Brave, unapoligetic and wild. Ask anyone about Hugo’s work and you’ll most likely get one of these words. Not tied to a simple medium, Hugo brings to the NFT Space the gift of defiance. In an ocean of beauty, vanilla and consumer focused art, Hugo stands tall and naked, waving a flag of freedom and calling us all to be ourselves, not matter who we are.
Hugo, you’re an experimentalist, however you come from a more formal and strict professional background. Would you tell us a bit about how you became this artist we know today?
I’d say the corporate part of my career was an interlude actually. I was a creative child and adventurous, theatrical teenager, but for lack of examples of artistic career possibilities in my entourage, I ended up with a business degree and spent a handful of years in the corporate trading world. No regrets though as it made me a global citizen and that obviously prepared me to think large scale when I finally realized I was meant to make and work with art full time.
Your pieces break expectations, boundaries and standards. Your mediums vary from photography, video, performance and even writing. But always with the same premise: freedom to the body. Would you say your art is the message itself?
What I can say is when I started making art I was facing a strong disconnect about who I finally found out I was and who I had projected to the world so far, so I came to put myself – body and soul – in the center of my creation, as if trying to prove myself and the world this person here could be anything he chose to. This resonated so well with the public that I realized this struggle of mine was actually everybody’s. Some people just more self aware than others.
What are the struggles of depicting the male body to a society who’s not used to it?
Most people will avoid you and your work, because the naked body is a place of intimacy and vulnerability, something most men prefer to hide. You get used to being seen as a threat or a risk by most. And since this kind of representation isn’t commonplace like the sight of nude female bodies, others will misinterpret you and reduce your intent to mere sexualization, which is all they’re used to consuming in terms of male representation. The challenge then becomes to surprise and break the expectations of both the conservative and the sexually avid audiences.
Have you ever suffered any kind of censorship?
Always. I’ve had two social media accounts taken down, a play about censorship trimmed down and dressed up by the very institution which commissioned it, another play canceled on the eve of the presentation by the religious mayor of Rio, and even an official sales tweet deleted by Foundation a few minutes after being posted by the sales bot. This is not to mention all the passive censoring by simply not being chosen for features, open calls etc and the self-censoring that we inevitably do in order to avoid the cases mentioned above.
The NFT space is said to be avant garde and we even state we’re living a digital Renaissance. However when it comes to nudity, we remain in the same place we were 1000 years ago, depicting the same subjects most of the time. Do you agree? Any ideas on how to change this scenario?
I actually didn’t know it was THAT bad and unbalanced until I joined the NFT space, because before I dwelled mostly in my own small bubble of artistic progressiveness, queerness and acceptance, where I can say the discussions about body and identity are on a much higher level. Then you go global and you realize how bad the situation is in the tech avant garde world in terms of diversity. Digital Renaissance, but for whom?
You’re very comfortable with your nudity and your body. What kind of tips do you have for those who want to be at peace with their bodies?
Start by photographing yourself, not taking the usual selfie but with the timer. Experiment picturing yourself from different angles and forget about trying to look beautiful. This exercise helps us find out we are actually many more different versions of ourselves than we are used to seeing. The next step then is to be photographed by another, totally relinquishing control of your body image. It’s liberating.
When and how did you learn about NFTs?
It was my mother – my greatest supporter – who first sent me an article about NFTs in January 2021. Then a close friend sent me another the following day. I had only superficial knowledge of crypto but hadn’t been in touch with the community yet. Timely, I transferred the little crypto I had to a self custodial wallet and started picking works to mint.
When you’re depleted of inspiration, what drives you to keep going?
I am never hahaha! Or at least I don’t have time to feel depleted or uninspired. I am always so full of ideas and projects that I’m often drowned under everything I’m trying to do and lacking time and focus to execute them. I’m not good with planning so some of my best work took just hours or a few days to go from idea to execution. Basically, I believe the best work is the work you put out there, but of course that’s what works for me and not necessarily for everyone.
How do you think NFTs are changing the way we experience art?
NFTs finally made owning art possible in the digital world, and more and more we spend most of our waking hours in the digital, virtual, or the metaverse realm. The public, social aspect of owning art on the blockchain is completely game changing and is going to make collecting art accessible and enjoyable to a LOT more people. It’s going to be a much more beautiful and plentiful world.
What’s your ultimate goal as an artist?
My main goal is to help make the art spaces, especially the art markets, inclusive to all artists no matter their origin and the subject of their art. I see all around me too many written and unspoken rules about how and what to make to be accepted and successful. My path as an artist has always been one of constantly pushing and crossing the lines that separate niche from mainstream, ghetto from pop; hacking the central spaces to drop the fringe art right in their faces is what I think I can contribute the most.
Hugo it’s always a pleasure talking to you. You inspire many artists who also seek to free themselves from the handcuffs of censorship in all its forms. Thank you for being this beacon of liberty and allowing us to be offended and learning more about ourselves in the process.