A queer Montreal artist from Spain, Coco Guzman, also known as Coco Riot creates art for activism. An avid visual artist/zine-maker, Coco’s work has also explored the storytelling possibilities of installations, animation film, comics, and print media.
Coco’s personal memories and experience of migration are a major source of inspiration for the social and political topics they explore through bright graphics and drawing. Coco’s drawings have been published in Shameless, Bitch, Pikara, Art Actuel and .dpi. Coco first began dabbling in zines in 2003 with the first issue of It’s Raining Dykes, a response to the lack of queer representation in zine culture. Since then they’ve created a diverse array of zines such as Llueven Queers, a graphic novel on queer life in Spanish, and “The secret (shhh) is eating mama’s head,” their latest zine for children. Coco is a trilingual artist, and their zines are in French, English and Spanish and have been translated in German and Italian.
Their installation, Genderpoo, has been shown across South America, Europe, Canada, and the U.S. It features more than eighty bathroom signs and a short animation film that aim to break down the limiting Western binary system of man/woman and pay tribute to the complex identities, bodies, and communities who fight for social justice and anti-oppression values.
Coco’s art has a playful streak, lending to its accessibility, but it’s also quite political in content. Their latest piece, Los Fantasmas, reflects on and honours silenced histories in Spain. In 2010, experts calculated that more than 200,000 bodies had been buried in mass graves during the Spanish war and during the years of Franco’s fascist dictatorship. Coco brings these past grievances to the present in order to give recognition to civilians who suffered greatly and never received any acknowledgement from the regime in power. In Coco’s contribution to Letters Lived, we get a sense of their difficult adolescence in Southern Spain as Coco writes to their 15 year old self:
“You and I have a very conflicted and dependent relationship. You are the teen I was, and I am the adult you dream of becoming. We are related, but also so far away. Between you and me there is a name change, a gender change, a continent change, a language change…the list goes on for a while.”
Coco’s letter is heartbreakingly poetic in structure and prose, and a beautiful example of the radical changes we can all strive for in our lives and work.