Wednesday, July 6

Ana Elena Pena, artist and writer: “I am a doll fetishist”


“The underground he’s dead”, says Ana Elena Pena (Calasparra, Region of Murcia, 1976) as she leaves the pharmacy for a moment to continue the telephone interview. The Murcian artist has been revolutionizing the alternative scene in Valencia since the nineties with her performance of barbies sinister songs, her poetic voice or the copla that she defends in her current ‘Cabaret Histérico’ with Gilbertástico, with whom she is preparing a new show in which this genre will have an even greater presence. At ‘Cabaret Quinqui’, in which she performs together with Jordi DeLongo, they decide to cover “Junco, Los Chichos, Manzanita, songs that speak of jealousy, spite and marital disputes”.

“I still have to buy the bus ticket,” says the writer, who next Monday will perform with her recital ‘Now it’s late, lady’ on the Literary Mondays that have been held for years in the Murcian capital. There she will present her latest work of poetry ‘Chicas bonitas sniffing glitter’ (Arrebato Libros, 2021) along with other self-published books “hard to find in bookstores”, such as ‘La loca de los gato’, ‘How to get out of oneself unscathed’ or ‘Blood on the knees’.

Poet, painter, illustrator, vedete undergroundjewelery designer: do you consider yourself a total artist?

I have always liked to experiment with almost all disciplines, there are many ways to express yourself depending on the moment. Some are better than others, I confess. I am obsessed with plastic, I need to do things with my hands and play with color. Writing is necessary and therapeutic for me, as much as reading and having a tequila from time to time.

He collects dolls that are also part of his shows: why do they accompany him both in his life and in his work?

I am a doll fetishist, they have a very deep meaning for me. It has always been said that they are repositories of the human soul and when we play with them as children they are the reflection of what we want to be and do when we grow up. I am also obsessed with movies where dolls appear, especially horror ones, they are usually possessed by evil spirits [risas]. Chucky, Annabelle, Puppet Master, etc… Anyway, dolls fascinate me, I can’t help it. I also have a Monchito and a Macario that I usually use at shows. Ventriloquism also seems to me a sinister thing and at the same time it seduces me, what a pity that fashion has passed, I hope it comes back.

She speaks openly, both in her work and on social networks, about taboo topics in society such as bulimia, self-harm or difficulties in getting pregnant. Do we women speak freely about our lives or is a dose of courage still necessary?

We speak freely more than ever, few taboos remain to be uncovered, the truth, but courage is always required to show the wounds. You have to count on the fact that opening up and confessing is being exposed and that others know your weaknesses and can make fun of them. Telling the truth about oneself is trusting in the kindness of others and in their empathy and understanding.

Have you suffered any kind of retaliation or personal attack for it?

Yes, I remember once a girl told me on social networks “How nice that an unbalanced person like you can have children” and all to talk about my bulimia phase and when I was taking medication. Now I don’t take anything. I’m lying because I have a diazepam in my bag just in case. There is a lot of demand with mothers. They love us goddesses and we do the best we can. And then the eating disorders or the depressive and anxiety states that are experienced in youth change when you reach maturity and are nothing more than residual because, in addition, you do not have time to eat the coconut because you are growing up.

After the debacle that the world of culture has suffered as a result of the pandemic, do you think that the underground stage will survive?

Not only the pandemic, but the imposition of a single thought is what is going to end the underground. I doubt that there is room for the iconoclastic artist, for the dissident, for the one who criticizes the current norms and questions the new morality. At least for now. I think that everything is a bit mixed up, very polarized, and that space must be left for reflection and self-criticism. The underground It has always been synonymous with rebellion, with blowing everything up, but now the rebels fear stepping out of line, being singled out and cancelled. People take life very seriously and, as Ricky Gervais says, you shouldn’t pull your hair out over a joke you don’t like, in the end we all die and there is no sequel.

After the covid, in addition, we artists are starting from scratch. The pandemic arrived and the focus was there and we had to stop our work -stop rotating-. I also had no motivation to write and I was with the little girl and with so many doubts and uncertainties…

Do you feel that in the culture there is sufficient recognition of folklore, as you do in your ‘Hysterical Cabaret’ or also the disseminator Lidia García with the homonymous podcast and book ‘¡Ay, Campaneras!’? Why do you think this has been the case?

Thanks to the gay community, folk music has been kept alive, but in general I think it hasn’t been recognized enough, in part, because there is still a rejection of our identity and traditions. There are those who consider that the copla is part of ‘deep and black Spain’, things of grandmothers, and it is not at all. Most of the couplets that we know were written by great poets and narrators such as Rafaél de León, Antonio Quintero and Manuel Quiroga, and accurately reflect the passionate spirit of the Spanish people, also being performed by captivating women, ahead of their time.

Carlos Vermut recounted in a scene from ‘Magical Girl’ that we are not sure if we are a passionate or a rational country and that is why we are always in conflict, we do not know how to balance the balance, we are torn between emotion and reason and it is difficult for us to deal with our instincts.

Politically, how do you see the feminist movement at the moment?

Feminism is a noble cause, there is no doubt about it! And thanks to it, women have gained rights and advanced in society, but certain politicians are beginning to use it in a perverse way, for economic and propaganda purposes, accompanying it with delusional slogans and speeches. . It is difficult to manage because feminism is something that is experienced individually but also collectively, which is why it is difficult to agree and establish a ‘single feminist discourse’. What is worth to you is not to another woman.

I am in favor of common sense, dialogue and harmony, I do not tolerate hate speech or those who intend to confront us in a bloody way, either because of sex or ideology. That would be going back to business as usual, to the abhorrent Cainite Spain that left and continues to leave so many open wounds. I have always thought that more flies are caught with honey than with vinegar. Feminism is something for everyone, regardless of political color.

He was born in Calasparra (Murcia) and has lived in Valencia since he left there to study Fine Arts. How do you perceive the cultural scene in both cities? What do you miss about the Region?

In Valencia there is more cultural movement and more offer, normal, because it is a bigger city and there are many people from here and there. But from Murcia I miss how affectionate, funny and open the people are.

Do you consider that the culture that takes place in places like Murcia or Valencia is sufficiently represented in the media?

Everything that is done in Madrid is given more importance. That has always happened. In Valencia, for example, there are many incredible music groups and they don’t come from here.

I don’t know, did you consider going to live in Madrid?

Valencia hooks me. Madrid is a very big city and you have to go everywhere by metro. I travel to Madrid a lot to see my friends, but I am not convinced to live there because it is very expensive. Imagine for an artist, that we are almost always in a precarious situation, no. Oh no beach!

What will the recital ‘Now it’s late lady’ be like next Literary Monday at El Sur in Murcia?

A vindication of the domestic, a profound reflection on what it means to plant oneself in maturity. A criticism, a revelation of what is normally hidden and we dare not confess. An ode to eternal dissatisfaction and the incessant search for self-affirmation and happiness, which are sometimes soapy minnows impossible to catch.

I always leave a bit to improvisation, I bring unpublished texts and others that are better known.

Why is it late for Ana Elena Pena?

for some little things [Risas]. Time slips through my fingers, there are so many things to see, read and discover that I don’t know if I’m going to have time for everything. I enjoy each moment as it comes, I don’t have the rush or the demands of before. When I became a mother my world turned upside down, I suffered a brutal change of consciousness and now I just want to see things flourish and accept losses and death as something that is simply part of life and that they are, in some way, way, illusory. Everything is life.



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