Donna Huanca Interview: Disrupting the Male Gaze


“The body is a universal tissue.” Meet the cutting-edge Bolivian-American artist Donna Huanca and experience her striking site-specific multimedia installation that brings together sculpture, scent, sound, performance and painting – on canvas as well as on the skin of the female models.

The models in Huanca’s exhibition move slowly. The artist feels that there is so much drama in the paintings and the way that the models are painted, that she wants to present something quite still “so that the audience can really determine the different layers and see the bodypainting echoed in the painting behind them.” Huanca feels that the body is always a good starting point, when “creating a bond with a stranger,” as it is something, we all have, making us able to relate to each other regardless of race, class or gender. When she studied painting, Huanca felt that “staying within the boundaries” of the medium was confining, and she was hence attracted to the free and ephemeral qualities of bodypainting: “There are no mistakes, and there are no pressures of it being this heroic canvas.”

For her exhibition, Huanca wanted to create an artificial landscape that mimics the two-dimensional screen-based world we live in: “We’re obsessed with looking at a two-dimensional screen, so I wanted to use the opportunity to make an artificial landscape with this very cold artificial light that we’re surrounded by.” In continuation of this, she wanted to create a space that the models feel safe in and also to present women in a powerful way, where they have complete agency: “I want to create a new way of looking at the feminine gaze and disrupting the male gaze. Historically, women have been depicted as vulnerable in art, typically made by men and for men.”

Donna Huanca (b. 1980) is an American artist born to Bolivian parents. Huanca is particularly known for her painterly installations mixing painting, sculpture, sound, and scent with live performance. Her practice is rooted in an aesthetic and philosophical examination of the biochemical heritage and cultural history of the body. Especially in her use of the skin as a canvas and performative tool, she deconstructs the gender and body policies dominating our time and introduces an alternative gaze on the body. Huanca has held solo exhibitions at Belvedere Museum in Vienna, Yuz Museum in Shanghai, Travesía Cuatro in Madrid and Zabludowicz Collection in London among others.

Donna Huanca was interviewed by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen at Copenhagen Contemporary in Copenhagen, Denmark in April 2019 in connection with her solo exhibition ‘Lengua Llorona’.

Camera: Rasmus Quistgaard and Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen
Produced and edited by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen
Cover photo: From ‘Lengua Llorona’ by Donna Huanca. Courtesy of Peres Projects and the artist
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2019

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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