Wednesday Oct 18th, 2017
Miami native Yara Travieso returns home for YoungArts’ Outside the Box series, November 4, to reveal a multidisciplinary event that will be sure to evoke imagination and thought. “El Ciclón,” like most of director Yara Travieso’s work, is told through a hybrid of monumental sets, dance, film and music. It is a wild neo-feminist-mythology trapped inside a 1950’s B-movie psychological thriller with singing, dancing, and just enough alligators.
Yara—who prefers rivers to oceans, likes peanut butter sandwiches with no jelly, pulls strength from her solar plexus, and taught herself how to apply lipstick to her chops—got together with fellow YoungArts alumna and artist Hattie Mae Williams for a Q&A that is all about bustin’ out of this L7 square.
Influenced by concepts of identity, heritage and fictitious worlds amongst the mundane are big themes within Yara’s work. Her background and gender plays a role in the stories she creates. Yara describes how the character Ava has a complicated relationship with the choices she is faced with. Gender, race and society’s expectations play a role in the main character's decision. Yara’s experiences and observations of Miami’s landscape can be equally complicated. Various themes and personal experiences have created a sort of swamp feeling and pressure with the coming together and struggle of the cultural denial vs. cultural utopic. Growing up in an artistic household she was shaped by encouragement, exposure to flamenco dance, painting and film. The way she creates comes from a visual and narrative place, developing worlds in a visceral way. Her fascination with how the body can be in relationship with monumental objects is just as important as her use of film, installation and literature.
“The physical experience along with negotiating space and weight is the story I want to tell. Characters, objects and visuals are so important in how I tell the story and film is an equal medium; the poetry is in the visual.”
The main character Ava in your new piece “El Ciclón” is faced with a dilemma of saving herself or a potentially dangerous man who perhaps represents otherworldly dangers….Can you draw on any experiences where you were expected to “save” or “put up” with those who were repressing you in any way?
“Yes, every day, in small ways. I think also living in New York City and having to negotiate living with other humans there is a lot that one has to put up with. I've also seen examples in work, life, relationships, family, and learned patterns for women as far as existing for others and not ourselves...this is problematic.” Yara dives in more on how women have been raised into this notion of being more pathic and self-sacrificing, that our empathy has been manipulated instead of celebrated. “Realizing in every instance in my creative career there was a big notable moment where I had to sacrifice a big part of my identity to make room or time for someone else so I can be free. As I speak to her more I understand the importance that observance has on her personal identity. This notion has become a dominant theme in Yara’s life where not only she but most women negotiate how to be free without sacrificing oneself.
Given the climate we are living in now socially and politically (‘Ain't No new thing’ in the famous words of Gil Scott Heron) what do you hope the worlds you create will evoke in your audience?
“The artistic goal for the work has become so tactile: One, to communicate something that is more human, that is true, empathic, along with the pain and struggle of the human spirit.” For Yara the validation that we are living, breathing voices counts towards the impact of the universal understanding that we are all human and in this world together. As a second goal, she hopes to awaken the effervescence in each of us. “The more dark the space the more potential there is to be floods of light. Art adds to the light. The more poetry we add the more we highlight the resilience.”
Growing up in Miami who or what would you say were your biggest influences?
“New World School of the Arts was the most important institution in my life. My artistic voice was born and nurtured there, I became a career artist here. Something about the balance of expectations in being a great student and artist at the same time really influenced me. Having founded the Borscht Film Festival also prepared me to create films on a larger scale which helped me in my transition to New York City.”
Reflecting on your time at YoungArts Week, what do you think your biggest takeaway was?
“It prepared me to have a conversation with myself in moments of high levels of pressure. The community and week was built around the feeling of celebration and recognition; it was so helpful in balancing out that high pressure feeling, making the experience so human and celebratory.”
"El Ciclón" premieres on the YoungArts Campus November 4 at 7 p.m.
RSVP at otbyara.eventbrite.com.