// about //
In the spirit of Día de Muertos, "49 Fantasmas" is a virtual altar, inviting the ghosts of the Orlando 49 to commune with the living. This project was born as a collaboration between O.K. Keyes and Danny Flores, two media artists from Columbia, SC. Growing up as trans youth in the South, very often the virtual space was the first place that we experienced “becoming” ourselves. It took the physical realm a little bit longer to catch up with us. There’s been a lot of feels throughout the process of making this. But from our glitches, crashes, and breakdowns, we hope to have created a space that feels welcoming - albeit a bit messy and not without a bug or two.
// notes from flores //
When I heard the news about the tragedy that happened in Orlando my heart sank and I felt so much pain. Not because I knew any of the people there, but because I didn’t know any of the people there, and now I had no way of meeting them. It was painful to see the community that I stand for be torn apart by one person.
For the next couple of weeks, O.K. Keyes and a lot of my queer friends who understood what this meant to me asked me and made sure I was okay. Later, Keyes suggested that I make a piece on this tragedy because it would really be powerful since it would be from a queer latino, but I put it off for months. The wounds from this tragedy were still really fresh. I remember not wanting to look at the news, I’d close my laptop whenever I saw an article of Orlando online, and I didn’t even want to read their names. I was in denial because I knew that if I read about these people my heart would break.
But Dia De Los Muertos was approaching and Keyes asked me how I would feel about doing a collaboration piece with him. I was kind of worried about my emotional and mental state, but I agreed to work on this project with Keyes. I was tired of having my community being forgotten and pushed to the side, so I wanted to make sure that the voices of these 49 beautiful people would be heard and never forgotten.
While writing quotes for these ghosts I wanted to make sure that I knew at least a little about their lives and stories, so I did research on each one. Even though reading each of their stories filled me with sadness and anger I really appreciated being a part of this project and having to go through this process. I was able to learn a lot of things about these people, and that makes me feel really good because now I can share it with others so that their stories and lives and accomplishments are not forgotten. I don’t want them to be remembered as just a number. #DoNotDelete
// notes from keyes //
The day after Orlando, the first complete list of names was released. Beside each name was a photo from Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/etc. For some reason, I downloaded all 49 images and created a folder called "DoNotDelete." Those images sat on my computer for weeks until I reread Einstein's Dreams. I realized that I just like wanted to stop time. Make it go backwards. But it kept moving. I just decided to do something with that momentum for once. So I started editing them and creating these glitched portraits.
Glitching is process through which an image can be distorted through the deletion and manipulation of its code - it's binary code. And as I stared at these images, 0/1, ON/OFF, LIFE/DEATH, STRAIGHT/QUEER, BOY/GIRL, CITIZEN/IMMIGRANT, US/THEM, SELF/OTHER, MISSED/MISSING, LOSS/LOST. What was this sensation of loss that I was feeling? Why did I feel so lost? And then I realized why it was bothering me that my fellow white queer friends were writing #WeAreOrlando… because "We Are Not Orlando. Our Culture Caused Orlando."
Before this project, just a few days after Orlando, I had written an email to Danny, with whom I share what can best be described as a father-son relationship. I had felt a lot of pain and anguish and sense of loss. Because Danny is Orlando, and yet has no Orlando. In Columbia, there isn’t a queer Latinx community. An absence best described by another queer Latinx youth who shared that "Orlando was a dream that I didn’t know I could have until it was already a nightmare…" From that moment, I promised I would never forget these 49 lives nor would I ever erase the intersections of their lives, and do everything in my power to center their stories and their spirits in every way possible.