Rogay Pornôs, 2012
Brasília, DF, 1992
Rafaelly Godoy or La Conga Rosa, has a bachelor's degree in visual arts from the University of Brasília, where she lives and works. Her photography mainly discusses issues related to sexuality and gender. Through photoperformances and documentary series, she brings up the clash between fiction x reality. She had her first solo show with the duo Travas Elétricas at the Casa de Cultura da América Latina. She is also an audiovisual director and part of the Cavalas collective.
interview by Igor Furtado, published on 29/04/2021
Can you tell about your childhood and how did you become interested in images?
I am the youngest among five siblings. My mother, Alcinda, is from Goiás and my father, Ivo, from Ceará. Both migrated as children, my father to Santos and my mother to Brasília, where I was born and grew up. The two were the first generation of the family to enter higher education, which they valued very much for their children, my mother mainly. Her focus was for us to enter the public university. So, if we were doing well at school, everything was fine. We have always lived in a small farm, in the region of Sobradinho and Urubu, so I played in the streets and into some woods. My sisters and I have always had a lot of autonomy and freedom. My mother's daughters, we are three, all deviant. In addition to me, a travesti, I have a dyke and bisexual sisters. There are always struggles, right, but I can say, very happy and proud, that my parents were extremely welcoming and understanding. I believe that this vision comes from working for many years with HIV/AIDS prevention, a very plural environment. After school, I went to their work, so I could go home at the end of the day. There was a lot of queers, dykes and travestis in the same room. This marked me a lot, because there it seemed super natural what on the street was seen as wrong. I remember a beautiful travesti, huge blond hair, very tall. I was fascinated by this possibility, but I ended up taking very long to accept myself. At school I was always shy, very effeminate, and just silly. They would call me fagot and I kept quiet, then went home to be locked in the room. I was friends with other queers, but everyone was hidding at the time. As I couldn't handle the activities in which I had to expose myself a lot, I drew. More adolescent I had the manga and anime phase. Then, came photography.
How did you start experimenting with photography and film?
Fifteen was the beginning of my tumblr era, laughs. I think the internet was a very important place to discover my visual references. I searched on google sites that had photography content. Flickr was also booming at the time. I started to see what interested me, and from there I started to develop my own practice. I've done a lot of cheesy things, but I have affection because they were also important, mainly due to self-discovery. I was looking for activities outside of school because it was a very hostile environment for me. I went to do some workshops in a development store, that focused on a more traditional vision of photojournalism, with some Pentax K1000 that they had. That's when my analogue tour begins. Then, I went to the Visual Arts course at UnB, where I started experimented other things, such as photoperformance. Cinema is more recent, I started in 2017, working in the Art Department, mainly in costume. I had also made some more experimental films with Sosha, who is a friend from Recife. Cinema has been my main job, thinking about money, but very much within the market. I think photography is a place of research and personal projects, and cinema is a "job". This year, I want to be able to mix the two things more, and use audiovisual as a possibility of creating personal projects as well.
You've participated in some collectives, right?
Yeah, the first was Infecciosxs, a collective from Recife that emerged in 2015, from the meeting with Paulete Lindacelva, Caetano Costa, Sosha and Marina Pereira. Initially, the intention was to create party spaces in which dissident identities were welcomed and celebrated. It was created in a very unpretentious way, charging a two reais ticket, with free admission for trans people. We always had call teasers, which were actually video arts. We also thought carefully about how to do these events, what were the goals and speeches for each edition. After the first ones, it took on other proportions, people coming and going, new proposals, such as movie clubs and debates. From the initial formation, the one who stayed and held everything together was Paulete.
What about Travas Elétricas and Cavalas collectives, can you tell us about them?
