A couple of weeks ago, my new music video, "La Cara Infinita" (in English, "The Infinite Face"), the first single from my album, Rattle Rattle, debuted online. Both the song and the video were inspired by an incident that happened in 2011, when the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art hosted a fundraising gala/performance installation curated by Marina Abramović. I was one of a select group of participants who contributed to the immersive environment that Marina had envisioned: a giant tent filled with wealthy patrons who dined at tables adorned with live rotating heads, all to the sounds of a chanting choir, a Serbian diva and Debbie Harry.
The performance installation also included table centerpieces of nude women lying underneath skeletons, rotating slowly on motorized lazy Susans. This is where an otherwise elating experience for me soured. The museum had forbidden Marina from including male nudes in the installation, reportedly to protect the sensibilities of conservative businessmen. I was appalled. As a gay man who adores women, it was a double-blow: the blatant objectification of women and the simultaneous kowtowing to petty corporate homophobia. Looking back in disgust, I set out to make a video that objectified men.
The lyrics of the song "La Cara Infinita" are in Spanish and detail a mythology in which thousands of women escape captivity and rise up to the sky to form a gigantic face (à la Voltron) that vengefully brings about the end of the world. The video captures that essence, with nude women and men interspersed among the performing musicians, only here, the nude women (the "Infinites") stand by silently, observing, transcending the chaos that unfolds around them, while the men are humiliated and made to feel shameful of their bare state. The setting is a tiny room in which tensions escalate and the protagonists, including one portrayed by a very nude Margaret Cho, are led down a path to despair. I should point out that in between takes there was a healthy amount of giggling and tomfoolery, with a couple of pipes being passed around. One could not have hoped for a more jovial shoot, despite the intense subject matter.
As the director, the decision was mine to include full-frontal male nudity without blurs or black bars. There is no censored, embed-friendly version, just the one version, chock-full of all manner of "bits." I understood the risk involved should a sensitive soul decide to report it and have it taken offline (as of this writing, the video is still up). By the way, if you are a sensitive soul, you have been warned: The video is a sadistic, brutish dance that recalls the unabashed behavior of Emperor Nero, as well as the acts of torture enacted by the Italian heads of state in Pier Paolo Pasolini's brilliant film Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom.
I will not deny the purposeful aggression that propels "La Cara Infinita." Growing up in a Costa Rican household, the husband-wife roles that my parents adopted were clearly defined and enforced. My father relished his domineering role for years, until the day when my mother defiantly asked for a divorce. He refused, but after a lengthy battle, the marriage was finally dissolved. She moved my two sisters and me from California to Costa Rica, where she raised us on her own. When she wasn't getting us ready for school every morning, my mother would be working late hours every night as a chef in a bar she co-owned. To this day, I have never seen someone work so hard while maintaining her strength and dignity in the face of rampant male chauvinism. Times were tough in Costa Rica, but this powerful woman kept us afloat, and with very little involvement from my father. I am in perpetual awe of my mother and all that she has accomplished.
The ongoing oppression of women and LGBT people hits very close to home. Any hint at passivity when it comes to establishing and defending basic equal rights irks me to no end. I own up to being an "angry gay." I've been to several same-sex marriage rallies and felt like the only pissed-off person in the crowd. I also feel that many within the LGBT community feel it overwhelmingly necessary to embody personas that are hypertolerant and positive-minded. Is there no room for anger? Are we not allowed to be a teensy bit emotionally irrational, out of fear of things going back to the way they've always been? I genuinely live in a state of constant paranoia that complacency will become the order of the day, that the centuries-long struggle for equal recognition will end when same-sex couples can legally marry, and that all other crucial stepping stones toward true equality will fall by the wayside, akin to the way we have all allowed the female form to remain an acceptable form of objectification, especially in the eyes of powerful men of money.
My anger over these issues does not inspire me to take violent action, but I also cannot find it in me to ignore a very recent past and a still uncertain present. There are an infinite number of healthy, creative outlets for one to unleash one's personal wrath. I humbly invite you to experience one of mine. And thanks.