Coco Capitán on poetry and Pride
The Spanish artist talks about growing up in Seville, connecting through writing and what it means to be part of the LGBTQ+ community.
‘It’s important that we celebrate the people who made it possible for me and my generation to be who we are without having to think further.’
‘The one Pride that I will never forget was with my mum,’ says the engaging artist Coco Capitán (she/her), who went to her first Orgullo in Madrid when she was just 14. ‘I am lucky to have a mother who has always supported who I am and who I love. I never had to come out or give an explanation on who I liked or loved when I was a teenager.’
Despite being underage, her mum took her out onto the city’s gay scene, reassuring questioning bouncers that she’d be looking after her. ‘That was really a special Pride,’ she remembers. ‘You had dinner and drinks while drag shows were happening. I thought, “Oh my God, why didn't I do this before?” I just loved the experience.’
All these years on and Capitán – whose clever and curious multi-disciplinary work comes in the form of photography, painting, books, and installations – has used her highly-recognizable artistic handwriting to create this series of PRIDE IS PRIDE IS PRIDE T-shirts, which play with notions of sexuality, gender and love.
We caught up with Capitán from her new studio base in Mallorca to hear more about her distinctive writing style, its messages and the conflicting need for a sense of both individuality and community.
ON LIVING BETWEEN LONDON AND MALLORCA
‘I'm going to spend most of the summer here in the island, I just love it here. I wanted to have a space a little bit further away from the big city. I love London, it's amazing, but I’ve got to a point in my life and my career in which I need a little bit more peace. When I want to paint, or do ceramics or sculpture, I need a larger space. It's so much easier to do it here. And if I need to come to London, it's only a two-hour flight away.’
ON GROWING UP IN AN ALMODÓVAR MOVIE
‘Growing up in Seville was like an Almodóvar movie. Almodóvar’s movies are not that far from the Spanish reality that many of us grew up into. I love the way in which Almodóvar paints a portrait of the spectrum of gender and its cultural clashes with the Spanish society. It’s humorous, at times atrocious, at times sad but ultimately human and real. Nobody has ever portrayed better what it meant to be ‘different’ in Spain from the 80s onwards. I have known of gay people who have married partners of the opposite sex in order to please their families, but then they have a secret life. It’s unfortunate, not to be able to be who you are in the presence of the ones who are closest to you. I was blessed with a family who loved me because of who I was, and the older I become the more aware I am of how privileged I have been in that sense.’
ON HER SIGNATURE WRITING
‘I started to write in capitals when I was a child because I thought that it was easier to understand. I have notebooks and notebooks. I used to write them just for myself and it never occurred to me that they could be art, or that anyone would be interested in them. At some point trusted friends started to say, “I think the writing is sometimes more interesting than the art piece”, so I started sharing them online and it started to evolve from there. I want to connect through feeling or an experience. I don't want to over-intellectualize what I'm writing. Poets are focused on bringing a message to you, so I guess I try to do the same thing: really communicate a feeling.’
ON HER PRIDE T-SHIRTS
‘The first was ALWAYS LOVE BECAUSE LOVE IS ALWAYS LOVE. It was just about inclusivity and how you should love anyone you want. There should be no limit and no impediment. Loving someone is always a good thing. And with the other two T-shirts, I wanted to play a little bit with gender orientation. With A BOYFRIEND CALLED MY GIRLFRIEND, I wanted to highlight how there are so many attributes in a person that can be either masculine or feminine that are attractive to me. My partner happens to be a woman, but I think there are many parts of her personality which feel ‘masculine’ to me, or at least match the old notions of masculinity. What I find most attractive in her is the many traits that make her personality without being gender specific.’
ON COMMUNITY AND INDIVIDUALITY
‘I think of myself as an individual, perhaps with some gay and queer traits, but I don’t think my gender or sexual orientation ultimately defines who I am. I hang out with people who identify themselves as being at different points of the gender and sexual spectrum. I cannot imagine anyone who’s known love and friendship putting a limit based solely on characteristics that are merely circumstantial and now more than ever – to me everyone is to be referred to as how they claim to feel and be. And about the rest… why should it matter to me who someone loves or who they happen to sleep with? Love is the most powerful thing. Love is ‘the thing’. Who could think of putting a limit to it? And the same applies to dignity and respect, which are just two extensions of love.’
‘You should love anyone you want. There should be no limit and no impediment. Loving someone is always a good thing.’
ON HONOURING THE PAST
‘Being able to say you feel proud has come in a time and a place. We mustn’t forget how for many years being openly LGBTQ+ wasn’t only a risk and often not an option; being gay simply didn’t exist for many people! It's a very different situation now, but we must not forget all the battles which took place before, like the HIV/AIDS crisis. I am thankful to the many who made it possible for me to able to exist just as who I am without having to give so many explanations. And yet, it upsets me to think that this privilege of being able to be me, is still a right that many are deprived from. We cannot claim victory until everyone - and this is everyone in the gender and sexual spectrum, independent to race, geopolitical location, religion or wealth - can enjoy the right to be who they are and love who they damn please.'
ON THE EVOLUTION OF MASCULINITY
‘Bullfighting is big in Seville and it’s a very masculine sport, but it's also super gay. All those colours! As traditional as it can be, the south of Spain is more gender-fluid than one might expect. It just reminds us that our current concept of masculinity only comes from the last century. It’s actually quite a new concept. We mustn’t forget what it was like being masculine in Louis XVI’s court in France, with men wearing heels and make-up. If I had been a boy, I would definitely have dressed ‘as a girl’ pretty often, because it's so much fun to wear a wig, make-up and high heels. Why do we have to be restrained into not trying things? I think that everyone should play around with gender. Drag has existed across history in English pantomimes and Noh singing in Japanese theatre. I think it's very healthy for everyone to express both their masculine and feminine sides at any point. I don't think there should be strict rule. There is a bit of man and a woman in all of us. We are just humans.'
Words by Stuart Brumfitt
Discover the COS x Coco Capitán (@cococapitan) limited-edition T-shirt capsule collection, featuring three exclusive designs by Coco. 100% of the proceeds from sales of this collaboration will be donated to various charities such as the Kaleidoscope Trust, The Trevor Project, Outline and Black Rainbow.