AWDB Spotlight on Performance Art: Interview with artist Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen

AWDB speaks to Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen about her multicultural identity integrated in her performances, and newly published book I Am Not What You See, a retrospective monograph highlighting an archive of the artist’s practice over the past three decades.

Cuenca Rasmussen’s book title was taken from her 2021 solo exhibition with the same name. A hybrid of performance, costume design and architectural installations, this project depicts ethnicity and nomadic life. Despite the broad themes surrounding this project, Cuenca Rasmussen’s unique perspective and activism is present in the details of her installations. This includes a sculpture inspired by South Asian stilt houses assembled with a traditional Danish roof technique called thatching, and her wearable installation following the shape of an igloo, a home vulnerable to disappearing due to the climate crisis.

AWDB spoke to Lilibeth about recurring themes of her own identity found in her art, and the motivations behind her messages.

Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen, ‘Brief Encounters’, 2018, performance. Image courtesy of Gert Jan van Rooij Studio.

 

How does your identity as a woman from a multicultural background inform your art?

I use what I have, which also means my dual background, my gender as a woman, my age and generation. More and more I see myself with multiple backgrounds, rather than just two. Having lived in several countries, and returning to countries for exhibitions and projects, I start to feel them as new homes.

What is a learning point you found beneficial in navigating the art world or sustaining your art practice?

There are several things. Works can be reenacted, and at the same time renewed. Ideas can be modified accordingly to space and context. In the beginning of my praxis, I saw my artworks as autonomous entities, I never thought about space, nor the situation as I do now. Incorporating space and the situation gives the works a new dimension and layer. Working and thinking site-specifically has made my work more precise and my process flow.

 

Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen, ‘Body Container’, installation view, 2018. Image courtesy of the artist.

 

You often include a subtle element of activism into your work. How have the issues you advocate for inspired your art?

My inspiration and material for my work is reality, real life. Activism is part of being present and aware of your surroundings; being a responsible citizen is giving feedback and being reflective to the world.

How would you describe your audience, and how do you think spectators resonate with your art?

I see them as contributors, just by their presence they are taking part; always as a witness, and sometimes physically partaking in the work.

 

Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen, ‘(Dis) Appearing’, 2018, installation. Image courtesy of Angela Dorio.

 

What is the significance of the materials you use for your installations and performances, and how do they explain your story?

The materials I use [often] have symbolic value. For instance, my work in Art Basel Hong Kong, the paintings were made of materials that came from the Philippines, such as coconut oil that I mix with chalk powder from [Stevns, the region in] Denmark, where I grew up from the age of eight. Another material mix is coal from the Philippines and chalk from Stevns. The cast of my feet is made of volcanic sand from Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, and so on.

I use ready-made materials with embedded symbols, like in ‘Miss Fabula’, which is created with 3,000 via Airmail envelopes. In ‘Looping the Hoop’, the oversized pink hourglass placed in the baroque garden, is a symbol of ‘Vanitas’*.

(*Note for the reader: Vanitas in art is defined as a symbolic object designed to remind the viewer of their mortality and of the worthlessness of worldly goods and pleasures).

INTERVIEW COURTESY OF LILIBETH CUENCA RASMUSSEN AND ART WORLD DATABASE, FEBRUARY 2024.