Tuesday, October 2, 2012


The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, always falls sometime in September.  Eight days later comes Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Rosh Hashanah for me always meant apples and honey, and an afternoon party with Jewish family members.  Yom Kippur was always the day I tried to fast with my mother, but I usually only made it through the morning.
  When I was about ten years old I had a profound break with Judaism, based on my very literal understanding of our rabbi's explanation of Yom Kippur.  I heard him say that as long as a person told God they were sorry for whatever bad thing they had done, God would forgive him and re-inscribe him in the Book of Life for another year.  "But that's not right!"  I shrieked to my mother. "If you kill someone God should not forgive you!"  I refused to go back to synagogue.
  Years later I understand that the rabbi meant Jews should use the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to try to resolve problems with other people, and with God.
  I created my action as an adaptation of taschlich, a traditional ritual from this time of year in which people throw bread into a body of water, and the water carries away the bread as though it were carrying away our sins.

El ano nuevo judío, Rosh Hashanah, siempre cae en algún día de septiembre.  Ocho días después viene Yom Kippur, Dia de la Expiación.
Rosh Hashanah para mi siempre significaba manzanas con miel, y una fiesta por la tarde con familiares judíos.  Yom Kippur siempre era el día en que intentaba ayunar con mi madre, pero normalmente solo aguantaba hasta el mediodía.
  Cuando tenia 10 anos me rompí profundamente con judaísmo, en base de mi comprensión muy literal de la explicación del rabbi sobre Yom Kippur.  Yo lo entendi decir que tan pronto como una persona pedía disculpas de Dios por cualquier transgresión, que Dios lo perdonaría y lo reinscribiria en el Libro de la Vida para otro ano.
"Pero eso no es correcto" grite a mi mama. "Si mates a alguien Dios no te debía perdonar!"  Rehusia regresar a la sinagoga.
Anos después entiendo que el rabbi quería decir que los judíos deben usar el tiempo entre Rosh Hashanah y Yom Kippur para resolver problemas con otras personas, y con Dios.
 Mi acción es una adaptación de taschlich, un rito tradicional en que la gente tira pan al agua, y el agua lleva el pan como si fuera los pecados del ano viejo.

For my action I put on a white dress
and bright blue rubber gloves, the kind used to wash dishes.

Para mi acción me puse un vestido blanco
y guantes de goma azul celeste, el tipo que se usa para lavar platos

I wrestled a large blender out of a suitcase.

Luché para sacar una licuadora grande de una maleta.

I wrote onto slips of paper things I would like to leave behind in the old year:

Escribi en papelitos cosas que quisiera dejar detrás en el ano viejo:

Antic Teatre, Barcelona, Corpologia - Denys Blacker

I tore them up and put them in a blender.
I added some water from a bright blue watering pail.

Deshice los papelitos y los metí en la licaudora
Eche agua de una regadera de color azul celeste.

photo by Denys Blacker

I turned on the blender.

Encendí la licuadora.

photo by Denys Blacker

I wrote onto slips of paper things I would like to cultivate in the new year.
Good communication

Escribí en papelitos cosas que quiero cultivar en al ano nuevo:
Buenas comunicaciones

I poured the contents of the blender into a metal bucket.
I poured some earth into the bucket.
I crumpled up and 'planted' each piece of paper in the earth.
I watered my 'seeds' from the blight blue watering can.
I planted some plastic flowers in the earth.
I walked away.

Eché el contenido de la licuadora en un cubo de metal.
Eché tierra encima.
Arrugé a los papelitos y los 'sembré' en la tierra.
Regué mis 'semillas' de la regadera azul celeste.
Puse algunas flores plásticos en la tierra.
Me fui.
photo by Denys Blacker

'Vocabulary' Revisited

Segunda Jornada Internacional de Arte de Accion de Pumarejo
Sevilla, Spain

I try to be a good intellectual artist, I really do.  I read my theory and criticism.  But despite, or perhaps because of, my best efforts, I find myself lost in a sea of jargon.

JIAAP, Sevailla 

It sometimes seems to me that instead of articulating key points about performance, the artistic vocabulary obfuscates.

So I visited the bookstore at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona, and started a list of words from the books in the section on criticism and theory:

JIAAP, Sevilla - M. Reyes

I wrote these words in large font across a scroll of paper several meters in length.

Within the performance space I read these words as though they were forming complete sentences that make sense.

I continue to read them until they are nothing but hypnotic syllables.

Then, borrowing a page from Yves Klein, art fights back.

M. Reyes

Open Hand Open Space Gallery, Roves and Roams productions, Reading, UK 
Lucy Ann Hobbs

I cover myself in blue paint of a hue approaching Klein International Blue, and I start to make body prints over the words.

JIAAP, Sevilla - M. Reyes

It becomes quite physical.  I bring the art back to the language with my body and the paint together.

JIAAP, Sevilla, - Domix Garrido- 
Roves and Roams, Reading, UK - Lucy Ann Hobbs

I complete the reclaiming of the language with cleansing fire.

Sevilla - M Reyes

Sevilla M. Reyes

Reading, UK - Lucy Ann Hobbs

Video de JIAAP, Sevilla January 2012

Monday, October 1, 2012

Stigma Transformed

The seed for this piece germinated in 2010 when I read a book about Jews hiding in plain sight in Poland during the World War II period.  They changed their names, straightened and lightened their hair, and tried to lighten their skin in an effort to 'pass' as white Christians.

