Spanish-born artist Paco Cao's work is characterized by an interest in establishing new forms of communication between the artist, the work of art, and the audience. He highlights the creative process, challenging the notion of what is a "final product.” Consequently, most of his projects are process-oriented, taking place in the public realm, as site-specific creations that span long periods of time. His works usually require active audience participation, as well as the engagement of art institutions, the media, and the general public.
In 2001, he set in motion a series of look-alike contests, for which he digitally recreated historical portraits by artists such as Velazquez. Then he launched massive publicity campaigns in search of an individual who resembled the digitally recreated portraits. His "Rent-a-Body" Project (1993-1998) also took a commercial form, presenting the body as an object for rent. Here he again established a communicative link between artist and spectator by submitting the artist's body to a process of radical objectification. Paco is currently based in Brooklyn, New York. He has spent significant time abroad, and while living in Spain studied Art History at the University of Oviedo, where he received his Ph.D. in 1992.
“Don’t Touch The White Woman - A Personality Contest.”
In this fantasy set in the year 2125, the American Empire is on the verge of collapse, the white population in danger of extinction. The United States signs an international treaty known as “Don’t Touch the White Woman” in order to protect the Caucasian population, particularly women, from the attack of foreign nations. Special Forces are enlisted by the American government. The antiterrorist forces are recruited from a group of people with extraordinary physical and psychological abilities which have been operating underground for centuries. An array of heretofore mythological beings such as vampires and werewolves emerge into this new reality and assume a moment of stardom on the stage of human history as part of governmental antiterrorist forces called RTRs.
The high profile role of these RTRs in the Security System creates new paradigms of beauty and style. The RTRs present themselves in portraits following the patterns of European masters from the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, albeit attired in twentieth-century costumes. As the RTRs fame escalates, “personality contests,” which allow people to imitate their favorite RTR, become one of the most representative events in pop culture.
Using photography as a starting point, this project explores the concept of performance through historical and contemporary sources. A series of digitally manipulated photographic portraits will be produced: a “white female” ( America) is surrounded by twenty males from several ethnic backgrounds with features both human and fantastical beings like werewolves and vampires. They pose as sixteenth-century sitters but in contemporary clothes. Personality contests will be organized to choose the most aggressive, most gentle, and most delicate, both at an exhibition and through a web page. The project reveals the seminal role of “posing” as a form of a performance in historical painting.