Frieda Toranzo Jaeger
Frieda Toranzo Jaeger born in 1988 is a Mexican artist. Her practice deals with the representations of masculinity and femininity in the visual culture of late capitalism, in which the car serves as the stereotypical symbol of male power and domination and a psychological space In her paintings, the artist meticulously recreates the anatomy of the Interior of the vehicles of the future, their chassis engines and other mechanical systems, reconstructing the semiotics of the order of domination.
Selected solo shows include: Fantasies of Autonomy, Arcadia Missa, London; Deep Adaptation, Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin; Autofelatio, High Art, Paris; Choque Cultural, Lulu, Mexico City and Die Windschutzscheibe, Reena Spaulings, New York. Their work
has also been part of several key collective shows including: The Making of Husbands: Christina Ramberg in Dialogue at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; and Paint, AlsoKnown As Blood: Women, Affect, And Desire In Contemporary Painting, The Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw. Additionally, Toranzo Jaeger has been featured in articles for Mousse, Flash Art, Art Reveal and Frieze Magazine, amongst others.
Q:How did you end up moving to Berlin?
Well as you know, I am Mexican, I was born and raised in Mexico. My mom was also born and raised in Mexico but her father was German, so I had the opportunity to learn German from a very young age. After High School I applied to art school in Mexico and I was rejected lol, so since I spoke German I started applying to art schools in Germany. I came across the work and books of Jutta Koether and I was so inspired by her work, I decided to apply for her class which was not in Berlin but in Hamburg, and I got in! So I moved first to Hamburg, but after a couple of years I couldn’t take it anymore. Hamburg is a super nice city but it’s not the most diverse or queer, so I decided to move to Berlin and commute to Hamburg for school. I stayed in Berlin until November of last year (2019) when I decided to move back to Mexico.
Q: At what point did you realise that painting was your chosen medium?
Well I guess like a lot of art students I couldn’t afford any other type of medium at the beginning. But I really like that the process of painting is where the translation between feelings, concepts and thoughts is executed in its most direct way. Because I'm also not interested in creating visual illusions with painting techniques or other techniques, I find illusionism is a way to distract yourself from discourse.
As a queer woman of color, I feel a sense of urgency to respond with my work, to create conceptual spaces to decolonise and free ourselves from the heteronormative. Painting feels like the most immediate medium to do that.
Q: When did you decide to subvert the process of painting by deconstructing how painting is presented?
I think I had to! It is my intent to decolonise myself, to live in the paradox of the art world and it being so inseparable from the west. The history of ‘painting’ is the history of the west. It’s not until very recently that slowly that this is changing.
I needed to transgress the preciousness of painting. I mean it’s the most western form of art so I literally had to penetrate it with the last remains of my pre-Colombian heritage, the embroidery. It was an act of epistemological disobedience against painting. In order to do that I also had to take it off the walls so it generates a feeling of autonomy from the interior and the walls. Autonomy is a central concept in relationship with my work, because it is also a central issue of postcolonial theory, like how to decolonise ourselves in the system that we live in today? We can’t go back to our roots, they were all erased…so how do we still find a place of autonomy today and for the future? I think for now our job is first to imagine what these spaces could look like and to create ideological spaces and this is what I am trying to accomplish in my work by deconstructing painting.
Q: Your paintings often act as a vessel to subvert and critique ideas around how heteropatriarchal structures have formed within late capitalism and the history of painting. How did you first realise you wanted to use painting as a tool to comment on the male gaze and the underrepresentation of women?
Well I think that the revision of history is one of the most decolonising practices. The fact that we can look back and understand that the concept of history is just the surviving testament of the hierarchy of western domination and colonisation of the world at least for the last 2000 years is important, so we can reconstruct it from a new place of understanding.
What I love about the history of painting is that as much as it shows exactly the form and system of power of this domination, it also shows us something else, something beyond all of that. It is a beautiful place to revisit and rethink history. So commenting on painting and its history is inextricably linked to the male gaze but I appropriate it to use it as the critical subject.
Q: The concept of the car plays a big role in your work, often acting as a dystopian male body housing ideas around queerness. Could you expand on how you started combining these elements in your work and how you see them working together?
Well as I mentioned before, I am very interested in the concept of autonomy within the discourse of postcolonialism. So the linguistic connection with the automobile or car is pretty obvious but beyond that I was looking for a painting subject that could create the feeling of autonomy. For me the interior of the car is a psychological space that promises fantasies of individualism, power and mobility, but it is all false, it’s merely a trap of late capitalism. So when I started to use the interior it was a perfect object to impute this meaning on. But I also saw the interior of the car as a negative body, a place where the cast of our bodies becomes the body. Colonisation starts in the body so I intend to queer the space of the car and simultaneously of the idea of ‘body’ and I think that’s why these two elements work so well together. In anything that I use as a subject I will always try to make it as queer as I can.
Q: Many of your paintings have scenes of ecological environments with references to scenes from South America, Mexico and America in general. As a Mexcian-born artist how do you see your own heritage / identity reflected in the work?
Yes, absolutely I am from indigenous descent, like most Mexicans, but not everyone knows where their indigenous heritage comes from. For most Mexicans, their indigenous past has been erased. I am lucky enough to still have family in touch with this community, and the embroidery comes from this heritage. I work with women in my family and they help me with my embroideries which is a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation. For me, this is the most resistant act against capitalism. Apart from being an unsustainable form of work, so slow and so underpaid, it is a form of hope, a complete language that was formed outside capitalism; the proof that there is something beyond this system of eternal growth, ecological exploitation, racism and inequality. For me, this existential reasoning is so important and beautiful because it goes beyond my own small community and connects with all the indigenous communities in that sense about what it feels to be connected with something outside capitalism and at the same time reconcile with the fact that is getting harder and harder to preserve and conserve.
Q: What' is the art scene like in Mexico?
I have to say I feel very outside the art scene in Mexico. I live here now but I lived for many years in Germany, so I kind of disconnected with it. Now I live here with my girlfriend and the art scene in Mexico is so so so hetero and male dominated it makes my blood boil sometimes, so tbh I like to hang out with the queers, and here the queer scene is the most radical I’ve ever experienced - the DJs, the parties, ‘el perreo’. How queer culture has appropriated Reggaeton is sooooo fun, and also queer fashion is such a big thing right now, at least before the pandemic. I have to say that there is such an exciting queer scene, but unfortunately this is not reflected in the art scene, so I don't have an informed answer about that.
Q: What are you working on next after the pandemic ends ?
Well, I am working towards my upcoming shows. We have planned a group show at Human Resources in LA which is going to be the most lesbian show of all time hahaha. I am just very excited about that and I’m also preparing my first institutional solo show at The Baltimore Museum of Art which I’m thrilled about.
Published: 27/05/2020 by Queerdirect
Edited by Tamar Clarke-Brown