Miami Performance International Festival - Alexei Tellerias

I made a list of all of my personal characteristics that could be stigmatized here or somewhere in the world, now or at sometime in history:

on medication
in therapy
accidental homicide
mixed marriage
IMAF Festival, Serbia

I had someone write the list on my skin with a paint only soluble with alcohol - that is, not removable with water.
Miami Performance International Festival - Alexei Tellerias

At first I had the writing of the words take place in preparation for the performance, until I realized that the process of writing on my skin represented the stigmatizing transformation of my personal characteristics.  At that point I decided to invited members of the public to write on me, to socially implicate them in this structure we all co-create.

Miami Performance International Festival - Alexei Tellerias
Dimanche Rouge, Petit Bain, Paris - Eliane Akl

                        Miami - Alexei Tellerias

After the words are written I become aware of their presence, and I try to rub them off, which doesn't work.  I try to hide them, whether with other parts of my body or with the surrounding architecture.  Of course I cannot hide all the words simultaneously; it is a futile effort.

Abierto de Accion Express, Madrid - Mario Gutierrez Cru
Dimanche Rouge, Paris - Emilia Lombardo

Madrid - Mario Gutierrez Cru

Untitled Gallery, Barcelona - Catherine Sarah Young

Untitled Barcelona - Catherine Sarah Young

After this phase I begin to seek chemical assistance to cover up my stigmas - in the ingredients for a cake.
(sometimes) chocolate
 Paris - Emilia Lombardo

I begin to make a cake on my very skin.

Madrid - Mario Gutierrez Cru

Madrid - Mario Gutierrez Cru

This is where the magic realism comes in:  I take out from hiding a fully baked cake, implying that this has come from my skin.  In different places I have had very different cakes, from the series of cakes I baked at home in Barcelona to a tres leeches cake in Miami.  I either cut the word 'STIGMA' out of the cake or I write in on top with frosting.  I then serve the cake to the public, and the stigma is consumed and transformed.

Miami - Alexei Tellerias
Paris - Eliane Akl

Video de Miami Performance International Festival
July 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Nevertheless" Travels

What physically embodied metaphor aptly expresses, simultaneously, our fragility, both as individual bodies and as societies, and our resilience?

This past couple of years I have had the opportunity to perform versions of "Nevertheless" in Paris, Belgrade, Tegucigalpa, Madrid, Barcelona, Miami, New York and Berlin.  The piece has changed and evolved to implicate the audience more in the action.  I used to lay out all the eggs myself before the action officially began.
El Papiolet, near Barcelona, Spain - Manuela Bernasconi

  I now hand out eggs to everyone in the audience at the beginning.  I ask them to notice the egg's weight, it's temperature, it's texture, color, and form.  I ask them to consider the life cycle of an egg, and what eggs mean to them.

Miami Beach Botanical Garden, Miami Performance International Festival, USA

Then I ask people to place their eggs somewhere in the performance space:

Grace Exhibition Space, Brooklyn, NY, USA - Ryan Hawk

Sometimes people place the eggs at random, and other times they take great care in laying out patterns or designs.

Miami Beach
Dimanche Rouge, Petit Bain, Paris, France - Melanie Boisvert
Grace Space - Ryan Hawk

Next I place myself in a fetal position at one extreme end of the space.

Political Performance Symposium, Belgrade, Serbia - Lee Campbell

Internal energy builds, and I vibrate and twitch until something releases and I unfurl. As I unfold perhaps my head, perhaps my hip, perhaps my knee falls upon and breaks the first egg. The sound of the crack travels and occupies the full attention of the public.

Gravity appears heavier than usual, and directed toward the opposite end of the field. My feet, thighs, skull, knees, hips, shoulders, stomach sometimes caress and sometimes land square on the eggs. Sometimes, many times the egg crunches and crumples, yellow yolks spreading, and other times the egg remains whole.  I slowly, with articulation of limbs, make my way to the other end of the field. 

Miami Beach

Dimanche Rouge, Petit Bain, Paris, France - Melanie Boisvert

Centro Cultural de Espana, Tegucigalpa, Honduras - by Victoria Martinez

Miami Beach, Cesar Mieses

Paris, Eliane Akl

Miami Beach, Cesar Mieses
I finally reach the other end of the field. I stop, turn and survey what has transpired, implicitly asking the audience to do the same. We all see how many eggs have broken, but we also notice how many eggs are still whole, surprisingly many. I gather up a surviving egg or two in my hands, contemplating and appreciating.

From here the ending has varied, depending on the site and the energy in the moment.  I may gather up the surviving eggs, return them to their cartons, and offer them to the public.  Members of the public may help me gather the eggs.  I may also leave the scene for the public to consider for a time.

Interpretations by the public have varied from the macro-political to the very personal, from metaphors for war, hunger and geo-political domination to the the inevitable accidents and small destructions we encounter in daily life.

A note on nudity:  At first I performed 'Nevertheless' fully clothed.  I avoided nudity because I found it too distracting from the premise of the piece.  Over time I decided that a nude body could interact on a more elemental level with the eggs, and that I found the clothes distracting.  A couple of times I performed wearing only underwear out of a strange modesty, and I received feedback that the lines of the clothing ruined the approximation of my form in a fetal position to that of the egg. 

The color of the field underlying the eggs has varied.  In cases where I could lay the eggs directly on the ground the color was that of concrete or the grey paint of the floor.  In places where a quick clean-up was required I have used plastic of different colors: bright green, fuchsia, and red.