AIR: Sol Esperanza

Name: Sol Esperanza Roja
Place of residence: USA/ Colombia
Occupation: Performance Artist
Met in: Fondation ArteSumapaz, Colombia / October 2019

Editor’s note: This interview is part of an ongoing series of interviews by Gabriel Kreuzer, on his travels through South America. Photo by Gabriel Kreuzer.

Photo by the author

Gabriel Kreuzer (GK): If you had the free choice, who would you like to have dinner with?

Sol Esperanza (SE): The musician Leonard Cohen, who’s Lyrics blow me away. He shares my obsession with biblical references but spinning them into these gorgeously transgressive and somehow still poignant lyrics. He is an amazing creature and I would just love and pick his brain, flirt with him and make hallelujah, sing this song together.

GK: If your house burned down and you could save three things, what would it be?

SE: My writing, photographs of lovers, family, friends… I don’t keep valuables around for long… honestly, right now the only thing I have are my poems, some pictures and my cloths.

GK: Which dream of yours would you like to fulfil?

SE: I want to take this show on the road, my one-person communion, soulgasm show. And I want it to become so much bigger than it is now, with the little test-run. I want the live-musicians, the props and changes, I want to be on the table at some point and literally be the body and the blood, I want to cut my hand open and …. I want the whole shebang! I want it to rip peoples soul out and allow them to soar in the ethers with the beauty of it. I want to take this show on the road- it would have 12 spectators who would represent the 12 apostles who would act as participants. It is the first supper. I want to do the show in two ways, a very intimate version of the show that gets very intense with only 12 people in the audience. And then I want to have the bigger Version of the Show which still has 12 people I am interacting with and then an additional audience. I want it to change people.

GK: Which artists inspires you?

SE: Robert Rauschenberg, he dabbled in just about every art-form. He created these combines which are half sculpture, half painting by using objects to bridge off the painting into the real world and reach out and grab you. He was so tangible, you could walk into his stuff. Yayoi Kusama with the infinity mirrors, she really inspires me. Marina Abramovic, the performance artist, she blows my mind with some of the things she’s done…. She had this one performance where she had a table with instruments of pleasure and instruments of pain, including a loaded gun, and she had a table reading “you can do everything you want to me, including killing me if you must”. She ended up with no clothing because there was a pair of scissors and people cut her cloth off. Somebody even held the pistol to her head. Her daring and willingness to face hear fears and just saying, “here I am”- it is giving me courage.

GK: What ability would you like to own?

SE: To really paint what I feel and see in the world. I am already a dancer but I would like to take my dancing abilities to the next level, I want to increase my choreographic skills and flexibility. I just want to demand to be seen, heard, smelled, tasted… like “take, eat, this is my body”!

GK: What positive character trait do you find most valuable in a person?

SE: The ability to listen without the need to change or fix things. Just listen. But not just listen with your ears, listen with your body, listen to peoples gestures and eyes, listen to the subtle things. Like a big perception, a big sense of awareness. And artistic instincts, when somebody is into art and loves creating. When they have a sense of their own aesthetics. When they have an instinctive force they know how to apply in order to create things. People who are particular. For instance Jackson Pollock- what made him trust the instincts to do that? But he trusted it, he just had this artistic impulse and he went with it. Like “this is what my instinct is telling me, this is what my body wants to do”.

GK: What beautiful memory comes to mind spontaneously?

SE: It’s a recent one, but it’s the first one that comes to mind. There is this person in my live currently who is special and I am sure that we will probably never see each other again, and that’s ok. But it is just lovely for the time being. Anyways, it’s just so cute…

GK: Do you have a favorite place on earth?

SE: There is this waterfall called Chorro Blanco in Jardin (Colombia) where you have to go down underneath the tree, this great big mama-tree with roots forming a natural tunnel and you have to go down behind the roots to get to the waterfall. The whole ride up to the entrance is this mystical journey and you see the waterfall appearing off at the distance. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world I have been to. Also the Diamante Valley in Costa Rica is one of my favourite places. A place where I did an Ayahuasca-Ceremony on New Year’s Eve, overlooking the Valley from the top of this mountain, overlooking the most beautiful sky and behind a cave a gorgeous waterfall.

GK: What in your life are you most thankful for?

SE: My little Sister Sarah. She is incredible special and such a gift of grace to me because she is probably the only member of my family who understands me. And she is exquisitely gorgeous and beautiful and she is so talented and smart and she always blows my mind. Just watching her grow and blossom is incredibly special. She just turned 21. And Art, I am grateful for art. To be able to express myself artistically, I am so grateful that I have that, it is the love of my life.

GK: What makes you happy?

