MexiCali Biennial: The Horrors of (Supposed) Oral Fixation

The embroidering of the scarlet label of the untouchable, all variations on cannibal, continues and has consequences

By Hyun Joo Chung
Published on LatinoLA: January 23, 2013

MexiCali Biennial: The Horrors of (Supposed) Oral Fixation

The Mexicali Biennial exhibit held at the Vincent Price Art Museum is tantalizingly titled "Cannibalism in the New World," centering on the the consequence of labeling someone else a cannibal, as curator Amy Pederson explained, "Cannibalism in the New World was one of the central rationales for colonialism."

A glittering bouquet or a crown deceived the eye. At proximity, the bouquet was actually a sculpture made of boots, or botas picadas, as thin and long as swords and sequined quetzal feathers. "Terrestrial" by San Diego artist Cindy Santos Bravo offers an optimistic solution for survival-to mix in a cultural syncretism- when a more imposing force threatens conquest and annihilation.

Perceived border is one of the sub-themes that divide the viewer and the Other/the cannibal. I almost stepped into "The Gift" by Fidelius X, which was a skull plopped on top of a heap of sand, which I imagined must be an actual experience near the US-Mexico border where many risk trekking the hostile desert to get to the promised land.

"Devouring Tongues" by Kio Griffith and Carmina Escobar was performed with improvisation on Saturday, January 19th in a dark room, an experience almost like a Halloween haunted house. "In the exchange of language, we find it very much a task to make sense of a foreign tongue without any experience using it in its native country." Griffith explained of her piece, highlighting an experience not foreign in multilingual Los Angeles.

"Map Conception" by Deborah Diehl and Arzu Arda Kosar demonstrates that attributing cannibalism to the Other still continues. Visitors are encouraged to put on red stickers to places of Los Angeles where they would never, ever visit--cannibal territory.

Crossing the entrance to the Mexicali Biennial is not pleasant, despite the attraction of the museum space and the free admission, because it requires you to put your hand on what looks like a medieval torture device by an imposing security guard -- but the experience is part of the exhibit and an experience that Ed Gomez, a co-curator, had experienced when he entered Tijuana, as he was quoted in LA Weekly. The ordeal is weirder than TSA security procedures.

The embroidering of the scarlet label of the untouchable, all variations on cannibal, continues and has consequences.

"Tomad y Comed" by Mexicali artist Marycarmen Arroyo Macias illustrates how the Spanish colonialists practiced communion, a holy and integral part of Catholicism; bluntly, stated: 'When the powerful does it, it's Holy Communion; when the oppressed does it, it's cannibalism.'

MexiCali Biennial 2013, curated by Ed Gomez, Luis G. Hernandez, and Amy Pederson, continues to exhibit until April 13th at the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College. Admission is free. A curators' walk through is scheduled for Saturday, February 9th.

More here: http://mexicalibiennial.org/2013-2/

and here: http://vincentpriceartmuseum.org/

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