Gaby Cepeda is a curator currently based in Lima, Perú. In addition to curation, she explores critical art writing and gif-making based online. Her work exists hand-in-hand with her personal identity, encapsulating multiple overlapping experiences of living in Latin America as a Mexican female. Her curatorial work remains neatly balanced between “traditional,” IRL shows and prolific Internet-based projects, specifically the Girls of the Internet Museum (GIM). No matter the medium specificity, however, Cepeda keeps true to her feminist ideals through constant consideration of gender, racial, and geographic inequalities prominent in the art world, the net art world, and pop culture.
Cepeda’s practice illustrates that one can exist in-between worlds and manifest the same core beliefs in each. The GIM, a tumblr-based, ongoing collection of work by female-identified artists, showcases girly experiences as expressed online and mediated through cyborg realities. The GIM is a prevalent contributor to discourses on sincere female-identified narratives as opposed to male, heteronormative experiences. Cepeda’s work in IRL curation ride on the same fundamental ideologies.
Firstly, your practice is really multifaceted. I want to ask how you identify yourself?
so, yeah, i identify myself as young mexican curator and sometimes artist, i also really enjoy writing, tho mostly reviews and art criticism. my practice is definitely multi-faceted like i feel most artists’ is nowadays. i still feel curating is my favorite thing to do and the one i would most love to be financially rewarded for. it’s tough out here in Latin America for a young independent woman curator.
My artist practice kind of was always there and not at the same time, i studied photography but after graduation i decided i’d much rather make a living off of reading+writing than having to work for the news/fashion industry which is something i wasn’t interested in pursuing. I’ve made gifs since my tweens in LiveJournal, but i dont think the “seriousness” or actual style of my gifs took off until after i was approached by Lorna Mills and Rea McNamara to participate in the SHEROES series back in 2012. The periodicity of the shows and the sense of community that it built, while also exposing me to a bunch of other people doing similar work, totally helped expand my own expectations/ambitions about my gifs. And i’ve just kept doing it ever since and luckily and thankfully having people curate/ask for me to keep doing it, which is so dope : ) I even get paid sometimes, lol.
What are some current interests of yours and how do these interests manifest?
mostly the themes that interest me are feminism and the internet, specifically the crossing of those two, which makes for a very large crossing. i’m also interested in race and representation of women in media. my gifs are mostly about society’s expectations on women, and how those are projected on celebrity culture. so, i usually use rihanna, or nicki or kim kardashian, drake etc mostly to create rarefied experiences based on these very familiar faces. maybe present them in transformed ways, so that some kind of differenced thinking might appear; i can’t really tell what people think when they see them, but i do know i enjoy transfiguring these very common narratives on women as seen on celebrities thru very fast/content filled/color-crazy images. some other keywords: clusterfuck, sexuality, glitter, (traditionally perceived) girly visuals, catholic imagery (im a culturally catholic mexican lol), pop music.
in my curating, i have the GIM http://gim-museum.tumblr.com/ which im currently re-paradigm-ing? i just had an IRL show in Lima and that made me realize how the core concepts of the GIM have changed since i first started it in 2012. so even tho all of them still hold their weight, i feel like the perspective has definitely shifted and led to new realizations, and the GIM is happy to acknowledge these. so while it used to be a much more reduced/specific curatorial endeavor, i’m now into the idea of taking it more seriously as an institution, and by that i mean taking responsibility on what it embodies, and what kind of art it represents. so i’m being a lot more responsible and curating harder and making sure or trying my best to have ALL kinds of different online-(self-identified) girl-experiences represented. It’s really easy to believe the internet is this “democratic”/”available to all” medium for art, when in reality it is still true that most of the art/artist visible are all from Chicago-NY-LA/London-Berlin-Paris, so that’s a “hole” one can easily fall into. im trying hard to snap out of that.
Also, the internet is not a vacuum, nor is art, of course the work of feminist artists is gonna be interpreted or criticized within a patriarchal structure. i’m thinking selfie artists and how they’re at the same time one of the most visible practices and the most vilified/questioned. it makes perfect sense because that’s how real life is, a woman cannot b sexy, visible and have agency without all kinds of questioning or policing. i’m not saying they should be exempt from all types of criticism, but i do think it should be done right and fairly as it should be done with all of our peers.
What are your curatorial processes?
the GIM is like one project that i run parallel to what i would call my IRL curating, or more traditional career-making curating, to call it something. For the GIM i pretty much research while online, like i’ll be on my fb timeline or twitter, and see (self-identified) girls producing work, and ask them about links to their work, it’s more like that, being online and keeping an eye out for stuff that might work for the GIM. its something that i also do IRL of course, but the biggest part of the GIM collection has been found online.
however, IRL i guess my practice is more traditional? i see a lot of shows get in contact with artists whose work i like, some of them will become friends and recommend other artists, some ill find online and then go visit their studios. just regular stuff like that. that side of my work is also very influenced and permeated by my interests, like if i have a male artist reach out 4 me to curate his work for a show, i immediately know that this guy will not be a reg art bro lol, because im not interested in having people and specifically ARTISTS not question the systemic inequalities all around us. by this i dont mean that every work of art should be political or outwardly political, but you know it when you see it, if a body of work is just perpetuating narratives or structures that we’d just be better disposing of, i definitely won’t be the right fit for it.
Do you have any criticism towards contemporary curation?
i don’t think i have “criticism” of contemporary curating, it’s just mostly stuff
i’m not interested in, but to each their own, yknow? i usually say im glad that there’re lots of types of curators, that way i dont have to curate all the bullshit i dont care about lol. there’re just some types of artists/shows that turn me off, but that’s probably true for everyone. mostly safe, really vanilla, non-challenging, non-questioning, trendy shows? i mean you can have a really vague or extremely poetic premise for a show, but if you got the right artworks to show for it, im down. but sometimes it’s just, well, just bad curating, works that could otherwise shine just thrown in a junkpile of contemporary art visual language trends, it’s weird, i see that all the time on contemporary art daily; or here in Lima or Buenos Aires, ppl trying to emulate a certain aesthetic and if u add lazy curating to that, its just art shows that make me go “huh?”.