With the internet being so easy to access, it has become easier for independent artists to find an audience and let their work be known. As a result, a variety of movements, collectives, and scenes have found a way to pave their path. The independent art scene in Puerto Rico is no different. Recently, many artists from a variety of disciplines have found platforms that have made it easier for them to share their work. In addition, small businesses such as Electroshock in Santurce and Rio Piedras, bars like Off The Wall in Mayaguez, book stores like La Casita Books and Gifts in Aguadilla, Libros AC in Santurce and Libros 787 online, and independent festivals like Feria de Libros Independientes y Alternativos and Tintero: Festival de Cómics y Arte Independiente de Puerto Rico have provided up-and-coming artists a space to display their talents. “Puerto Rican Women Killing It in the Independent Art Scene” is a series of interviews that provides a glimpse at some of the women who have recently gained recognition in the art scene. Though the artists are asked similar questions, some are asked queries surrounding their work, specifically.
Deddie Almodóvar Ojeda is a theater performer, artist and writer.
What got you into theater?
I decided to do theater because as a child I found it fun, transformative, capable of serving as a base for all the arts and as a healthy space where I could occupy multiple bodies at the same time. I currently do theater because of the aforementioned and because it helps me understand the nature of my ego, spirituality and body. Theater is a space where you can find situations of equality, diversity, understanding, love and vice-versa; all of it with the capacity of being shown from a fourth wall as an act of fiction and in phenomenological fashion, without hurting anyone. That opportunity invites me to find, in each rehearsal and presentation I view or participate in, my identity and various others. I do theater to understand who I am and those around me. I remember in a presentation of Annie, my first high school play, I fell through the stairs of the scenery and hurt my leg. The director told me “eso significa que nunca saldrá de tu vida el teatro” (theater will never be out of your life). I now live that saying.
What got you into writing?
When compared to visual art, singing and even theater, I started writing late in my life. I started doing so after falling in love with a poet and collaborator. She gifted me an empty notebook. From draft to draft, my confidence grew along with my narrative voice. Writing helps me free powerful energy such as anger, sadness, love, etc. This art form has inspired me to have my own blog and to publish short stories, poetry and plays in other platforms. In addition, it gave birth to the magazine Falso Mutis, where I publish research and presentation of contemporary national and international theater.
How do you combine all of these?
I combine them by writing theater and about it. I also perform pre-existing texts and, through improvisation, I create different ways so the spectators can read the plays.
How did you develop your style?
The style is named by the public when they philosophize or appreciate the work. I don’t like borders or categorizations. However, I do find that my presentations are colorful, detailed, bright, filled with metaphors, unfinished, clear and often aimed at children.
How has it evolved through the years?
The style and way of creating art evolves with each new thing I learn and perceive. It will continue changing even in eternity. If I look back, I can say that I bring the same symbols that I used to use as a kid in the canvas. I still make eyes, birthmarks, I focus on people’s views, etc. If there’s a difference from the past to present, it has to be the amount of repetitions.
What are some of your influences and inspirations?
My teachers, friends, stage collaborators, sister, writers of the past and present and activists. I get inspired by everybody who contributes something to my life, be it an image, a hug or a rejection with a mere look. All of them influence me.
Is there any other form of art you wish to pursue? If so, what field and why?
I would to do some more film, dance, and something outside of the arts. I want to practice dancing because it is one’s recognition of the body as a poetic form. I want to practice cinema more because it is another way to incorporate all art forms and in a fragmented way. I want to practice something outside of the arts because it will allow give me another possibility for conversation and understanding.
What do you think about the current state of the arts in Puerto Rico?
There are various space which have been re-populated by artists. There are artists everywhere. That’s not a problem. However, there’s not a balance. Much of the attention and money is only given to those artists who focus solely on “entertaining,” which of course is needed all over the world. However, the lack of appreciation by the audience makes it that various artists have to work multiple jobs in order to survive, instead of surviving off their art. If people would come out of their homes to see a play, instead of staying at home watching TV, there would be more presentations for them to see. There would be another sense of culture. There would be space for other conversations and needs for understanding one’s expressive identity. Currently, many artists only present two times after having rehearsed for three months without pay because they know nobody will come and see their work. Thus, the problem, if there’s any, is not the art but rather the lack of appreciation or an audience for it. Nevertheless, and not the least important, publicity chains make it almost impossible for independent artists to present their work in promotions or commercials. If everybody cooperates, the current crisis taht artists go through would be different; perhaps it would be the need of energy for more presentations. I know people want to see new and different things, but they need to know about them through promotions.
What do you think about the current state of the independent scene in Puerto Rico?
It is much more deeper and comprehensive than what one could imagine. Everywhere I go I find new artists all the time and I ask myself why I didn’t know about them before. Independent art has a variety of ways to express that one necessity: identity. All independent artists do what they must to stand out and present their work. It’s beautiful. Their difficulty is finding a medium that promotes their work so they can survive off it. Here, and internationally, people prefer what’s free; paying creative works with mere applauses and a “me voy que se me hace tarde para ver la novela” (I got to go because I’ll miss the soap opera). It shouldn’t be like that. Artists should be able to get paid for their work and time or else they would have to end up working some other job they don’t enjoy in order to survive, which is what happens to many artists across the island.
If a young girl came up to you and said she wanted to be an artist, what would be your advice for her?
That she has taken a difficult but not impossible decision. That there’s a lot of work to be done and that I’ll help in whichever eay I can, be it with a simple hug or a conversation regarding what she’s doing or what she wants to do. That there are various tools to continue working, despite what people think or say. That she shouldn’t believe everybody. That there’s a community that will be your audience and others who will help. That art and the option to do it should live. That life is just one and that we should do what makes us happy without violating others’ rights.
What is your biggest goal right now?
Travel the world and know the art of people, cultures and ecosystems. View other options. Acknowledge, through life’s own anthropology, the various opportunities art and culture can deliver, thus discovering my own. And of course, give a lot of love.
What do you seek to achieve with work?
Be a body for those voices who want to express themselves but don’t have the means.