A case study on Poetry_Performance_and_Testimony
This case study focuses on tracing how testimony in poetic and performative instances has possibilities of merging public and private events across time. I will follow three performance artists and poets who work in the intersection of both disciplines. These artists are in dialog with each other in form and content. Through re-externalizing events (past/present) that relate to human and non-human trauma of the everyday, the artists become mediators; bringing into the public space the private pain enacted by what bell hooks names, the “imperialist capitalist white supremacist patriarchy”. Via these works I want to analyze how affect transmitted through bodies in performances, and through feeling registers in poetry, allows for a process of accountability and knowledge making.
I will explore how Cecilia Vicuña connects memory of Chile's military coup and dictatorship, territory, and environmental disaster. Vicuña acts as both a transmitter of precolonial lost cultural memory, a witness to the disappearance of people and to environmental disaster; while she communicates through language not limited to the written inscription, but amplified in ephemeral materialities and rituals. For this I will use her documentary film and performance Kon Kon in dialog with her book quiPoems.
With Regina Galindo I will read her reenactments of formal testimonies of indigenous Ixils in the trial against two former military officers in Guatemala. I will look at reenacting in different space-times and media (live, video,photo, sculpture), and the process of accountability of the entire social structure that this act opens. This testimony to ethnic violence will be addressed through her performance, “La verdad”(2013), and its inscribed iterations “Testimonios” (2014), and “Isle’L In”(2015).
Finally, with Milena García I will examine the continuities and changes of the ongoing and past political conflict in Nicaragua. Namely the struggle to overthrow the Somoza dictatorship in the seventies by the Sandinista Revolution, and the current civil protesters that since 2018 have been actively denouncing the Sandinista regime. I will look at three video poems, “Todo lo grabé”(2018), “a Leonel Rugama” (2019) and “Oración contra dictadura”(2020). In these video-poems the artist acts a mediator of testimony of other Nicaraguans, who in 2018 where confronting power by documenting and narrating violence, and transmitting it via social media and messaging services. At the same time, García reflects and is critical of how the Sandinista revolution of the seventies, and its heroes and martyr's ideology has been appropriated by current protesters, ironically against the same Sandinista regime now in power.
The selection of artists and works is by no means exhaustive, however it covers a diverse range of topics lived through the twentieth century and currently being revisited, such as ethnic genocide, state violence, revolutions, civil uprisings, and environmental disaster. All of which are symptomatic to several countries in Latin America, but not limited to this region of the world. Aesthetically they all propose a wider definition of poetry as a genre, and are capacious examples of poetry outside the page. Politically this case study features women artists who in their work use the knowledge testimonies offer to reflect upon and shift world visions.
FOOTNOTESImpact of everyday racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, ableism, and other forms of structural oppression (Craps 25).
"Accountability is a more expansive concept because it opens a field of possibility wherein we are all compelled to move beyond blame to see where our responsibility lies"(hooks 30).
Cecilia Vicuña is a poet, artist, filmmaker and activist.
Regina José Galindo is a visual artist and poet, whose main medium is performance.
Milena García is a visual artist.
hooks, bell. “Moving Past Blame: Embracing Diversity,” Wring Beyond Race: Living Theory and Practice, London: Routledge, 2017, pp 26–39.
Craps, Stef, “The Trauma of Empire” and “The Empire of Trauma,” Postcolonial Witnessing: Trauma out of Bounds, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, pp 9–37.