Regina José Galindo: El mundo mordio mi corazon y me contagio su rabia

(This text was originally published at The International Museum of Women, August 2013)

Regina José Galindo’s performances reflect the violence that is deteriorating Guatemala.

Born in Guatemala City, her work always makes references to perceived “lower” levels of society, and to women in particular. It also deals with the “other” who has been subjected to violence. Her performances are directly linked to the brutality of the patriarchal society she lives in. Galindo takes the place of the victims, inflicting upon her own body the same violence that she denounces in all of society.

Her works, which are of great visual impact, refer to global issues such as pervasive male violence, marginalization, subordination, and torture. With self-punishing actions, Regina José Galindo transforms a body into a medium that suffers: without losing perception of the reality of the hostile world that surrounds us.

In her work Perra (2005), Regina adopts submission yet desists from the post-modern strategy of seduction, because she carved with a knife “perra, ” an insult and slur on her thigh muscle. In this brutal way, she recalls those women that are on the boundaries of submission, abuse, and denigration.

The artist courageously intervenes in the public realm, in order to show what the powers that be would prefer to keep hidden.

In some ways, Regina’s work can be viewed as a kind of “confession.” Her actions show that the subject can be built up only from trauma, revealing the repressions and turning corporeality into a place where the cruelty of power locates.

Yet her work carries significant messages. Regina José Galindo denounces the truth uncovered, as we see in El dolor en un pañuelo (1999), where she is nude, tied to a small bed in a dark room, with newspaper reports about rape and murder, and violence against women projected onto her naked body.

One extreme form of violence is nudity, which is a paradoxical state of communication, or rather a laceration of being, a pathetic ceremony in which the shift from humanity to animality takes place. Bataille considers that the dialectic of transgression and prohibition is the very essence and condition of eroticism. [1]

Regina certainly uses nudity in a transgressive manner, as we can see, for instance, in her action entitled El cielo llora tanto que deberia ser mujer (1999), in which she immerses herself into a pool and reaches the point of drowning. She goes beyond all limits.

Regina goes so far as to identify us with the very worst when, in No perdemos nada por nacer (2000), she was put in a body bag and thrown almost unconscious into a municipal refuse dump in Guatemala.

However, her work is not just what is shown or the atrocious manner in which it is displayed; in Himenoplastia (2004), she had her hymen reconstructed, bringing into discussion the mythology of virginity, while imposing the present of what we cannot see but only predict.

Regina assaults the viewer, through her voluntary suffering, and as such the artist is consciously entering the range of the oppressed. She gives material form to violence and pain: dragged by the hair, Trayectoria (2008), chained, Libertad conditional (2009). Galindo’s art formalizes the idea that art is the language of suffering and not merely the decoration of bourgeois desire.

Her performances show the painfulness of individual experiences in oppressive political regimes and in social contexts of injustice — unveiling the anti-humanist side of politics and society. As Michaux has pointed out, the artist is someone who resists the urge not to leave traces, leaving his or her materials in a territorial situation that is like that of a crime scene; the trace is what indicates and what cannot be cancelled. It is what is never present in a definitive form. [2]

By showing cruel reality, Regina is trying to redeem.

[1] G. Bataille, El erotismo, (Tusquets, Barcelona, 1985), p.31

[2] Cf. Ralf Rugoff, “More than Meets the eye”, Scene of Crime, (The MIT press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1997), p. 62.

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