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Regina José Galindo

Coco Fusco | PARSONS The NEW SCHOOl for Design

Regina Galindo does things to herself, or more specifically to her body, that hurt. She ties herself up, carves epithets into her skin with a knife, injects sedatives into her veins. She gets hosed down, dumped naked in a trash heap, dragged by her hair, forcibly dunked in water, and confined to a prison cell. She invites people to cut hair off, draw her blood and take her clothes –- in exchange for money.

These masochistic gestures resemble well-known body art performances from the 1970s, when many artists in Europe and America manipulated their own flesh as sculptural material to test their mental and physical limits. Like those artists, Galindo gives herself over to the gaze of others, allowing herself to be controlled by them. And like those artists, she keeps her gestures minimal, repetitive and devoid of spoken language. Interestingly, she turned to performance without formal art training, after a brief foray into poetry. Her visceral gestures form potent poetic metaphors.

Galindo distinguishes herself from the body artists of the 70s by refusing to suppress the narrative dimension of her actions or the social contexts from which they emerge. History is thus allowed to speak and Galindo’s silent movements are in dialogue with it. Some of her works refer directly to the history of political violence in her native country of Guatemala, but many are expressive of the widespread economic polarities and fractured political orders that pervade the Global South. Her work takes us into the dark side of many cities where the scenes of subjection that she draws on are routine and rarely acknowledged.

When the white walls of a gallery threaten to abstract her gestures, the evocative titles and tersely factual descriptions force the violent social realities that she comments upon back into the scene. When she presents her work in her home town of Guatemala City, it is the setting that frames the gesture and imparts meaning. In ¿Quien puede borrar las huellas? (2003) she walked in from the Constitutional Court to the National Palace after dipping her feet in human blood, the sanguine line created by her traces alluded to decades of genocide and the persistence of impunity. Some of her other backdrops are more generic—such as the dim, dank room where a heavy set man repeatedly dunks her head into a barrel—but they remind us of histories of political repression and torture that scar all Central American countries, and most of Latin America.

The socio-political inflection of Galindo’s work locates her practice within a distinctly Latin American variant of Conceptual Art, which, as art historian Mari Carmen Ramirez has noted, “extends the North American critique of institutions and practices to an analysis of political and social issues.”1 The political-conceptual artists of the 1970s and 1980s from the Southern Cone took their so-called peripheral condition as a point of departure, and looked critically on the region’s failed attempts at modernization and democratic governance. They responded to American cultural imperialism, underdevelopment and authoritarianism. However, unlike the political art of previous eras that stressed the message imparted by content, the new practices focused on deconstructing visual and linguistic codes, and “activating space in order to impress on the viewers the effects of mechanisms of power and ideology.”2

Galindo’s work emerges in the wake of the 1996 Peace Accords that brought more than thirty years of civil war to a close. She notes that there was a momentary public sentiment of optimism, and several art festivals were organized after the accords, which artists saw as an opportunity to use the streets and public buildings for their works, being that cultural institutions and formalized spaces for contemporary art were virtually non-existent. The euphoria of hope, however, was quickly undermined by new waves of violence and the persistence of impunity. Several artists, nonetheless, continue to use public space to create their artistic commentaries on the turbulence of their recent past and present. Galindo’s performances have transported this local history to the world stage.


Coco Fusco is a New York-based interdisciplinary artist, writer, and Chair of the Fine Art Department at Parsons/The New School for Design. She has performed, lectured, exhibited, and curated around the world since 1988. She is a recipient of a 2003 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts. Fusco's performances and videos have been included in such events as the Sydney Biennale, The Johannesburg Biennial, The Kwangju Biennale, The Shanghai Biennale, InSite O5, Transmediale, The London International Theatre Festival, VideoBrasil and Performa05. She is the author of English is Broken Here: Notes on Cultural Fusion in the Americas (1995) and The Bodies that Were Not Ours and Other Writings (2001), and A Field Guide for Female Interrogators (2008). She is also the editor of Corpus Delecti: Performance Art of the Americas (1999) and Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self (2003).

1 Ramirez, Mari Carmen, “Blueprint Circuits: Conceptual Art and Politics in Latin America,” in Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, eds. Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000), p. 551.

2 Ibid. p. 557.