Friday, July 18, 2008
It is common to see stickers or drawings on buses in Nicaragua of Che next to the Nike 'swoosh', or the Virgin Mary next to the Apple of Mac computers. Here and in the US the images of revolutionary or counter-culture icons are plastered on t-shirts and teenagers because they are cool, not for any deep knowledge of their actions of complex beliefs. What happens when we remove all distance between the human icons and the commercial ones?
Che-Nike, printed on page from Paginas Amarillas, which by total random chance happened to be the page for 'Guevara'.
Malcolm X - Visa. Malcolm X's most famous quote was to achieve (justice) 'By any means necessary'.
Virgin Halliburton. Halliburton's slogan is 'Release the Energy'. They have received the majority of contract dollars from the US government's war in Iraq.
Nicologia is my name for the Nicaraguan ability to transform objects considered by others to be garbage into useful and often beautiful things. This ability is most obvious in poor communities, and thus is often rejected by people of greater means, who seek the shiniest, newest, most ostentatious of everything. My Nicologia project seeks to raise the profile of this national strength, and promote it as something 'cool', and as a tool for sustainable development.
I started with bottle cap jewelry. I now work with a nonprofit called NicaHope and group of teenagers whose families make their living scavenging in La Chureca, Managua's enormous dump. I collect bottle caps from several countries, and have allies who collect on our behalf. Coca Cola's representative in Managua has approached us with a proposal to make promotional items. Over the 2 years since I started wearing my 'trash' earrings public comment has shifted from calling me 'la gringa loca' to 'donde se puede comprar?'
My fellow artist Ariel Bravo and I decided to do a performative intervention at the inauguration of the Bienal of Arte Visuales in Managua. The jurors and patrons of the event thought we were part of one of the chosen pieces and had their photos taken with us for the press. We had many amusing and surprising interactions with the other attendees.
In Yoko Ono's Cut Piece she sat on a stage, handed scissors to an audience member, and invited them to cut her clothes off of her. It was during the Vietnam War, and the behavior of the cutters took on many different meanings. In my Cut Piece I also invited audience members to cut my clothes off of me, but rather than sit silently, I read from a scroll of newsclips, testimonies, and studies about sexual violence against girls in Latin America. On different occasions people cut with anger, sadness, tenderness, and great anxiety.
During my time in Nicaragua I did performance-therapy workshops with groups of women and girls, many of whom had been raped by male relatives or family friends. In general they are filled with shame, when of course it's the offenders who should be ashamed. In these workshops with survivors I wore black, and invited them to cut my dress as an affirmation, or a rejection of shame, symbolically cutting a piece out of their experience and claiming power over it. It was very moving. In most cases they did not say anything during the performance, but afterwards we had small discussions with counselors.
I did a special performance for a group art show in Nicaragua protesting President Ortega's nakedly political prohibition of ALL abortion, including cases of rape, incest, or serious threat to the pregnant girl/woman's life. For that show I read clips about the deaths and emotional torment resulting from the law, wearing a long white dress with a basketball lashed to my belly. The photo showing several men cutting is a multiple-exposure from a performance in Tijuana, an extremely violent city and portal of sex-trafficking of Mexican girls into the United States.
With each iteration I appreciate more Yoko Ono's genius in creating such a potent action/performance, capable of receiving so many projections of human emotion.