During the 5th international festival “Survival Kit” we met with Francisco Camacho, a Colombian born artist, who lives and works in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The artistparticipated in the festival with a video installation called the Group Marriage Initiative, conceived in 2009 as part of the art manifestation “My name is Spinoza” in Amsterdam. In the course of 6 months, Camacho developed a political campaign, aiming to collect 40,000 signatures for the legitimisation of group marriages in the Netherlands.
Camacho argues, that today in the Netherlands, there are no socio-economic, cultural or moral obstacles to the existence of group marriages. Free citizens should be able to decide how many people they want to share their lives with. Therefore anyone who, for whatever reason, prefers to share their life with more than one partner has the right to be recognised by the state and to be accepted by society. In the course of this project, the artist also signed a symbolic marriage contract with two other supporters of the campaign in order to proceed with this case in the court.
The Group Marriage project is still on-going and aims to create a public discussion on how the state ensures the freedom of its citizens and prevents the marginalization of certain groups.
My favourite subject to work with is a society of the future. I love it! It is important, that as an artist I have an autonomy and flexibility to generate images depicting the problematic of social space, comment on what we are lacking in the present and show what the future might look like. The images produced during my projects are very dynamic, they have a potential to generate public discussion and leave open questions. This is something that contemporary art allows you to do.
The Group Marriage Initiative is about repression. Think of a common Western family where a couple raises their kids, has a job, pays taxes, observes the law, respects their neighbours and overall are on their best behaviour. This model fits perfectly our social logic, unless we speak of a non-heterosexual couple. In many countries gay marriages are prohibited by law and same-sex couples cannot have legal rights to raise children. People representing LGBT minorities can be discriminated by society, employers, colleagues or even members of their own family. I can assure you that many people from your most immediate surrounding are constantly fighting for their rights to be recognised. Legitimising the same-sex and group marriages could solve many of these issues because being officially married means being officially recognised by law, the government and the community. This contract is symbolical, but also very powerful.
Some people understand the others and some people just understand themselves. The Group Marriage Initiative comments on social diversity within public space, indicating that there are many different and equally valid scenarios of organising your daily logic. Hence the project is a very positive action which aims to create some sort of utopia where everyone can claim their rights to be happy. I do believe that tackling these issues bit by bit we can reach a mutual agreement.
Homosexuality is not a myth. Preparing for the show in Riga (Latvia), I made a voice record of a Latvian girl, recounting a journey she made, searching for her own sexual identity. She argues that here, in Latvia, homosexuality is still a taboo, something that people have heard of on TV, a myth or some sort of a parallel reality. Only by traveling outside the given social and cultural background, she could finally understand herself and learn to open up about it.
I started to work on the Group Marriage Initiative in the Netherlands in 2009 and noticed that the Dutch might not be so much pro group marriage initiative, yet unlike Latvians, they do have a culture of talking about social issues, raising public awareness, being involved and having an opinion. I think this is related to the country’s historical past. For instance the Westerners who were never oppressed by other nations are more predisposed to an open social dialogue. Whereas countries with a long history of national oppression, more likely will continue to oppress themselves from within. In Latvia even today people continue to build barriers where sexual minorities, homeless people, mentally ill, disabled and elderly people, etc. are pushed to the social margins, receiving a very limited recognition.
People don’t have to go out of their standards. They have to accept that the standards are changing. Such topic as heterosexuality always has a very ethical position and tends to question how you live your life, what your beliefs are and what is acceptable for you.
Working on the Group Marriage Initiative I made a very interesting observation. For instance the elder people in the Netherlands were predominantly against the proposal. The people from the 60s, the sexual revolution, the former hippies would unanimously support the campaign. Surprisingly, coming to my generation, people are a bit more conservative and doubtful of the group marriage legitimisation. The younger people today live in a relatively comfortable background, they don’t feel an urge to fight for something and change the way things are.
It takes time to change the way things are. The Group Marriage initiative was conceived in 2009 as part of “My Name is Spinoza” art manifestation in Amsterdam and I there were only six months in my disposition to achieve the set goals. Although we did not get all 40.000 signatures, I do believe that the campaign was a modest but powerful gesture that has a potential to make the world a better place for everyone.
By Victoria Kasperovich