SE: Firstly I would say that happiness as it is defined by the vast majority of society is not my goal. My goal is to feel open, to any feeling that comes through to me. When I notice myself being tender and open and able to really just feel and to be with whatever I am feeling, that to me is more important than “happiness”. I would rather have a really good cry that opens and softens me than to have a day that seems so happy but I am actually ignoring feelings or suppressing them. But as far as what makes me happy, like just pure happiness… making art is one, that obviously makes me happy, performing makes me very happy, being around people that are equally invested in creating art, equally if not more invested than I am in art-making, make me very happy, and collaborating with those people and feeling like we are having this artistic orgy, an orgy of creative energy, of making together- that makes me happy. Sensuality makes me happy. I say sensuality as opposed to sexuality because I just like to be in a dance of touch, of intimacy– the push, the play. Dancing makes me so happy, singing… but that is also making art. Candles make me happy- I love candles because I love the play of shadows on the walls, the contrast of light and darkness. Bird sounds, rain sounds, nature makes me happy. I can go on and on… it is a very big question. How big do you want me to go? But in general I would say that the first answer I gave, of that feeling that being open and intimate with the world, anything that gives me an opportunity to be more open and intimate with the world, makes me happy.

GK: What is your definition of success?

SE: To be fully, totally in ease in my body, at ease with myself and who I am, at peace with the ways I’m navigating the world. Having a sense of complete communion with everything around me, just being in a state of communing, listing, seeing, hearing, tasting… tasting, drinking life! That being said, my other definition of success is to really be able to support myself with the art. It is not my definition of success in general, but it is just a thing I would love to do, to be able to travel the world doing my art and have people see it and witness it, and respect it and feel it, feel it in their being and be moved by it. I knew when I was four years old that I wanted to be a singer, I wanted to be a famous singer and that has taken different qualities, I had different understandings of what my art was, but I knew then that I want to be on stage, that I want to be seen, that I want to be a star (laughs)! There is a video of me singing a solo with a microphone in my hand when I am 4 years old and I’m just smiling and thinking I am so cool and just loving every minute of the spotlight.

GK: What are you most proud of in the last year?

SE: Doing the first run of my show “The first supper- a Prayformance” a couple of days ago, even though it’s nowhere near finished and nowhere near the fullness of my vision. I am not touring it yet, but I saw it through to this point and have enough done, I can see it happening, I can see myself making it what it needs to be. And I am proud of myself because there were so many times where I thought “man, I am not going to finish this, maybe I won’t make an exit-exhibition [in Fondation ArteSumapaz in Colombia, red.] and maybe I just take my shit and just sweat it” because there were so many moments of deep doubt in the process and so I am just so proud of myself of seeing it through. A lot of doubt came through the visual aspect of the performance and I thought “why am I doing this, I am not a painter, I’m not an artist…” but the biggest doubt was “am I good enough to be an artist, should I just stop wasting my time, am I at that point in my life where it maybe is time to find a “real job”- that was the biggest thing. So I have all these questions… am I good enough to be an artist or should I just give up? Maybe there is something else I am more suited to. “Artist” is a very grandiose title that has a lot of mystique around it, that’s why am reading the book “Art and Fear” [by Ted Orland, red. ], because I don’t want that to stop me, all this bullshit what it means to be an artist. I don’t want it to stop me from actually doing the fucking art. Fuck the title, I just want to keep doing the art.

GK: What is the most beautiful thing about your home country (USA)?

SE: I have a hard time with my home country, I really can be very critical about it- for a good reason. So it is a good challenge for me to choose something most beautiful about my home country. I think I am going to say the vastness of land… but at the same time it also a very ugly thing because it only speaks to how much land it stole from the indigenous people there. But there are so many different kinds of terrain in the United States, there are really and truly so many beautiful places to see… there is desert, there is the Grand Canyon, there are the mountains of Colorado, there is the ocean in California… Big Sur, oh my god- if I didn’t know that I am in California I would think that I am in Mount Olympus because how can this not be where the gods live?

GK: Which habit is important/ useful for you?

SE: This is a habit that I have developed and have dropped and picked up many times, but meditation, just really fine tuning the ability to listen deeply, to listen to the breath, to listen to the blood run through my veins. It accentuates the ability to commune with everything, by finding stillness. It’s usually a daily meditation, there was a time when I meditated twice a day, in the morning and the evening… I definitely dropped that (laughs). Lately I have been meditating more when I would just drop in, randomly. I would choose this moment to be in a state of meditation in the sense that I feel myself being anxious, I am going to just tune in and listen to my feelings, feel the places in my body that are tense, breathe into these places… I want to do Vipassana before I go back to the States, probably in Argentina or in Mexico. I want to really, really learn to listen.

GK: What is beauty to you?

SE: This is a strange answer but I am going to say contrast, and the reason why I say contrast is because… I don’t just like beauty by itself. I like it juxtaposed to grit, I love contrast, I love dark colours against light ones, I love the shadows, the play of light and shadows. Honestly, I could probably find a much better answer for this question but this is the simplest thing I could give you.

GK: What’s your favourite book?

SE: It’s hard to tell what’s my favourite but what has moved me recently is Murakami’s Dance, Dance, Dance… probably not my favourite book but it is a book that I read recently that moved me deeply, I just wanted to marinate on it. It is this deep metaphysical investigation and it swept me off into the world of dreams, so many times, in beautiful ways. And it just made me belief in the relativity of time, I mean I already believed in it, in an intellectual way, but it made me feel it viscerally and it made me believe that you can find gaps, that you can slip into the wormholes and play. You don’t have to play by the rules of what we deem realty is, you don’t have to, you can find little holes in time and swirl in them. You just have to know that you can. It’s a really good book, I recommend it.

Sol Esperanza Roja