Eva's Pages

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Artists Reach Out: Christopher “Unpezverde” Núñez

Dear friends,

Welcome to Artists Reach Out: reflections in a time of isolation. I dreamed this series of interviews out of grief for my work both as a documenting arts writer and curator of live performance. In this time of social distancing, we are called to responsibly do all we can to safeguard ourselves and our neighbors. It is, literally, a matter of life and death.

But there's no distancing around what we still can share with one another--our experiences, thoughts, wisdom, humor, hearts and spirit. In some ways, there are more opportunities to do so as we pull back from everyday busyness out in the world and have time to honor the call of our inner lives.

So, let me introduce you to some artists I find interesting. I'm glad they're part of our beautiful community, and I'm eager to engage with them again (or for the first time) in years to come.

--Eva Yaa Asantewaa, InfiniteBody


Christopher “Unpezverde” Núñez

Christopher "Unpezverde" Núñez
(photo: Ariela Muñoz)

(b. Costa Rica) Christopher “Unpezverde” Núñez is a Visually Impaired Choreographer, Performance Artist, Curator and Arts Educator based in New York City. In New York, his performances have been presented at The Brooklyn Museum (The Immigrant Artist Biennale), The Kitchen, Movement Research at The Judson Church, Danspace Project, The Leslie Lohman Museum for Gay and Lesbian Art, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dixon Place and Performance is Alive at Satellite Art Show (NYC and Miami). He  has performed internationally in countries like Peru, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica and The United States. His work has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, The Dance Enthusiast and The Archive: Journal of The Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, a bi-annual journal. He has held residencies at New Dance Alliance (LiftOff, 2018), Battery Dance Studios (Space Grant, 2017-2019), The Kitchen (DAP, 2019) and Center for Performance Research (AIR, 2020). Núñez has collaborated with world-renowned artists such as Nacera Belaza (France), Christophe Haleb (France) and Mark Sieczkarek (Germany). Most recently, he performed in Dressing Up for Civil Rights by William Pope L, presented at MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art. Núñez holds a BFA in Science in Performing Arts from the National University of Costa Rica.


Photo by Rachel Rampleman
Courtesy of Performance Is Alive

Photo by Walter Wlodarczyk
Courtesy of The Immigrant Artist Biennale [TIAB]


Do you have a current or planned project whose progress is affected by the pandemic?

Yes. I was starting a series of workshops on visual impairment in dance and had a commission with a dance company under the same type of exploration that I had titled Dreamscapes for its creative nature beyond the visual experience we are used to in dance. Earlier this year, I also started a residency at the Center for Performance Research that focuses on transcribing movement into text and eventually to Braille for visually impaired dance makers and audiences.

Everything is on pause. Due to the nature of my work, being present in space is essential. Every day I think about how I can use technology to continue a process through the Internet but all this pandemic experience has exposed the disadvantage that we--people with visual impairment and the disabled community in general--experienced on a daily basis. Many cultural organizations, theaters, dance companies, and so forth, do not have accessible websites for the blind or low-vision people. This makes the job even more difficult if not impossible for many of us.

Briefly, tell me about how you got involved in the arts and in your particular practice. In a more specific way, what are you practicing? And what are you envisioning?

I was not born visually impaired. My visual impairment is the result of domestic violence. At the age of 5, I lost the vision of my right eye. I cannot distinguish volume or distance. As a result I experienced a lot of trauma. The doctor recommended my mom put me in dance classes to help me understand space, its depth, and how to share it with other bodies. We were very poor but there were free classes in the public library. That’s how I started to dance. Dance was and is therapy for me. I have learned to survive thanks to it.

When I started dancing professionally people advised me not to talk about my disability because nobody wanted to work with disabled dancers. But all the work that I had done in isolation in the studio on spatial perception, proprioception, and embodied  imagination began to infiltrate my choreographic practice.

My practice involves accessibility tools for blind people such as audio description, wayfinding, dance through touch, Braille, among others. Tools that I used in the privacy of my creative process. But, over time, I understood that my creative process is also my art, my beginning and my final product. I decided to share it with the audience. Let people understand how a visually-impaired dancer works. I decided to be honest and find beauty and poetry in what makes us different.

How does your practice and your visioning align with what you most care about?

What matters most to me is justice. My practice is inclusive and invites all audiences. Aside from my visual impairment, I identify as queer and lived undocumented in the United States for four years. I know invisibility and how to survive on a wide spectrum within it. But I recognize now that this social revolution we are experiencing invites us to talk openly about our experiences in favor of justice and to keep fighting for the space that is owed to us.

How does your practice function within the world we have now?

I like to think of this answer in reverse: How does the world we have now function within the practice I have?

My practice is a form of revolution and activism that invites people to see the world from a different perspective. Jonathan Burrows describes my sentiment very well in his book A Choreographer’s Handbook as follows: Audiences like uncompromised work. People with disabilities make incredible efforts every day to adapt to a world that is not intended for us.

I’d like to think that my work is uncompromised but intended for everybody. The many layers that compose it open up space for negotiation between disabled and non-disabled people.

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DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve as Senior Curatorial Director of Gibney. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.

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