“In Puppies’ work, the objects must function or else they’re props,” Kuriki-Olivo told Artspace in a recent interview, echoing how she differentiated herself from Duchamp in that interview.
Last year, at Remai Modern in Saskatoon, Canada, her first solo institutional exhibition in North America, “Body Fluid (Blood),” vividly illustrated this condition. For the show, she was inspired by the fact that her parents both had a rare type of blood and frequently donated blood while she was growing up, as well as by the fact that many countries, including Canada and the United States, still place restrictions on blood donations based on gender and sexual orientation.
Free rapid H.I.V. testing was provided on a limited basis in a private gallery space on the ground floor of the museum, with peer mentors on hand to provide support before and after the test. A glass-doored refrigerator outside the consultation room displayed an IV bag of Kuriki-blood, Olivo’s which was ineligible for donation; the floor around it was littered with stress balls shaped like cartoon crimson droplets, which donors are often given to make their veins easier to locate.
For a donation outpost administered by Canadian Blood Services, a shuttle bus was available from the museum on Saturdays.
Indigenous people in Saskatchewan have a much higher rate of new H.I.V. infections than the national average, making this exhibition both personal and site-specific. To Kuriki-Olivo, “it was more important to do something that dealt with the place rather than just landing there, putting up my artwork, and then going away.
By drawing on her experience working at the Los Angeles-based nonprofit TransLatin@ Coalition, she asked herself, “How can I incorporate what I was doing in social work with what I want to do with my art practise?”
When Kuriki-work Olivo’s is at its most political, it is also the most literal and avoids equivocation. The artist displayed an urn filled with the ashes of burned American flags in her most recent show at Queer Thoughts in New York, “Executive Order 9066 (Soul Consoling Tower),” which dealt with the World War II internment of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants.
“I’ve always loved the idea that art just blends in with life,” Kuriki-Olivo said of her fascination with this concept. “I thrive in the ambiguity of it all.”
It’s not just her art that reflects the artist’s sense of responsibility, but the community she has built with other trans New Yorkers of colour as well, a sense of urgency that seems to have gotten even more pronounced as she has gotten to know them better. Trans artists and creatives are “amazing,” “beautiful,” “brilliant,” and “incredible,” she said.
There is a lack of attention being paid to us, as well. Kuriki-Olivo hopes to use her success to help others, and she plans to use any future opportunities to exhibit her own work to show the work of other artists, so that they can “skip some of the unnecessary steps…. You really have to uplift your trans family, because the world will not do it.”
Puppies Puppies was inspired by Kuriki-desire Olivo’s to vanish in the past, which she revealed to me when I asked her about it. A former acquaintance of Kuriki-went Olivo’s missing after deleting their Facebook page and then filling it with pictures of cats, so Kuriki-Olivo changed the name of her account to Puppies and uploaded pictures of small dogs in imitation of that action.
Ader, the Dutch conceptual artist who was lost at sea while trying to cross the Atlantic in a small sailboat in 1975, was an inspiration for her. “I didn’t relate to who I was, so I erased my identity,” she said.
“It was a way for me to get away from who I was and what I was.” My brain tumour made me fear the end of the world, so I put as many expressions into the world as I could. Pain, but also a desire to show others that there is beauty in this brain of mine” She realised that she needed to revisit her decision to work anonymously during her transition. Trans women have to hide more than anyone else, she explained, “because society forces us to do so.”