Travas Elétricas was a duo that I had with Felipe Olalquiaga. We met at the university and had several interests in common, in terms of poetics and artistic practice - photography and performance. We wanted to create photographs that were against the imagery of pain and suffering experienced by dissident people. It was about combat and strength, as opposed to the image of "victim". We were, in a way, aggressive. The work came about through the improvisation of costumes and objects, and in front of the camera, photography was being drawn. We had a solo exhibition at Casa de Cultura da America Latina. Cavala Filmes, on the other hand, is an independent production company that I recently opened with Izzy Vitório and Marcus Taktsuka, two audiovisual and life partners. We are still in the process of understanding what the possibilities and interests are, but it arises from the desire to produce from our perspectives. After we worked in so many teams with speeches that do not align with ours, we realized that perhaps the way would be to start our own production company. It is an attempt to go after money to produce an audiovisual that makes sense to ourselves.
Travas Elétricas, 2017
How does the creation of your series work, thinking about the process of conceiving and materializing ideas?
I don't know if I can trace an exact form of creation for all my productions. Each work has its specificity, but I can see two main aspects. The first, is photography as a record of everyday life, which happens on a day-to-day basis with my friends and other people-places-objects that I relate to. It's a mix of documentary with staging because usually exists some direction. I am also very enchanted by portraiture, in registering beauty in a way that is not so common. In this type of production, the conception of a series takes place in a moment of assembly. Placing one photograph next to the other, I begin to see a narrative constructed, similar to editing film. The other part of my work, are photoperformances, in which there are prior thoughts. It usually begins with a very abstract idea. Then, I research some terms, stories and works along those lines. It's a kind of crazy thought flow, which translates into the execution. I usually think a lot about what to do, prepare all sorts of things, but at the moment it's a big “do as you can”. Therefore, the images are not as calculated and clean.
What are your greatest pleasures and frustrations with analog photography?
My biggest frustration is definitely the cost. Film rolls are not cheap and there is still the cost of developing and digitizing. This ends up limiting some possibilities of work, mainly more commercial or institutional, in which you need to deliver a large number of final images. A pleasure I have with analog photography is the time that exists between the realization and visualization of the image, which generates a delicious anxiety. It's like I'm always getting a gift. This distance also helps because I look at images differently, without the euphoria of the moment. The fact of not having this immediate response and the limitation of poses, helped a lot to train my perspective. I feel that when I pick up a digital camera, I shoot like crazy. I register everything, without the slightest modesty. In the end, most images look terrible. With analogue, there is a limitation that forces me to think about what I want to frame.
How do the ideas of frontier, religion and post pornography appear in your work?
I started thinking about borders with my transition process. About body boundaries and how to cross or live on the border. I thought about the geographies of gender and sexuality, and how the border can be a place of freedom - where laws and regulations are suspended - but also of control - where surveillance is constant. It is an ambiguous place, and it's in crossing that there is a radical position before social norms and conventions. Crossing the border is an act of emancipation. I reflect on religion in some of my works, but mainly on the symbols that surround and guard us. I also try to emancipate myself from the violence and control that the Church has over marginalized bodies. Post-pornography, on the other hand, is present, but I cannot place myself entirely as part of it. Some references are very important to me, but at the time I met these artists, I didn't even knew the term post pornography. The work of Hija de Perra, Giuseppe Campuzano, or Effy Mia for example were (and are) very important for my construction as a photoperformer, but I confess that I don't even care so much about speeches and texts. I happen to have interests and an imagination that are related to these ideas, but it was through Bruna Kury, who is an incredible post-porn artist, that I started to truly understand more about it.
What is your next project and in what ways do you still intend to expand your practice?
I already have other audiovisual projects that should happen this year, but I'm currently in the process of making my first short film as a director. In fact, it will have 5 minutes. It was the invitation of a production company from São Paulo, BRUTA, that gave me the autonomy to present a project, assemble a team and run it in my own way. I wrote the script with my artist friend Yná Kabe Olfenza and in a few weeks I should start the editing process. It is essentially about Trans History, both the struggle of organized movements of travestis and transsexuals, as well as the daily experiences that each of us lives. It is about the unforgettables that we all are, challenging statistics, and also about those that came before, building what we have today.
Taxonomic classification error, 2017