Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa


Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa is a performance and visual artist. Over the past eight years, he has performed and exhibited at various Canadian artist-run centers and in galleries and museums throughout Latin America. Born in Guatemala during the most violent years of war, Ramirez-Figueroa’s work attempts to explore the nature of witnessing and narrating traumatic experience from a Mayan/Mestizo perspective. Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa contextualizes his work within a historically informed framework of subject-focused language and representation. His work questions accepted notions of humanity and the humane, and individual and collective constructs of social responsibility.

Ramirez-Figueroa’s work attempts to create an opening for dialogue around ethics regarding the development of interpersonal relationships embedded in political conflict, colonialism, oral history, ethnic cleansing, economics, and notions of belonging.

This explored dialogue is a re-consideration of the parameters between the self and the “other”, concepts that are currently influenced and defined by political, cultural, religious and scientific ideology. Ramirez-Figueroa utilizes Georges Bataille’s theory of excess to further explore the possibility of excess in relation to potential communication between individuals.

Bataille saw the concept of excess as related to a bleak and abject side of human existence, focusing on that which society has generally refused to recognize. Ramirez-Figueroa questions if this notion of excess could also be applied to an unacknowledged sense of empathy and communication within the commonplace and ordinary human experience. Such investigations reach into the realms of the metaphysical, attempting to describe an opposite end of the spectrum related to Bataille’s theories of excess, while simultaneously utilizing abject images of excess in his work.

Concurrent to this desire for dialogue around the influences on self-individuation in relation to ethics, the artist calls for a reassessment of the way in which semiotics is commonly used within cultural dialogue. Seemingly, the desire to reduce the interpretation of art to its most simplified and immediate meaning pervades the contemporary cultural climate. By not providing work easily read from the viewpoint of semiotics, the artist wishes to present the opportunity of a more contemplative experience of art for the viewer, and a more complex consideration of the meaning of the semantics of the work.

Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa studied at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in the Intermedia program, and has been mentored by Rebecca Belmore in the areas of sculpture and installation. He is currently preparing a Performance Art work for the Vancouver Art Gallery integrating the sculptural pieces of Franz West in relation to the current VAG exhibition.

The Sun is Crooked in the Sky; My Father is Thrown Over my Shoulders by Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa

FADO’s IDea series begins with The Sun is Crooked in the Sky; My Father is Thrown over my Shoulders, a continuous 100-hour performance by Guatemalan-born Canadian artist Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa.

The Sun is Crooked in the Sky; My Father is Thrown over my Shoulders is a visceral, searching visual and action-based exploration of aspects of the artist’s personal history. In his notes for the performance, Ramirez-Figueroa writes:

“The artist’s family, like many other Guatemalan – and Latin American – families, has dealt with common, though taboo issues of class and race differences that have affected the family dynamic. In the case of Ramirez-Figueroa there is a history of indigenous women having the children of whiter men, men who become fathers unwilling to recognize the children as their own. By using metaphorical elements of his childhood – like powdered milk – and through sleep deprivation, Ramirez-Figueroa will push the limits of his endurance with the purpose of reaching an altered state of consciousness through which to meditate upon a genealogy of absent white fathers.”

This performance was presented in FADO’s IDea series (2005–2007), curated by Paul Couillard.


Curatorial Statement by Paul Couillard

Issues of identity are at the centre of IDea, FADO’s multi-year international performance art series. Chris Barker writes that cultural politics are about “the power to name; the power to represent common sense; the power to create ‘official versions’; and the power to represent the legitimate social world.” These powers speak to identity in a territorial, institutionalized framework, but performance practices offer the possibility of turning their presumed weaknesses—contingency, ephemerality and aterritoriality—into strengths, by offering a potentially decolonized, non-institutional forum.

The concept of identity has been at the forefront of art discourse since the 1980s. Performance artists have been particularly concerned with how our various identities are constructed, how they mark us and how they influence self-understanding. At the same time, artists have also used performance tactics to problematize and transform their identities. In recent years, the debate has shifted to examine identity issues in subtler, less didactic ways, using the territory of identity as a ground for complex and often ambivalent readings of subjectivity, hybridity and representation. IDea draws from this growing body of work.

The series considers a broad range of identity labels, including gender, skin colour, ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation, physical appearance, familial role, economic status, political affiliation and profession, to name a few of the more obvious possibilities. In blunt terms, the series will circulate around an underlying set of interrelated questions. How do we accept or resist these multiple identities? Which do we choose to embrace, and why? What identity labels are misleading, unhelpful or irrelevant, and in what ways? How do these labels intersect with one another? How do they determine the nature and quality of our lives? How do they contribute to a sense of belonging or alienation?

While these questions inform the series, they are only a contextualizing lens, not a prescription for how individual projects should or will be structured. IDea is not about representation, or the politics of difference, which is to say that the intention is not to assemble a collection that presents one of each kind. We are not encouraging strident political statements (though there is certainly room for them), but rather, featuring works that reveal something about how the creators understand and situate themselves. Along the way, we also hope to track how artists use performance tactics to circumvent prescribed attitudes and behaviours around identity.

IDea seeks to consider a range of bodily identities—physical, social, political, emotional, and spiritual. To provide further context for the series, commissioned critical that respond to each of the performances. These texts will come from an interdisciplinary variety of thinkers in the realms of philosophy, religion, politics and science.

The IDea series presented 12 performance projects between 2005–2007, and was curated by Paul Couillard.

Series Purple

An ode to FADO's history, Series Purple is composed of a collection of purple fragrance materials dating back to the Roman Empire. Dense, intense, and meandering, this fragrance tells us non-linear stories.

Top Notes

huckleberry, violet

Middle Notes

cassis, lilac, heliotrope

Base Notes

orris root, purple sage, labdanum