1992 | Madrid, Spain
Cabello/Carceller — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Portrait of Cabello/Carceller: Helena Cabello and Ana Carceller, courtesy of the artists

An artists’ team working in visual and performance art.

After art school in Madrid, Helena Cabello and Ana Carceller continued their studies at the University of Glasgow and then the San Francisco Art Institute. Since they began working together in the early 1990s, Cabello/Carceller have used performance, video, installation, drawing and texts to interrogate hegemonic visual representations. This approach has specifically focused on the process of the construction of fixed gender identities, using gender, queer and decolonial frames.

Among their best-known early works are Bollos (1996), where they appropriate the term bollera, an insulting reference to lesbians, by performing the literal meaning of the word – each eating a bollo, cream puff. Another video, Un Beso [A kiss, 1996] where “the personal is political” brings out the dynamic between the collective character of their work and the fact that each is a distinct individual constantly negotiating their collaboration. This reflection on the issue of authorship that appeared in their first pieces through the introduction of the figure of the double – here their own two bodies – was to become more critical in regard to the Spanish art ecosystem of the 1990s and its excessive preoccupation with authorship and individuality.

They also employ the figure of the doppelganger to problematise the whole concept of an original and underline that art cannot be produced in isolation, as prized as that conceit may be by the neoliberal system based on competition between individuals. A few years later, Cabello/Carceller extended this call for collectivity by bringing amateur actors into their filmed performances. In Casting (2004), 16 women, responding to an open call, one by one play James Dean in a scene from the film Rebel Without a Cause. The ongoing project Archivo: Drag modelos (beginning in 2007) marks the appearance of another of the tools most commonly employed by artists, the combination of real-life documentation and fictional narratives. This “somatic fiction” generates defamiliarised movie scenes that evoke the impossibility of fixed identities and opens up the possible representations of subjectivity and desire.
Their use of fiction also enables them to expose, from a decolonial perspective, the role of archives and institutions in the construction of hegemonic narratives. A notable example is the project A/O (Caso Céspedes) [A/O (Cas Céspedes), 2009-2010]. The title refers to the masculine and feminine endings of gendered words in Spanish and the historical case of Elena/o Céspedes. As is evident here, decolonialism, feminism and queer theory play a major role in Cabello/Carceller’s work. But this theoretical discourse is not used to legitimise their production; rather, it is activated through an artistic practice in which they collaborate to extend its meanings.

Since 2000 Cabello/Carceller have taught at the Facultad de Bellas Artes in Cuenca, where they have carried out theoretical and curatorial projects in addition to making art. The solo exhibitions of their work have included Borrador para una exposición sin título. Cabello/Carceller (Ca2M, Móstoles, Madrid, 2017) and Lost in Transition_un poema performativo (IVAM, Valencia, 2016-2017). Their work is represented in the collections of the Museo Reina Sofía, la Fundación “La Caixa” and the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Barcelona, among others.

Lola Visglerio Gómez

Translated from the Spanish by Leo Stephen Torgoff.

A notice produced as part of the TEAM international academic network: Teaching, E-learning, Agency and Mentoring

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