(Work in Progress) This work in-progress deals with my experience as a brown woman in academia and in art institutions. The series questions what types of bodies are allowed to exist in these spaces and how bodies that differ from the norm are perceived, harshly judged, and made to be a spectacle. Institutions want and welcome this spectacle as long as it conforms to the rules of the game.
The struggle in the work that I do is such: how do you bring up history and ideas of oppression and trauma without making a spectacle out of it? Is it possible to do this with the loaded and problematic histories of museums and academic institutions? Furthermore, the videos look into how some bodies are sexualized more than others and how this is a tool to dismiss or question my ability to occupy these spaces.
In Balancing Act, I am referencing the history of ethnographic photographs of indigenous women. The women I loved and cared for balanced buckets on their heads to carry corn or masa in El Salvador. I draw comparison between this task to the balancing act and burden of being a woman of color in academia/art spaces. I am thinking about the layers of my identity, the weight they carry, and the struggle that it is to attempt to conform and defy what is accepted in majority white institutions.
Mangoes grow abundantly in El Salvador and I have used them previously in my work. In Mango Eating, I am using the gaze and the act of eating a mango to defy what’s accepted in art/academic institutions. Gendered and sexualized language is sometimes used to critique my body, my work, and my ability to belong. The mango eating is loud, messy, unapologetic, and enjoyable. “Look at me.” “Yes, I am aware that this fruit, this gaze, this confidence is abnormal to your standards.” The act of eating a fruit is not, itself, sexual. I am questioning the viewer why is this act sexualized.