Vicente Cayuela combines art with activism at Brandeis

"Artivist" Vicente Cayuela '22 uses his artistic talents to raise important issues

a digitally animated photo of Vicente Cayuela '22, wearing a striped sweater with two cameras against a black backgroundCourtesy of Vicente Cayuela

Vicente Cayuela uses digital and optical tools to create art and get his messages across.

With his innovative use of digital media, Vicente Cayuela ‘22 combines his dedication to activism with his artistic talents to broadcast poignant messages. 

Cayuela is a Studio Arts major from Santiago de Chile. His academic interest plays itself out in his activities outside the classroom: He draws comics for The Justice, serves as Laurel Moon Magazine’s layout editor, and works as a support specialist at the Sound and Image Media Studio (SIMS) in the library. But his passion lies in creating art that serves a purpose, which is exactly what he did at Incendio 2019. 

Incendio is an annual arts showcase hosted by Brandeis Latinx Student Association (BLSO) that celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month (which extends from mid-September to mid-October) by giving a spotlight to Latinx artists from Brandeis as well as the Greater Boston Area. This year’s showcase included dance performances, poetry readings, authentic Venezuelan food, and Cayuela’s contribution, which was one of the event’s highlights.

Cayuela produced a short film titled Orlando that commemorates the 2016 shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The film begins as a colorful stop-motion-style light show layered with electronic music and sets the scene for an entertaining night out. This party-focused introduction is then contrasted with stylized footage from the shooting itself as well as the names of the 49 victims flashing across the screen in quick succession. The video ends with a call for “Gun Control Now.” The unexpected message behind this psychedelic music video slaps you across the face and grabs your attention for the rest of the film. Cayuela’s video project allowed him to pay tribute to not only his Hispanic background but the LBGTQ+ community that he also identifies with. But Cayuela has a mixed relationship with these labels that he falls under.

“As an international student, I feel like people in the US pay a lot of attention to labels. To be labeled as a ‘homosexual Latinx artist’ puts you in this box, and I don’t want my art to say that,” Cayuela explained. But through this project, he found that he was able to come to terms with the labels he has been given by creating artwork that other people can relate to. “After the event, it was very nice to hear the audience reacting and telling me, ‘this [video] represents people of color, this represents gay people.’”

A hand writing on a tablet with a stylus on top of newspaper comics by Vicente Cayuela '22
Courtesy of Vicente Cayuela '22

Among his many artistic endeavors, Cayuela draws comics for The Justice student newspaper.

Cayuela notes that it is important to make art for yourself before anyone else. While he understands that he cannot escape the labels he has been assigned, he realizes that they don’t have to be how he defines himself. “I’ve come to a balance between being in a place that expects me to pay a lot of attention to my identity, and just doing my own thing,” he said. 

Studying at Brandeis has allowed Cayuela to get his hands dirty in a variety of media and discover new interests. “I am at a very expansive moment in my life where I want to be making things without people telling me what to do.” He loves his job at Brandeis' Sound and Image Media Studio because it gives him access to all of the digital software he could wish for and allows him to create and explore on a whim.

He also prides himself in being self-motivated and not being afraid to delve into unexplored opportunities. Cayuela’s advocacy that night did not end after his film was shown. After the showcase, Cayuela was asked by Incendio’s organizers to speak to the crowd about his work. However, he instead used his platform to bring attention to the protests and police brutality that are occurring in Chile right now. “I thought my work was pretty self-explanatory, and that this issue needed to be talked about instead.” 

Activism has played a large role in Cayuela’s life since long before he came to Brandeis. He worked for Amnesty International in high school and regularly attended political protests and demonstrations. It has always been important to him to make a contribution to grassroots efforts and he is distressed that he is not at home during his country’s state of unrest. “It has always been very important to me to make a contribution [to activism]. Even though all I could do was talk about what’s happening in Chile, doing it in a space where people were gathered to celebrate Hispanic culture felt like my duty.” 

Looking forward, Cayuela doesn’t have a clear-cut vision for his future, and feels like he doesn’t need one. Some days he sees himself becoming a graphic designer, and other days he is reminded of his love for film production. He was already able to combine these two mediums in Orlando, and I have no doubt that Cayuela will only continue to mix his different skills to create art that speaks to his audience. One thing he is sure about is that he hopes to continue using the combined powers of art, technology, and advocacy to spread messages. “Talking about political jargon only spreads the word, but it doesn’t move you in any way,” the artivist concluded. “I think that art is the better way to make a change.”

Categories: Arts, Student Life

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