Kiam Marcelo Junio is a multidisciplinary artist living in Chicago, IL. They work in multiple media, including photography, video, printmaking, installation, burlesque, and performance art. Their research and artwork tend to center around queer identities, the Filipino American diaspora, post-colonialist Asian American tropes and stereotypes, and military and civilian power dynamics. Jerry Blossom is Kiam’s alter-ego, a genderqueer Filipino femme-presenting persona who hails from an alternate post-queer, post-colonialist utopia. Kiam served seven years in the US Navy. They were born in the Philippines and has lived in the US, Japan, and Spain. They are also a registered Yoga teacher and a star in the upcoming #OpenTVPresents episode, Nupita Obama Creates Vogua.
Kiam, you have a lot of talents; what are some of your favorite mediums to work with?
I have a different favorite medium every week! Whether it's fashion design, installation, performance, poetry, video, or photography, the medium is really secondary to the intent of the work. So it depends on the project I'm currently working on. Luckily, my work feels pretty seamless, because it's all rooted from the same place, the emotional, personal, social, and spiritual dimensions of identity - the malleability and strength in the rootedness of that - as queer, as a person of color, and as a member of this contemporary society.
But more specifically and currently, I'm really enjoying working with video, and doing a lot of movement research influenced by yoga and butoh.
Can you share a bit about your artistic background?
I've known I was an artist since I was a kid. I was making my own paper dolls and designing their outfits before I even learned how to read. My first solo performance was singing at my Kindergarten graduation. I was recovering from chickenpox, but I begged my guardians to take me to the ceremony so I could perform. In middle and high school I was in choir every year, and I did a lot of illustration, graphic design, poetry, and songwriting.
I fell in love with photography while I was in the US Navy. Being queer in the service during Don't Ask Don't Tell, the camera provided me with a psychological barrier, a sense of protection. When I separated from the military in 2011, I began studying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where I felt a lot more freedom to experiment with new mediums (performance, printmaking, video, installation, hybrid forms). Since graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2013, I've been doing the artist hustle, performing, showing in galleries, presenting at artist talks and guest lectures. It's been a lovely ride so far, and I'm very thankful to have a platform, if not several, to make a mark on the world.
What drew you to the Open TV project?
Aymar approached me with the idea for Vogua (before we had Nupita's name down), and I jumped in right away. We talked a lot about the general lack of representation of queer people of color in mainstream media, and how web shows are really changing the landscape of creative distribution. The old system is not only dated and broken - its unfair in its structure and practice, and I think everyone is waking up to these facts. We need new and diverse stories that give voice to those unheard, misunderstood, and underrepresented. As queer people of color, or any other marginalized community, we need our own platform, to produce material on our own terms, for our own and one another's liberation. I think that's what OpenTV is really seeking to do.
The best part of the project for me was getting to work with such amazing people. Aymar, Saya, Erik and I have been friends for a while, so I knew that this would be a perfect project to pool all of our talents together.
If you can list one thing that inspires you about the past, present and future: what would it be?
Past: my memories as a child in the Philippines
Present: my peers/friends/collaborators
Future: the possibility of freedom
Since we've wrapped production on #OpenTVPresents Nupita Obama Creates Vogua what have you been cooking up?
I'm also collaborating with several other artists for new projects, and am planning to present a solo show with new work this fall. Additionally, I'm working on several looks for my QIAM fashion line to wear and sell this spring and summer.
You pull a lot of inspiration from the world around you but how do you specifically overcome a creative block?
I spend a lot of time with my friends / chosen family, and talk with my sisters. It helps to find my roots again, and also to be open to inspiration from the amazing things my peers are doing. I do a lot of self-care, yoga, meditation, and self-affirmation. And of course I love cooking, even for myself.
Describe your personality in three words that begin with the letter K:
Kaleidoscopic: Constantly shifting or changing, a complex mix of elements, multifaceted.
Karma: All actions have causes and consequences. Energy reverberates eternally, and simultaneously bounces back.
Kapwa: "Kapwa, meaning 'togetherness', is the core construct of Filipino Psychology. Kapwa refers to community; not doing things alone..." (via Wikipedia)