artist for president

by Raul Baltazar


 

I. Artist for President

A Work of Performance Art

 
raulbaltazarbw.jpg

Raul Baltazar                                         contributor 2014 first edition

 

________________________

Excerpt from Otis College of Art and Design Graduate Public Practice MFA thesis: 

“¡Pobre Artista! ¡Tan Lejos de Dios y tan Cerca del Cuerpo!” (Poor Artist, So Far From God and So Close to the Body!) 

As artist, I act as a “medium” between Mesoamerican and Western culture, at once part of both worlds, able to act as mimetic mirror for both. And through my mimetic capabilities (via a trans-disciplinary practice) I am able to channel the revolutionary challenge of the Mesoamerican Indigenous communities to the very homebase of the Colonial Entertainment Capital of the World, Los Angeles. 

As artist, I seek catharsis, defined as the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions. I do this in response to the trauma the body endures when experiencing and rationalizing abuse of power and authority by means of sanctioned and unsanctioned reiterations of violence. By participating in the creation of contemporary culture rooted in ancient culture, I create space for healing, communication and reflection. Ritual interventions, mimicry, storytelling, and trans-disciplinary art forms are ways in which I communicate with the public. My intention is to clearly reflect others back to themselves in order to create space for communication, catharsis, reflection, observation, empathy and healing. Syncretism, hybridity and mimicry are forms in which I mirror the nuanced relationships between power and authority, abuse of power and authority, sanctioned and unsanctioned forms of violence, and linear versus cyclical logic within the framework of the liminal space between Mesoamerican and what bell hooks names, Imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy. 


II. Mi Cuerpo, Mi Sangre, Una Vida Sin Fronteras

Tochtli 7 (the Aztec bunny) 5 day ritual performance
Sal, Tierra Y Libertad, Colima, Mexico, 2009

 
 

These drawings are notes. This is how I begin to imagine and formulate my ideas. I was asked by artist, Francesco Siqueros, if I would be interested in performing in Colima, Mexico, since he could not make it. He said I would be representing Xicanos/as. Wow, what an honor! They would fly me out and house me in a beachfront hotel, along with artists from every state in Mexico. The name of the art project was “Sal, Tierra y Libertad (Salt, Land and Liberty)”. Basically, it would be a map of Mexico made out of salt in which artists from every state in Mexico would create an installation in their state. I imagined I would be north of the map, and that I would use the area outside the map. I was mostly interested in the migrant and his/her journey to the US. This is why we are Xicanos/as. I thought about them as heroes who offer everything for their families and their future. Many offer all they have, their bodies for American labor. 

 

 

 

I imagined, since we would be given a week to install, that I would perform every day. I would perform as Tochtli 7 (the Aztec bunny). I like him because he is a trickster character who relies on his cunning and wit to survive. Who better to get away with crossing the border? Also, I had been working with carrots for sculpture and performances. I thought it would be great if Tochtli 7 followed the American carrot on a string. Kind of like people following the money trail, the American fantasy. Tragically, Totchli would die following his dream. He would ultimately be celebrated for his quest, a hero’s journey gone bad. 

 

Ultimately, things never happen as planned. Within the first five minutes of the performance I was too excited to perform in front of cameras and thus dislocated my arm jumping for carrots in front of the cameras. I thought, this happens every day, people unexpectedly getting hurt on their journey to the border. Thus, I had no choice but to persevere as people are forced to everyday when traversing such an impossible feat. This situation led me to work with an unexpected group of Canadian women who would act as American Arizona college girls. 


I handed my camera to unexpecting bystanders to record footage, as was my usual practice. I was very fortunate to have a Mexican professional film crew to record the performance through their institutional gaze.