A Man of Many Divas - Juan Pablo Echeverri
Juan Pablo Echeverri was born in Bogota, Colombia in 1978. Working mostly in photography and video his principal theme is self-portraiture.
Public photo booths have been Echeverri’s temporary studio and setting for a ritualistic practice that has lasted for seven years. Every day the artist has visited a booth and taken a passport style portrait of himself. Having continually experimented with different methods of portraiture and self documentation this process began as a complimentary element to a diary he was keeping and took on a life of its own. In describing this evolution he says
“ I began doing the pictures to record changes in me and the more photos I took the more I changed and the more I changed the more photos I took”.
This was taken a step further as he began to introduce other people into his portraits. Friends and acquaintances that sometimes visited the booth with him were invited in for a joint portrait and at times even strangers in the shop where the booth was located are featured. Echeverri says he often prefers the images which include others to his solo shots however he describes why it is often easier to be his own model, “ if you ask someone to strip, put on a thong, and jump in the air, they will complain they will look ridiculous”. Acting as his own subject he can push things to their extremes and he prefers to use a persona furthest from his true self as his starting point for transformations.
Eighty one of these photo booth portraits, taken during his stay in the UK, were assembled to form the piece ‘PhotomeUK’ produced for his solo show ‘Diva’s Life’, in Sheffield’s Site Gallery. The images are chronologically jumbled and Echeverri’s clothing and in some cases hairstyle varies from one shot to another. In some of the portraits his outfits appear more like costumes that hint at the other, somewhat more outlandish, changes that he makes to his appearance within his practice.
In the video piece ‘Diva’s Life’ we see him go through various dramatic physical transformations. In a series of video clips Echeverri dons cross gender costumes and mimes along to hit songs by contemporary female pop stars. His characters are an amalgamation of the leading ladies that he is influenced by, ‘I am obsessed by pop divas like Mariah Carey, Madonna, Kylie’ he says. He describes the making of these videos as the ‘fulfilling of a dream’ being able to act ‘just like famous rock and pop stars do’.
He uses the characters that form within the work to accentuate different aspects of his personality but this is then taken a step further as he becomes an ‘instrument’ for their physical manifestation.
“I use photography to alter the way I look, allowing a‘new individual’ to emerge, coming to life using my body as a source, changing it into somebody else’s body that is more defined by the ‘outside’, rather than the ‘inside’.”
Echeverri first visit to a London nightclub provided a great source of inspiration. He describes the experience as being so interesting that he wasn’t able to dance, only watch the array of characters some of which he had produced similar creations to in the past without ever knowing anyone like that had actually existed.
The songs also go through a transformation and take on a feeling that is distinctly contrasting to that of the originals they cover. While providing an initial structure the divas and their songs only act as the starting blocks that Echeverri implements for his Cindy Sherman-esque creations.
“I didn’t want to look like any one of them because it makes no sense. And I didn’t want to become a woman, I didn’t shave my armpits. They’ve ended up being dark and a little creepy and very tranny”.
Echeverri similarly plays out every youngster’s fantasy in an early work that he refers to as his ‘juvenile videos’. In these he appears in a series of clips of an amateur celebrity look alike show of his own invention. They feature him doing common activities like shopping, doing the dishes and singing alone in his room. Daily aspects of life that are often private are shown publicly and create a connection with the spectators as we recognise our own banal sometimes humorous and often embarrassing behaviour that we exhibit when unaware of an audience or when there is a ‘lack of a critical eye’.
This juxtaposition of the public and private and ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ are a key part of Echeverri’s conceptual methodology. On coming to the UK he was intrigued by the idea of being a foreigner or outsider on unfamiliar streets. The street becomes a stage were passers by inadvertently become an audience to Echeverri’s daily chores. “I have a feeling that when I go out on the street and start listening to music, people become in some way a spectator of what I listen to and do, even though I am the only one listening to the soundtrack.”
Echeverri uses his characterisation and performances to accentuate the shifts in behaviour, from the smallest to the largest, that occur when we make the transition between private and public spaces and when we go from being on the ‘inside’ or ‘outside’ of a social setting. This imbues his work with a sense of humanity and like the karaoke videos of Phil Collins he allows us to watch and enjoy our own vulnerability through watching others.
Juan Pablo Echeverri has recently completed a three-month residency at Site Gallery in Sheffield. ‘Diva’s Life’ was the culmination of the work he made while on the residency and was his first solo show in the UK. Echeverri studied Visual Arts at Universidad Javeriana, Columbia and has shown work in Spain, Japan and extensively in his home city of Bogotá.
Juan Pablo Echeverri Muñoz was born on 22 November 1978 in Colombia. He studied Visual Art between 1997 and 2002 at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá. Now a photographer and film maker, Juan concentrates on self portraits .His work explores themes of identity, image and gender in the public and private realms, and the way in which individual identity develops over time. Juan´s native language is Spanish and he is fluent in English.
• 2005 - ´Se Acabó El Rollo? Historia de la fotografía en Colombia 1950-2000´, compiled by Eduardo Serran, Editorial Planeta, Bogotá, Colombia.
