DIRTY DOES DESI SANTIAGO:

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DIRTY DOES DESI — THE PUERTO RICAN VISIONARY FROM NEWARK.
IN THIS EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW, MULTIMEDIA ARTIST DESI SANTIAGO TAKES TIME OUT FROM HIS CURRENT PROJECT (DESIGNING THE SET FOR Y3’S UPCOMING FASHION SHOW) TO TALK WITH US ABOUT GROWING UP IN NYC DURING AN EPIC ERA (AND HIS ENVIABLE COLLECTION OF VINTAGE VINYL).
TEXT Paul Bruno / PHOTOGRAPHY Devin Elijah

 

 

DIRTY: WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?

DESI SANTIAGO: I was born and raised in Newark, NJ. Was hanging in the city in the eighties from age 13 and moved to NYC at 17.

 

D: WHAT WERE SOME OF THE VERY FIRST SIGNS OF YOUR ARTISTIC INCLINATIONS WHEN YOU WERE A KID?  HOW OLD WERE YOU?

DS: As long as I can remember, when I was 5 or 6, I would draw pictures of the virgin mother as gifts for my mom. Starting at age 8, I would visit with my aunt in Puerto Rico and design clothes that she would sew for me. We would swatch fabrics, do fittings and when I returned home to Newark, I had a mini collection.

 

D: DID YOU STUDY ART IN SCHOOL?

DS: Yes. I studied metalsmithing at Parsons School of Design and received my MFA in sculpture from Bard College.

 

D: YOUR WORK VARIES IN MEDIUM FROM MIXED MEDIA, TO PERFORMANCE — SOME OF IT IS STRAIGHT UP FASHION.  HOW WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST?

DS: I’d say I am more of a medium. My work reflects circumstance as I create a visual biography of sorts. I navigate between art, nightlife and fashion worlds. For me, these are all forums to communicate through. I used to compartmentalize these worlds and thought the gallery space was the ultimate place to find some validation for my work. I let go and realized my art practice is specific to me. I had been creating my work in the world long before I was involved with galleries.

 

 

D: WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?

DS: Right now I’m finishing designing the set for the upcoming Y3 fashion show at the Park Avenue Armory. I’m also working on some new sculptures and costumes as well as planning a new monthly party with Susanne Bartsch. It will be a dance party with a focus on performance art and shows by some really amazing artists. I’m also consulting on a new Cirque De Soleil show that’s being created to premiere next year.

 

D: TELL ME ABOUT YOUR MUSIC PROJECT ESCANDALO.  WHEN DID THAT FORM?

DS: Escandalo was formed I guess about 3 years ago. It began as a joke between me and artist Viva Ruiz. We were both in a performance troupe called Citizens Band. We became friends during that time and realized we were separated at birth as latino freestyle goths. We both grew up in the city basically and shared all the same references to freestyle music while embracing a dark aesthetic. We invented a fictitious haunted house music group called Escandalo. One day we decided to make it actual and joined forces with producers Automagic and created our first track “La Bruja”. We premiered with a performance at Deitch Projects and collaborated with the House of Xtravaganza and tore it up! It was a ceremony of ritual and vogueing fierceness.
We just finished our second track “Nocturning” and will shoot a video in September and release it in the fall. It’s a good one!

 

D: WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO LATELY?

DS: I have an amazing collection of vinyl I inherited from my brother who passed. He was older and a DJ. Luckily he had an amazing ear and I have an incredible collection of dance music from italo disco, space disco, hi nrg, freestyle, house and new wave. I’ve been listening to Jah Wobble a lot lately. I enjoy him in the summer.
From newer stuff I like Caribou, Black Devil Disco Club, Gavin Russom and Gavin’s new project The Crystal Ark featuring my Escandalo partner Viva Ruiz.

 

 

D: WHO / WHAT INSPIRES YOU ARTISTICALLY?  MUSICALLY?

DS: I am beyond fortunate to have surrounded myself with some of the most amazing contemporary artists and musicians around. My friends inspire me so much and are creating powerful work. I couldn’t pick one. The universe is constantly revealing itself through people, objects and situations that I maintain an open channel to absorb and process all of it’s inspiration.

 

D: DO YOU DREAM LOTS?  WHAT WAS YOUR LAST VIVID DREAM?

DS: I dream in phases. Sometimes I will have a series of nights with tons of dreams and at other times I won’t remember my dreams for a long spell. In the hypnagogic state, the space where you’re either half awake or half asleep, my mind will produce a flash image or sensation that sticks. The last hypnagogic hallucination I had was the day after my mother’s funeral in January. I envisioned her head in black filling up a room in which the floor was a red colorfield. That became translated into an inflatable sculpture at my solo show. I carpeted the space in red and adorned her with giant hoops covered in swarovski crystals. I used to make jewelry for my mother so this seemed right.

 

 

D: WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO APPEAR IN BUTT MAGAZINE?

DS: That was fun. They’re all nice guys and I got to work with my friend Nicolas Wagner. Butt has been supportive of my work: they’ve invited me to be part of their events and have promoted my projects on their blog. Very sweet.

 

D: DO YOU BELIEVE IN GHOSTS?  REINCARNATION?

DS: I do believe in ghosts but perhaps more as in manifestations of memory energy. I believe our families can visit us to give us comfort. I don’t know if it’s their specific essence breaking through a reality wall, but I think when one dies, they become abstracted and exist through a collection of memories of the people they interacted with.
I don’t think I believe in reincarnation in a traditional sense but I’m not fully decided on that one just yet. There’s so many possibilities for energy exchange and transformation.

 

 

 

 

 






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