Aun Helden is a Brazilian transdisciplinary artist who works with different kinds of media such as performance, prosthetic incorporation, video, sound and image. They created their own new body’s imagery, to fight and escape common human and binary expectations. Their research focuses on the assertion of minorities’ rights, to break down prejudices and misconceptions about these communities.
Pornceptual: You deconstruct and reconstruct your body and appearance tearing apart the rigid walls of gender identity. What is the concept behind your imagery?
Aun Helden: For me, the construction of identity goes beyond the concept of women and men: it is also about emotion, feeling, perception, sensitivity. I know that in our binary world it is almost impossible to escape from these notions: everything in life is presented as binary, even love. And that distances us from the experience of living. However, somehow in my art (which is not exactly apart from my reality) I get to create fantasies and dreams. I can touch parts of my body that are not experienced in the normal way and go very deep. The desire to make them real is where I conceive my imagery as a way to experience my feelings as a human.
P: Your art is very political. In a previous interview, you state that you wish for “the crisis of the biopolitical system of production of subjectivities”. How are you fighting this battle and what has motivated you to do it?
AH: If we don’t force a biopolitical crisis in the world, we, dissident bodies, will always live in bubbles of surviving, and this is not fair. I want to see my friends and my community having the chance to develop their work, to build up their dreams and their bodies without fear of losing their lives, especially trans and black people. Our bodies, being alive, are already part of this transformation, this crisis. I can see the cisgender power tower being shut down, and surprisingly this will not just privilege us, trans and nonbinary people, but everyone who has the ambition of becoming their gods, using all the human tools to experience life, pleasure, nature and sewing their lives with crooked lines – which is much better than having a destiny.
P: Describe the process when you first started shaping your identity. In what way has growing up in Sao Paulo affected your expression as an artist, considering Brazil’s political situation and cultural hostility towards the LGBTQI+ community?
AH: I will never forget when I first started going to underground parties in São Paulo and seeing people painting their bodies with colourful scars of freedom, this changed my life. It’s so important for young LGBTQI+ people to see different social imaginaries. For example, in Brazil people perceive trans people only as sex workers, connecting them with diseases and poverty. When someone young gets in contact with them (like I did), they see different ways of how they can be while growing up as trans and therefore it can redirect their feelings about it. Now we have trans artists, politicians, and more visibility in larger media, not just underground realities. But visibility is not enough if the violence structure remains still the same. Besides the difficulties, being trans and Brazilian is powerful to me. I wish the world could give more attention to what Latin artists are making and constructing, they would explode.
P: What are your upcoming projects? Are there any new fields you would like to explore?
AH: Oh, I want to do so many things. I want to write books, make an album, act in a movie or theatre play. I don’t limit myself. As my identity, my art is made of infinite possibilities. Maybe this desire comes from my way of doing art. I’ve never had all the means to do what I wanted, so it always becomes something experimental. I had to learn everything and now this is what makes me so powerful.
P: 2020 has been a very challenging year for most artists. How have the events from the past year affected your art?
AH: It’s one more struggle to deal with. I really don’t know when I’m going to be able to perform like I used to, so it’s always about reformulating the way I do things. My art is affected by everything: when I’m in love with someone or when it’s about the lack of money. I can’t say that no one has a kind of despair about independent artists when we talk about the economic situation because of the pandemic, but there’s no way to wait for something, so let’s keep doing and doing.
P: What is your relationship with porn? How do you perceive porn in relation to gender issues?
AH: I can say that one of my favourite feelings is feeling eroticism. Erotic is also a power structure, and for me as a trans person, this is very delicate since our bodies have always been fetishized. Taking your erotic feeling like a tool to express yourself and not to make other people validate what you represent is so magical. I like to feel erotic not to represent something but to make myself feel something, feel the things that are inside of me, the liquidity, the things that people want me to be afraid of. Brazil is the country that most consumes trans pornography online, but it also continues to be the world’s deadliest country for trans people, by the 13th consecutive year. Watching trans porn made by the male cisgender industry is horrible, all our beautiful singularities being killed, so I think it’s also important for trans people to make their own content when we are talking about pornography, to respect the eroticism and desire that every person has in its own individual, our contrasexual way of doing things and mostly to respect our bodies. Our sex is not to deceive, it’s not a trap like they call us in this industry, it’s a whole universe of feelings that I can’t even want to try to punctuate.