In Conversation with

Raily Yance and the Power of Everyday Objects

Using local objects characteristic of his natural environment, the artist synthesizes social contexts by exploring the relationship between objects and actions in collective identity. Raily’s oeuvre studies the social and spiritual capabilities for social and spiritual transformation of those objects through Caribbean mythology and crafts.

C&AL: In your series Entropías de los cotidianos (Everyday Entropy, 2022), you take several objects out of their respective contexts which makes us reflect on their creation and their function. What kind of objects do you like to work with?

RY: The objects I like to work with are objects that synthesize a context, a culture, or a group. The drawing of the flip flop/skate allows me to study the Caribbean and Holland simultaneously. For me, objects determine who we are and who we are not. They translate entire societies. A person who wakes up in the morning or at whatever time starts being a person through a set of actions, and all or almost all of those actions are related to an object. Actions are cultural. What differentiates us is the way in which we drink coffee, or the way we put on our shoes, how we use an electric cord, or the shape of our spoon or knife.

C&AL: Caribbean mythology and the use of the body are represented in your work, elevating the everyday object to something capable of channeling or transmuting energies. What memories do the magic object and the spiritual imagination of the region keep?

RY: Using art history as a reference for my work is a conscious intention that comes from personal taste. It’s something I am confronted with, but which also gives me a reason to live. In addition to translating entire societies, objects have historically had the capability of being amulets, transforming situations, or containing things. When I was a child, I always saw my grandmother’s alters as a vindication of the everyday magical Voodoo and Santeria object in Venezuela. I remember my grandmother manipulating the weather with two spoons. She was behind everything with that prayer of hers to Saint Isidro. So, for me, the talismanic object—the magic wand, the sword, and the sacred cloak—have an impact. For example, because I live in the Dutch Caribbean, it has been years since I’ve seen an auyama (pumpkin) placed in the corner of the room with no explanation. In Maracaibo we use it a lot to ward off evil spirits. A grandmother always has an auyama in a corner of her house.

C&AL: Action and the weather coexist in your universe through objects. How do you read and understand the culture that surrounds us?

RY: In 2000 I did a cultural understanding exercise. I began to notice that every time someone made a cultural product and wanted to make it universal in the West, it was anchored in Greek mythology. For instance, manga and anime use it to maintain a market in the West and, consequently, there is historical penetration. It is a tool that somehow manipulates social algorithms, norms, and customs. So, I said to myself: “I’m going to exploit my image using a logic that fuses Greek mythology and my daily tasks at home, in Maracaibo, in the Caribbean.” The things I do to survive and the things I do because my mother asks me to, or favors I have to do for the neighbor; in other words, I put all my community logic in there to be able to play around with that way of seeing, from the point of view of a spectator. Raily cargando la caja de cerveza (Raily Loading the Beer Crate) is one of my favorite works out of all I’ve done over the years. First, is the satisfaction. Second, it was possibly that series that gave me some kind of financial success.

And then, what fulfills me most is working with my body. When you entrust someone else with your image, there is a lot of vulnerability. I would say that the magic of oil painting helped me with the conflict I had with my image, the racialized image in a Hispanic culture, the suspicious image, the economy and aesthetics.

Raily Stiven Yance is a plastic artist with a degree in Plastic Arts from the University of Zulia, Venezuela. The artist has developed his practice since 2010, participating in various individual and collective projects in Venezuela and beyond.

Sheila Ramirez (2000, Santiago de Cuba) is a Cuban-Angolan designer and researcher. She explores the affective relationship between people and objects in their environment through visual and sonic files. She is currently presenting her research through The Archive Room.

Translation: Sara Hanaburgh