Miss Education

Panama at Venice 2015
56th International Art Exhibition
La Biennale di Venezia

HUMBERTO VELEZ
MISS EDUCATION: A DELEGATED PERFORMANCE
6-8 May 2015.

Press Release: April 2015

Humberto Vélez: Miss Education
A Delegated Performance, 2013-2015

Humberto Vélez will present the second edition of Miss Education at Venice Biennale 2015.  Visitors to the 56th Biennale will be able to observe a real beauty queen parading through the Arsenale and Giardini in this performance piece that uses the convention of the international beauty pageant to examine artistic and intellectual prejudices.

Yomatzy Hazlewood is the reigning Miss Panama 2014 and was also crowned Miss Education by curator Gerardo Mosquera, a panel member on the Miss Panama beauty pageant. She will be appearing at Venice Biennale during the preview days from 6 to 8 May 2015 and during the opening of the Latin-American Pavilion in the Arsenale on May 8 at 11am.

Miss Education began as an artistic intervention in the national Miss Panama beauty contest, conceived specifically by Vélez for renowned artist and critic Luis Camnitzer in 2013 as part of VISITING MINDS Radical Pedagogy: Art as Education,” an international forum held in  Panama City in May 2013.

With Miss Education, Vélez intended to confront social, artistic and intellectual prejudices by exploring the elitism and stereotypes of art, education, and beauty through the lens of mass media events and popular culture. Vélez wanted to playfully challenge the concepts of art and education by merging aspects of the global art world with the mass market appeal of the beauty pageant. For this purpose, Luis Camnitzer served as jury president of the Miss Panama competition and personally chose a new “Miss” with the title of Miss Education.

Such was its impact, Miss Education has now become a permanent title in the Miss Panama contest and one of the most coveted by the participants, who now lay more emphasis on the importance of education and activism, than simply beauty.

Miss Education has become a work-in-progress, with Vélez invited to participate in several events, such as the Montevideo and Venice Biennial and Behind The Wall public art project during the Havana Biennial — not as documentation of what happened in Panama – but as a delegated performance, a “living work of art”, where Miss Education parades or intervenes through the exhibition and public spaces of each biennial and city.

In each venue the work acquires new modalities. For example, Jeniffer Brown, Miss Education 2013, performed in the II Montevideo BiennialYomatzy Hazlewood, elected Miss Education 2014 by curator Gerardo Mosquera, is participating in the Latin American pavilion of the 56th Venice Biennale. She was also crowned Miss Panama and therefore ran for the title of Miss Universe. A medal-winning track meet runner and an English major in college, Hazlewood comes from a humble working-class family.  For 2016, Vélez is asking a prominent art collector to join the Miss panama jury in order to select the next Miss Education.

Contests are a constant in Vélez’s work, as he explains, “What really interests me is the ceremony through its different manifestations: parades, contests, sports competitions, etc. I have used them extensively as artistic strategies. At the ceremony, members of a community look directly at each other and intertwine ancestral and current moments and emotions that speak about human nature”.

“In the past, after my performances ended, these remained alive for those whom I worked with, thanks to the empowerment of artistic experience…. However, with Miss Education this system — of collaboration, empowerment, and subsequent participation in social, political, and artistic arenas — has expanded. The forms and results it delivers are unknown to me. The work lives and takes on new meanings every day through others, who are not under my direction but independent of me.”

Working with a beauty pageant in this way can also be read as a comment on art competitions — which preserve power in certain hands and divide artists — and about the art world itself, with its strategies of legitimation, especially by those who control the media and the market. Furthermore, this situation is applicable to everything else: sports, electoral politics, private education. They are all “contests” that manage huge amounts of capital and symbolic winners. Vélez consistently addresses cultural disenfranchisement based on class and race as a strand running through his work.

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COMUNICADO DE PRENSA, ABRIL DE 2015

MISS EDUCATION,

UNA PERFORMANCE DELEGADA 

DE HUMBERTO VELEZ

REPRESENTARA A PANAMA EN LA BIENAL DE VENECIA 2015

Miss Education es una intervención artística de Humberto Vélez dentro del concurso Miss Panamá, que fue inspirada y concebida inicialmente para Luis Camnitzer y el foro de VISITING MINDS, “Pedagogía Radical: el arte como educación”, realizado en la ciudad de Panamá en mayo de 2013.

Esta intervención buscó cuestionar, de manera divertida, los estereotipos sociales y las ideas simplistas en torno al arte y educación, comparando al mundo del arte con un concurso de belleza de gran impacto popular y mediático.  Para esto Vélez contó con la colaboración del artista y pedagogo Luis Camnitzer que actuó como presidente del jurado de Miss Panamá 2013 y eligió personalmente a una nueva “Miss” con el título de Miss Education.

Camnitzer explicó, antes de anunciar a la ganadora de Miss Education, sus requisitos para otorgar el titulo: ” …en lo que me fijé más fue en la honestidad de la posición y en la falta de dogmatismo; eran dos cualidades que me interesaban, o sea que la persona no impondría una creencia, por un lado y, segundo, que tuviese cierta calidez y honestidad que llevase a confiar a la persona”.

La obra hacía un comentario sobre los estereotipos en torno al concepto de la belleza y los aciertos y contradicciones del concepto que iguala el arte a la educación, enfrentando directamente al pedagogo con el público al que dirige sus teorías. Asimismo buscaba la desmitificación de la idea del artista conceptual (con la valiente anuencia del artista mismo) como un ser puramente intelectual y racional por encima de su compleja condición humana y personal.

En el 2014, el curador Gerardo Mosquera también aceptó el reto de elegir a la nueva Miss Education. Entrevistado sobre cómo seleccionaría a la ganadora respondió:

“Además de los lineamientos generales del concurso, pondré énfasis en la sensibilidad de las candidatas, su nivel de educación, su cultura personal y su inclinación a apreciar y disfrutar del arte y la cultura. Pertenezco al mundo del arte, y como este es un medio educativo y de comunicación, valoraré estos aspectos. Por así decir, Miss Educación deberá ser ella misma una obra de arte en acción.”

Mosquera eligió como Miss Education 2014 a Yomatzy Hazlewood, activista social y deportista profesional, quien a la vez fue elegida Miss Panamá 2014 y que se presentará en la Bienal de Venecia de 2015. Miss Education se ha convertido en un título permanente dentro del concurso Miss Panamá y uno de los más codiciados por las participantes que ahora destacan la importancia de la educación y el activismo social.

Por otra parte, Jeniffer Brown, Miss Education 2013 y que estuvo presente en la Bienal de Montevideo 2014, estableció hace años una modesta escuela de modelaje para jóvenes en la ciudad de Colón, en la que desarrolla la autoestima y la disciplina personal.  Además, forma parte de la Comisión Gestora para la Promoción del Desarrollo Humano en la Campaña Internacional contra la Pobreza Extrema, así como de organizaciones que resaltan la historia y dificultades de la etnia negra, y la situación social y educativa de la mujer.

Miss Education at Montevideo Biennial 2014 

Jeniffer Brown, Miss Education 2013, in the Montevideo Biennial 2014. She participated in public debates organised by the biennial about about inclusion and education.