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  • Biem D'hondt

Evelyne Rigaud

‘Queer as being about the self that is at odds with everything around it and that has to invent and create and find a place to speak and to thrive and to live.’

-bell hooks

In Belgium it’s undoubtedly a windy, rainy, squally day. Meanwhile, in Spain, the cultural capital of the Costa del Sol is honouring its reputation. As the end of October approaches, the sun beats down, and my pants cling to my legs. We arrived very early, yet ended up being an hour late because Málaga and easy parking goes together like a man and a woman. Scurrying across the dry Guadalmedina river bed, past buildings with doors so large they must be made for giants, we meet up in the El Ejido university district.

Meet Evelyne Rigaud (she/ they “but ‘she’ because I don’t want to make things more complicated”), artist, performer, globetrotter.


Short-shaven hair. I emphasize this because she is the first woman here with short hair and an androgynous look. “I was initially confused too, coming from France. I wondered, how can I recognize queer people? They don’t conform to the same ‘stereotypes’ here. The guys go to the bars in Torremolinos, and there’s a vibrant scene for them in musea, galleries and theatres. As artists, they aren’t actively seeking you out, but they share space just fine if you approach them. They do move things forward.”


Imagine a cage. A wooden cage, wrapped in cellophane. A person trapped inside. A voice, accompanied by a soundtrack. And a whole lot of rage. This is ‘A u O’, Evelyne Rigaud performing a fierce critique on the social construction of gender in binary society.

The performance


"The cage represents how I've felt since I was little, in a society where you have to fit in. Girl or boy, pink or blue, princess or superhero, from the moment we are born we are separated in society, education, language... into two groups or categories. Through the journey of a day in my life, I address the issue of gender from my personal experience, using my body and space.”

"In the morning, as I wake up and get dressed, that's when the choices are imposed upon us. Through the voice-over, I tell the story of having to choose between pink and blue, boys and girls. I decide to wear a black shirt and step into the cage. Going through the motions, I experience loneliness, frustration, and sadness. Soon, I find myself screaming. Eventually, exhaustion sets in, and I collapse on the cage floor. Desperate to break free, I attempt to poke a hole, just trying to breathe through it. Later I’m out of the box, I’m home, putting on some music to relax. Yet the voices return, people insisting I make a choice, pink or blue, and the outside world begins to trickle back in.”


In their recent last performance, water played a significant role, allowing her to cleanse her face continuously. We touch briefly on religion: “Why would you baptize your child? We’re not religious. If you want, I can pour some water on the head of the child, you don’t need the church.” I contemplate whether the use of water is an unconsciously internalized process. Revered as a purifier in many religions, water holds the ability to cleanse both the body and the soul. In Christianity, it's especially powerful, symbolizing a new beginning or rebirth. Whether someone immerses themselves in a river or water is poured on a baby's head, it signifies the commencement of life - a fresh start on a spiritual journey.

The motivation


“How can I connect with people? Amid the Covid pandemic I found myself unable to travel and work. I sought another way to communicate with people. Combining art and activism wasn’t an active choice - it’s simply my story. I became obsessed with understanding what the binary construct meant for the lives of women and LGBTQIA+ individuals. Upon my return to Spain, I started thinking about work that could convey that profound experience.”

The performance illuminates the autobiographical roots of Evelyne’s work, delving into their private emotions. She also trusts in the redemptive potential of the public airing of such tribulations, as a ritual of healing.

“When I prepare a performance, my grandmother’s voice echoes in my head, calling me ‘ma petite princesse’, a term I despised. She persistently adorned me with pink. My mom made me put it on, urging politeness. So, I always delay preparing because I don’t want to feel all these emotions. I thought this process would be to be therapeutic, that this rollercoaster would subside, but it persists.”

The redemption

“I hope to touch someone in the audience or prevent people from bullying others. Some insist there is no discrimination, as they don’t perceive this without experiencing it. My aim is to raise awareness among those who don’t see it.

I feel a strong solidarity with the younger generation. As a teenager, witnessing something like this would have made me feel connected.”

“I cherish interacting with the audience, some of their questions are very specific - and repetitive. ‘Have these things actually happened to you?’ Yes, when I go to the gym, to a restaurant, have to pick a restroom. This inquiry often comes from straight individuals, queer people typically understand without asking, they know what you’re talking about. Surprisingly, I’ve had cis straight men share how they, too, felt confined growing up - not allowed to cry, play with certain toys, restricted by societal norms like ‘that’s for girls’.”


The catalyst

“Seeing Marc Montijano work has been a great learning experience. His works delve into critique of capitalism. I’ve taken part in several of his performances, where our bodies are exposed, but our faces remain hidden. Whenever there’s a performance in Málaga, I make it a point to participate in people’s performances, eager to observe how different artists approach and execute their work.”


Can we see you in these works?


“Yes, my butt will be in CAC [kak]!” (Lots of laughter) The CAC is the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo in Málaga.

The future


“I would love to travel across Spain or France, anywhere really, and also during Pride Month, to perform in different cities. My ultimate hope is that one day I won't have to perform this anymore. If that day comes, it means we’ve reached a point where’s it’s no longer necessary to talk about this. That would make me very happy.”


Liminality


“On one side, it feels like a superpower because I feel safe walking alone, especially at night. From a distance, I appear as just another guy strolling down the street. However, as people get closer and can see or hear me talking, the atmosphere shifts. They start staring, whispering, making comments… It becomes uncomfortable, or even dangerous. Within a few seconds, the perception shifts from being seen as a man to being regarded as an “unlabeled thing”: man/woman/lesbian/trans?

I am acutely aware of this because it has been a recurring experience for the last 20 years, occurring at least a couple of times per week. While I try not to dwell on it, I must admit that, at times, it annoys me and affects me. I yearn for a world where people don’t concern themselves so much with how others present. Instead of attempting to label and fit individuals into boxes, I wish for a more respectful and open approach to gender expressions.”

Evelyne Rigaud is available for bookings through @e_and_art on instagram and evelyne-rigaud.com.

“The portable cage weighs around 15 kilograms, when packed, it’s about the length of skis. I currently travel with it on buses and, in the future, perhaps on planes.”

Text: Biem D'hondt

Photo's: Marijn Achten

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