The Museum of Art describes “Performance Art” as a form of art in which the performer’s body serves as the medium. The first real movement of performance art was in the 1960’s, and the MoMA notes that it normally consists of time, space, the performer’s body, and the audience’s reaction to it. The Visual Art Center on Campus is very excited to announce its very own exhibition of performance art, Regina José Galindo: Bearing Witness.
The Van Every/Smith Gallery curator, Lia Newman, introduced Galindo and her work. Born in Guatemala City, Guatemala, Galindo was ushered into a time of political turmoil marked by a bloody civil war and years of military dictatorship. Her artwork is an attempt to capture and illuminate the oppression found in a country riddled with street violence, brutality against women, and political corruption.
Her performance art has received international recognition and acclaim, including a Gold Lion Award for Best Artist Under 35 from The 51st Venice Biennial and a Grand Prize at The 29th Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts in Ljubljana, Slovenia in 2011. Galindo has been known to push her body to physical limits as a way of expressing trauma. In an attempt to point out the danger of discriminatory language used to describe women, Galindo used a knife to carve “perra” (“bitch”) into her thigh; in an attempt to send a message about the political corruption facing Guatemala, Galindo walked from the Constitutional Court to the National Palace and drenched her feet in human blood. In an attempt to highlight the issues of power and aggression, Galindo trapped herself in a plastic dome, and “aggressors” beat on the roof in the middle of a city street. Interestingly, much of her work depends on the action or empathy of bystanders.
In her commissioned work for Davidson entitled “A Latino Near You,” Galindo will walk around the VAC and the surrounding area with a tracking device, similar to the ones that migrant workers wear once they are released from custody. Her whereabouts will be projected onto a screen in the gallery to create what she calls an “electronic painting.” This will take place during the reception, and afterwards the documentation from the event will stay on display in the VAC.
I got a chance to see a sneak peak of the gallery on Monday, and I was certainly struck by the visually appealing and almost disturbing images. The exhibit features twenty-three of her previous performances documented through photos, videos, and various objects. Her work for Davidson will be the largest work of hers commissioned in the United States. Furthermore, her work has never been shown in North Carolina, so this exhibit will be unprecedented in more ways than one. According to the latest Mecklenburg County Census, Charlotte has experienced a growth rate in the Latino population, around 11 percent since 2010, making her work especially topical.
Although she does not consider her work to be activism, Galindo is undoubtedly making a statement. Lia Newman, curator of the VAC, says that Galindo considers her work vital to her own self-expression. She hopes instead that audience members will walk away more aware of social justice issues and the dangers of selective amnesia. Her art is almost an acquired taste, and it requires critical thinking on the part of the audience. The messages conveyed in her work are far too important to be written off as “weird.” You don’t have to be an art lover to enjoy this exhibit, especially since the art work is far from conventional.
However, if you have a socially conscious spirit and a desire for justice, “A Latino Near You” and the rest of Galindo’s work has the potential to open your eyes, but only if you let it.
The performance and reception will be held on September 17th from 6-8 pm, and an informal artist talk with be held at the Multicultural House at 6 pm on September 16th. The show runs from September 10th to October 25th at the Visual Arts Center located across Main Street.