Sierra Metro presents: The Invisibles, a series of new works produced by Studio Lenca aka Jose Campos. The exhibition presents portraits from the Los Historiantes series which confronts the complex cultural history of his native El Salvador. The paintings explore the layered erasure of his culture through enforced Spanish and US cultural dominance, now seen through the lens of his UK citizenship, where his identity is officially listed as ‘Other’.
The UK is now home to around 250,000 people of Latin American origin. However there is no box on the UK census to tick or record kept of the ethic group in healthcare records or public services. Members of the Latinx community must simply tick ‘other’.
Ticking the ‘Other’ box to someone of normative privilege may seem at most a slight inconvenience, however this can have a profound personal impact. It can be understood as forcing a violently colonised people to be erased and invisible. Due to a data gap, there is no official recognition of this group in healthcare, educational and housing. With echoes of the Conquistadores, this is just another removal of roots, religions, cultures and languages played out yet again by European governmental regimes. 600 years later, dehumanised this time through administrations, with excel sheets and drop down menus replacing the crossbows, slavery, smallpox and swords.
Jose Campos was born in La Paz, El Salvador and like many had to flee the country during its violent civil war during the late 1980s. He travelled to the US by land, illegally with his mother. He grew up in San Francisco, California as a queer minority in the gaze of a strictly conservative administration as an undocumented ‘illegal alien’. Ultimately, he found refuge in the UK and became a British Citizen in 2007. This experience of being uprooted serves as a framework for his ideas about identity and belonging.
EVENT: Don’t miss a Q&A with Studio Lenca | Sunday 7 August | 2 – 3pm
Studio Lenca is the working name of artist Jose Campos – “Studio” referring to a space for experimentation and constantly shifting place; “Lenca” referring to ancestors from El Salvador.