The Chilean artist Lucia Rojas Egaña works in many capacities: as a documentary-maker, video artist, creative collaborator and collector of trash. She is based in Barcelona and recently completed a residency at Kreuzberg’s GlogauAIR in addition to a showing of one of her works – a series of banners woven from clothing labels – at Vladimiro Izzo Gallery.
What is the art world like in Chile?
It’s very hard. It’s very conceptual – the people are very intellectual, the artists read a lot, but it’s hard because every time you show something, there can be a lot of negative criticism and competition.
Is that why you moved to Barcelona?
Yes. I moved to Barcelona to learn documentary-making and now I’m doing a PhD [exploring postpornography]. There, I am not really an artist. I participate more in the activist movements.
Is that why your work is so socially oriented?
Maybe. But I think that my Chilean background and my personal story are also important. I was born in Germany because my parents were refugees from Pinochet, and I came from a political background. My family returned to Chile in 1985, when I was six. I think my work is very Latin American.
What’s your interest in documentation?
At the beginning, I was very tired of art. I was wary of the hyper image production. So I began to work with a pirate TV channel where only poor people work. For 10 years, they’ve been successfully transmitting their programs every week; always live, because they don’t have money to buy tapes. And it occurred to me that I am more interested in reality, and that I don’t need to produce images because I can re-use them. But then I studied documentarymaking in Barcelona, and of course I know now that each documentary is fiction.
AUSLÄNDER, das Importland consists of clothing labels sewn together into a flag or banner. How did this piece come about?
I’ve been collecting the labels for two years. I asked different people for them, or I would take them from the trash. There was much more discarded clothing in Barcelona than in Berlin, maybe because there is such a big second-hand culture here. When I started to collect the tags, I didn’t know what they were for yet, but a year ago I started to construct a flag from tags from a Spanish company. Then I began the residency and started to pick up on the tags again.
What do the tags mean to you?
I see them as a kind of passport. There is a lot of information in the tags: where it was made, whether you can wash it, the material it’s made of – but you don’t see all this information when you see the clothing. It’s like when you look at me, you don’t know anything about me, but when you see my passport then you know a lot. It can be easier to come into Europe as a t-shirt than as a person.
What was it like to grow up as a feminist in Chile?
My mother, Soledad Rojas, is a prominent feminist, so I grew up with a lot of feminists and lesbians around me, and I went to an alternative school for children of political refugees who had returned to Chile. Then in university, for the first time, I met people from the right and people against abortion. And then I felt like a person in a bubble. Chile is very Catholic, and everything from abortion to the day after pill is illegal. It’s illegal even if your life is in danger: you can go to jail if you’re found out. But if you have money, you can do whatever you want. You can pay for a good hospital, a good doctor.
Have you done art about the abortion issue?
No, but I’ve been thinking about it. Many women have had one, but no one talks about it. Sometimes you’re at a party and you mention you’ve had one, and all these people start to say, ‘me too’. But it’s so illegal we can’t even have a statistic about it.