Group publication. History of photography in Colombia (1950-2000).
• 2003 - ´Mapas Abiertos Fotografía Latinoamericana 1991-2002´, Lunwerg Editores, Spain.
Group publication. Latin American photography (1991-2002).
Exhibition / Installation,
• 2006 - PHOTOMIAMI, SOHO Building, Miami, USA.
• 2006 - Reciclash, Galeria Santa Fe, Bogota, Colombia.
• 2006 - KickTheTrash, Circulo de Bellas Artes de Madrid, Spain.
• 2006 - Identidades, Galería el Museo VAIA ´06. Muestra de videoarte de Alcoi. Curated by Alex Brahim & Thomas Reydellet OFF LOOP ´06. Videoartt Festival Barcelona.
• 2006 - N.N Retratos del Futuro, Galería El Garaje Salón de Egresados PUJ, Museum of Contemporary Art, Bogota, Colombia.
• August 2005 - ´Fotología 4´, Uniandinos.
• July 2005 - ´Metahumanos´, Uniandinos.
• September 2005 - ´Click´, Galería El Garaje.
• October 2005 - ´Solidarte´, Galería El Museo.
• 2005 - ´Se Acabó El Rollo? Historia de la fotografía en Colombia 1950-2000´.
Linked to publication of the same name. Museo Nacional.
• December 2005 - ´Pequeño Formato´, Club El Nogal.
• December 2005 - ´Yo no soy Esa´, Galería Santa Fe, Bogotá, Colombia.
• October 2005 - ´Art Suites 104´, Work on Room 203 at the Art Suites 104 Hotel, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2004 - ´39 Salón Nacional de Artistas´, Museo de Arte Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2003 - ´...Un Caballero no se Sienta Asi...´, Galería Santa Fe, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2003 - ´El Divino Niño de Bogotá´, Aparador del CCCB, Barcelona, Spain.
• 2003 - ´X Salón Regional de Artistas de Bogotá´, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2003 - ´V Barrio Bienal´, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2003 - ´Fotología 2°´, Galería Alonso Garcés, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2003 - ´Ve Chica!´, Contemporary Art Studio, Asahi Art Festival 2003, Tokyo, Japan.
• 2003 - KENT explora Sede Bogotá Fashion, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2003 - ´Fotografia Contemporanea´, Colombiana Museo de Arte Moderno de Pereira, Pereira, Colombia.
• 2003 - ´Todo Sobre George´, Espacio la Rebeca, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2002 - ´CORPORALES´, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Septiembre, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2002 - ´Independent State´, Five Years Gallery, London, England.
• 2002 - ´La Poética del Espacio (pequeño)´, Galería Sala de Espera, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2002 - ´Entra Casa´, Galería Santa fe, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2002 - ´Primeros Auxilios´, Origen Galería, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2002 - ´ANIMALANDIA´, Museo de Arte de la Universidad Nacional, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2002 - ´Espera Divina´, Galería Sala de Espera, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2002 - ´Muestra de Video´, Galería Santa fe, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2002 - ´La Dimensión del Dibujo´, Galería Sala de Espera, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2001 - ´1° Salón Javeriano´, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Septiembre, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2001 - ´6° Salón Nacional de Arte Universitario´, Galería Fenalco Septiembre, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2001 - ´En Casa de la 13´, colectiva independiente, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2001 - ´VII Muestra de Video´, Galería Sala de Espera Junio, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2000 - ´Inauguración de la Galeria Sala de Espera Junio´, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 1999 - A la Mesa Obra Grupo Mapa Teatro Monserrate Bogotá, Colombia
Exhibition / Installation,
• 2007 - ´Diva´s Life´, Site Gallery, Sheffield, England.
13-27 Jan. This exhibition is the culmination of the work he has developed during his time in Sheffield as artist in residence at Site Gallery as part of the Colombia-England Artists´ Fellowship Programme. The exhibition includes a video diary (´Diva´s Life) as well as ´Photo-me (uk) daily photographs in England´: an extension of the miss fotojapón ongoing series of self portraits Juan has taken daily in photobooths. Using an array of outlandish and startling outfits and costumes, Echeverri’s work plays with issues of identity and gender, but also contrasts mundane daily activities with a search for the dream of staring in his own pop video.
• 2004 - ´las de la gente´, Alianza Francesca Sede Centro, June-July, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2003 - ´miss fotojapón´, Museum of Modern Art of Bogotá, March-April, Bogotá, Colombia.
A series of self portraits taken daily in photobooths. Commenced in June 2000.
• 2001 - ´el día de tú eres YO´ (´the day of UR ME´), Cll. 74 N° 2-43, December, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2000 - ´EvadynE, Carrera 7° con calle 60 Performance (with Santiago Monge), November, Bogotá, Colombia.
• 2006 - Selected to participate in the Colombia-England Artists´ Fellowship Programme (a joint residency initiative between Visiting Arts, Ministry of Culture Colombia, British Council Colombia and Arts Council England). Juan was in residency with Site Gallery, Sheffield for three months as part of this programme.
• Won 1st place at the Bienal de Amor y Éxtasis Bogotá, Colombia (film festival).