of the food. Velvet perforated the cutlery and disabled them from their primary function. It proposed, then, a feast in which the audience interacted with the very disability to serving themselves and led them to experience forms of communication with each other in a radical way.
The crude empathy was in the test of generating human relationships beyond social roles; in putting on the table of the feast the distancing, the lack of communication, and the manifest differentiation of social strata that dominates the contemporary world and subverting them before the need for communication and nourishment as basic poles of the evolution of society. A feast that breaks with the margins and social codes, notably visible in the Aruban context -as in other Caribbean regions- in terms of tourist culture and service, where we are forced to offer a smile and empathy, many times crude and false, to be in tune with the benefits offered to tourists once they pay to enjoy the role of “being served”, and no longer of “self-service”.
The second feast consisted of an experience in which Velvet became more directly involved with the public and the work. She was an active part of the culinary installation diners and turned to the generation of a bilateral empathy with the others who ate around her. In this rehearsal, she experienced from within her individuality, the very disability of self-service and the need for communication with the other. She deployed empathic social forms to confront the public in the face of an elemental lack, such as the difficulty of collective nourishment.
The third feast involved a more in-depth conception of this work in progress based on trial and error, experimentation, and participation. Velvet not only interacted with the audience and the work but in this rehearsal, she played the role of the subject serving the food. She proposed a seven-phase menu composed, among other elements, of a bitter herbal tea from the courtyard to start, stone soup with seaweed as a second course, and so on, until in collaboration with other artists; a unique culinary menu to which the participants had free access.
She conceived a culinary discourse through performative and experiential actions that sought to generate that raw empathy through the effect of food. She put to “dialogue” at the same table roles that, in their natural state, do not establish any synergy. Velvet proposed an approach to the empathic state of the subjects through food as a binding and elemental resource of the human being.
The Feast, A Banquet of Crude Empathy. Nro 3
Velvet Ramos Artistic Operation, Guest Artist. Frank Kelly (Taki) General Production of Irwin Aguilar. Cas Di Cultura. Aruba, 2021
The Feast, in conversation. Menu.
Velvet Ramos Artistic Operation, Guest Artist. Frank Kelly (Taki) General Production of Irvin Aguilar.
The Dinner/ Performance
Velvet Ramos Artistic Operation, Guest Artist. Frank Kelly (Taki) General Production of Irwin Aguilar.
El festín, Chuchubi, and We’re All in the Same Boat are three authors’ tests that started from the same aesthetic-discursive resource and from the same installation and performance process which were inserted in different contexts to demonstrate how variable the trial and the result of each experimentation is. Each artistic operation speaks to us not only of physical spaces but also of spaces of research and social communication, of roles of community participation, shared history, memory, spiritual deficiencies, of formal codes… Velvet Ramos has focused her continuous work in progress on the approach and interaction with the culinary, encouraging the participation and collaboration that she has generated from a trial and error test that translates into a performance in constant transformation, in a Malandra artistic operation.
Nelson Gonzalez. Curaduria Malandra
The Feast, A Banquet of Crude Empathy. Nro 3. Cas di Cultura, 2021
The Feast, A Banquet of Crude Empathy. Nro 2
The Feast, A Banquet of Crude Empathy. Nro 1
The Feast, A Banquet of Crude Empathy. Nro 0
The Feast, A Banquet of Crude Empathy
About. Velvet Zoe Ramos. Infographic
Velvet Zoe Ramos. Bio
Velvet Zoe Ramos
Velvet Zoe Ramos (Born 1988, Tulsa Oklahoma, USA) spent her childhood on the Caribbean island of Aruba where she currently works and lives. She graduated in 2011 with a BA Honours in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins, London, UK. Ramos has been involved in a number of exhibitions as well as site-specific and community projects.
She has coordinated and participated in Translucent moon III with Muchi Mondi, an art-collective of artists and creatives presenting expressive narratives with site-specific art interventions & exhibitions within Aruba’s abandoned structures.
She is currently developing ArtFama studio/project space with art collaborations, workshops, performance, installations and experimental art sketch/scratch nights with local and international creatives. She has participated in Arquetopia, Printmaking Art residency, Puebla, Mexico.
Ramos has an interdisciplinary practice that includes performance-related and sculptural installations as well as printmaking and wearable art.
Velvet Zoe Ramos’ recent activity makes her one of the emerging artists with the greatest impact on the island of Aruba. She recently achieved a personal exhibition, under the curatorship of Ana Maria Hernandez at Cas di Cultura Aruba. She participates in the Aruban collective participating in the Mykunos Biennial in Greece, 2021. She is also selected to represent Aruba in the Biennial of the Republic of Bangladesh.
Curator: Nelson Gonzalez & Gerardo Zavarce
Production: Zurishaddai Tremus
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