QUEER VOICES

This Artist Is Using 'Artivism' To Break Down Queer Stigma And Stereotypes

"Mockery is perhaps the most institutionalized form violence that ever existed."
A Venezuelan artist is making a bold statement about queerness and art's power to aid in the breaking down of stereotypes related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) identity.
 
The "I'm Not A Joke" campaign from Daniel Arzola is a series of images inscribed with compelling truths about human diversity that encourages individuals to live as their authentic selves. He wants the images to eventually appear on buses and subways, exposing audiences to the realites of queer experiences in an attempt to breakdown prejudice in a form of activism that he calls "Artivism."
 
Much of Arzola's work comes from personal experience as an LGBT person growing up in Venezuela. "I had an violent adolescence because of [Venezuela's intolerance]," he told The Huffington Post. "When I was 15-years-old they tied me to an electric pole and tried to burn me alive. I was able to escape that but I spent six years not being able to draw because they destroyed all of my drawings. After escaping that I transformed everything into lines and colors instead of returning the violence -- I wanted to break the cycle."
 
The Huffington Post chatted this week with Arzola about "Artivism," his artwork and what he hopes to see accomplished through the "I'm Not A Joke" series.
 
Responses translated by HuffPost Latino Voices Editor Carolina Moreno.
  • Daniel Arzola
  • <strong>The Huffington Post: What is your overarching&nbsp;vision for "I'm Not A Joke"?</strong>
<span>Daniel Arzola: I</span
    Daniel Arzola
    The Huffington Post: What is your overarching vision for "I'm Not A Joke"? Daniel Arzola: I only want someone who feels right now the way I felt in the past to be able to identify with one of my pieces/my works, and use it like a tool to fight the prejudice. And also to understand that perhaps they planted within them a guilt that doesn't belong to them. There are a bunch of people out there being hurt and the majority feel a historic weight produced by generations of abuse. "I'm Not A Joke" is for every person who others have tried to define with jokes because of things that they can't change. Mockery is perhaps the most institutionalized form of violence that ever existed.
  • &nbsp;
    Daniel Arzola
     
  • 
<span>You're from Venezuela -- how does your place of origin&nbsp;affect your work and what is life like for the LGBT commun
    Daniel Arzola
    You're from Venezuela -- how does your place of origin affect your work and what is life like for the LGBT community there? Venezuela is one of the countries in Latin America most behind when it comes to LGBT issues. I had a violent adolescence because of it. When I was 15-years-old they tied me to an electric pole and tried to burn me alive. I was able to escape that but I spent six years not being able to draw because they destroyed all of my drawings. After escaping that I transformed everything into lines and colors instead of returning the violence -- I wanted to break the cycle. But there are people who haven't been able to. Although there is abuse, there doesn't exist an educational campaign about sexual diversity in Venezuela. In fact, the government continually has homophobic expressions. 
  • 
<span>You've previously talked about how the main goal of your work is to "artivism" -- can you explain this term and talk m
    Daniel Arzola
    You've previously talked about how the main goal of your work is to "artivism" -- can you explain this term and talk more about it? "Artivism" is using art as a non-violent method of action to change mentalities. Art appeals to sensibility rather than reason, since prejudice hides in certain reasoning. Art possesses a message that prejudice cannot silence. That's why I'm expanding this idea -- I have led workshops about Artivism in various universities in Venezuela and now I do it in Chile. You can fight against art, but you can't beat it, because your words disappear but art will remain there -- even when I'm no longer alive. 
  • Daniel Arzola
  • <span><span>What do you hope to achieve with "I'm Not A Joke"?</span></span>
<span>I</span>&nbsp;would like to take it to bus
    Daniel Arzola
    What do you hope to achieve with "I'm Not A Joke"? I would like to take it to bus stops (I already did it in Buenos Aires), or to subway stations. I want to keep visiting universities; I want to keep teaching artivism around the world. I want, in a way, to show that art can create awareness and awareness is the seed of a new reality -- but, above all, to create a symbol or badge for those who try to denigrate others through ridicule. 
  • Daniel Arzola
  • <span>What do you want people, specifically young people, to take away from this project?</span>
The&nbsp;philosophy&nbsp;of
    Daniel Arzola
    What do you want people, specifically young people, to take away from this project? The philosophy of my work is that we are not all the same. We are all different and that makes us diverse, and diversity is the biggest expression of liberty that exists -- not to let any label limit us. I also believe in the power of each person. If I initiated all of this, with a voice that learned to scream and a defective computer, but with a thousand ideas in my head. Those people called "weird" are the ones changing the world. Let's all be weird then.
  • Daniel Arzola

Want to see more from Arzola and his "I'm Not A Joke" series? Head here to check out the artist's Tumblr.

CONVERSATIONS