Regina José Galindo & the dematerialisation of the live artist 1999-2009

Regina José Galindo is a 34 year-old artist from Guatemala City and the major retrospective of her work that opened this weekend at Modern Art Oxford (AKA Oxford MOMA and Madam Mao’s) entitled The Body Of Others is stunning. The large upper gallery contains 3 video works: I’ll Shout It To The Wind (1999), Who Can Erase The Traces (2003) and The Fashionable Cut (2005). In the first, Galindo hangs by a harness from an arch in the centre of Guatemala City and is filmed literally shouting her poems to the wind; as she does so she drops sheets of her poetry and the crowd beneath her scramble after the paper thinking it might be money, since this is an area used for illegal currency exchanges. Who Can Erase The Traces is the piece that broke Galindo internationally, in it she walks from the Constitutional Palace across Guatemala City to the National Palace, stepping every so often into a bowl of human blood so that she leaves a  trail of red footprints behind her. The final video in the first gallery shows Venezuelan plastic surgeon Billi Spence using a marker pen to indicate how a beauty industry professional would ‘improve’ Galindo’s body The Fashionable Cut is one of a number of works in which Galindo presents the viewer with a problematic eroticisation of her nude body. She appears in this piece as an attractive and very young looking 30 year-old, but it is simultaneously a document of what is supposedly physically wrong with her from the perspective of popular contemporary body aesthetics.
Galindo has a background in advertising and it was only a couple of years ago that she was able to give up copy-writing and become a full-time professional artist. What Galindo has taken from advertising is the practice of distilling sets of ideas and experiences into a single image; she uses this process to raise social issues but in a poetic form. The result is neither activism nor advertising because Galindo does not provide solutions to the problems she raises. If Andy Warhol were still alive he’d be both fascinated and mesmerised by her because she combines an insider knowledge of advertising industry practices with YouTube aesthetics. Galindo does not employ a regular cameraman and her work does not have the slick finish we associate with so much of the video art produced in the overdeveloped world. Instead she will hand a camera to anyone who is available to record what she’s doing and much of the resultant footage is extremely rough, with some of her films suffering very badly from camera shake. This is a deliberate choice, one Galindo has made because she does not want the poetic core of her work obscured by an unnecessarily smooth finish.
The upper gallery at Madam Mao’s is spacious and the huge screens onto which Galindo’s works are projected use the space to great effect. The Fashionable Cut is silent, the other two films feature soundtracks of incidental street noises with the volume on both turned up so that they blend into each other. By this means a pleasing tension is created between the clean space and the chaotic camerawork and street sounds. This is a very slick piece of installation that deploys films which have been distributed in part on the internet (including via platforms such as YouTube) fantastically well on a monumental scale in a gallery setting.
The middle gallery is dominated by photo documentation. Angelina (2001) consists of 31 pictures each documenting a consecutive day on which Galindo dressed as a domestic servant. This was done to test public reaction to someone pursuing activities that might be considered unusual for a person of this station. Survival Skills Course For Men & Women Preparing To Travel To The United States (2008) is a video documenting ten people learning skills that will aid illegal entry into the wealthiest economy in the Americas. America’s Family Prison (2008) features Galindo and her family living in the type of cell in which illegal immigrants into the US are detained, and a photograph of this architectural structure. Finally there are two versions of The Conquest- Scalp (2009), a hand-crafted wig and a photograph of a similar item, one made from the hair of indigenous Guatemalan women and the other from hair sourced in southern India. Again the crisp and spare installation shows the work to best advantage.
The Piper Gallery features five further films, four of which are shown on Sony Cube monitors. Confession (2007) records a volunteer Spanish nightclub bouncer repeatedly pushing Galindo’s head into a barrel of water. The volunteer becomes extremely enthusiastic about the role he is playing, to the extent of ignoring an agreed stop signal and as an improvised addition to the scripted performance shoving Galindo across the room into a pile of wood. Amir Shakouri of La Caja Blanca, where this performance was staged, told me the audience directed their anger about the violence of the action towards Galindo rather than at the bouncer who’d overstepped the limits set down for this piece. I don’t find this particularly surprising, since art lovers often credit cultural practitioners with a level of agency they do not in fact possess, and when someone like Galindo exposes the fact that artists are every bit as constrained by capitalist social relations as anyone else, culture vultures tend to become enraged about having their illusions shattered.
Why Are They Still Free? (2006) depicts Galindo in the eighth month of pregnancy positioned on a bed in the way the Guatemalan army prepared pregnant indigenous women for gang rape; in this piece Galindo is restrained by umbilical cords. Social Cleansing (2006) shows Galindo being hosed down with highly pressurised water, something I vividly remember seeing done to rough sleepers in London in the 1970s; it forced them to move on and given the cold climate was likely to compromise the health of this vulnerable group, potentially fatally. XX – II (2007) documents workmen hired by Galindo placing tombstones on unmarked graves in Guatemala City. At the back of the exhibition space is a large screen onto which Identification Of A Body (2008) is projected. In the film Galindo lies heavily anesthetised with a sheet draped over her body, the audience lift the covering as if they were going to identify a corpse. This video is far slicker than anything else in the exhibition, and  some of the shots within it even bear a striking resemblance European Renaissance painting. It is thus shocking proof that Galindo’s trademark slacker aesthetic is a matter of conscious choice.
Not quite a part of the exhibition, and hidden away next to the Madam Mao’s reception desk, is Breaking The Ice (2008). This is a video of a performance in Oslo for which Galindo sat naked in a cold room with clothes laid out next to her, waiting for the audience to dress her. Before the Madam Mao’s opening, Galindo gave an anti-performance called Warm Up (2009). Those attending were made to queue before being admitted into an over-heated room; Galindo was not present and the work consisted of the audience reaction to this. This anti-action was followed by a talk during which Galindo’s frustration with the tendency of European audiences to exoticise her work was greeted with incomprehension by many of those listening; and this was particularly noticeable when Galindo stated that the reason she documented her activities was so that she could live from the sale of her photographs and videos (rather than starving or having to return to her former employment in the advertising industry). Tate curator Gabriela Salgado made a passionate intervention during the Q & A at the end, and this brought forth thanks from Galindo.
Listening to Galindo speak both during the talk and later in the more intimate setting of the Madam Mao’s cafe, I was very much struck by the way her work was shifting away from its initial focus on her own body, to an ever increasing emphasis on the manipulation of her audience. Indeed, as was the case in Oxford, Galindo no longer needs to be physically present for her live actions to be realised. It was also interesting to see just how small Galindo is in person, I’d guess around 4 feet 10 inches, I hadn’t realised she was this tiny from watching her videos. That said, Galindo has a larger than life personality and this is the most exciting exhibition I’ve seen at Madam Mao’s since the Gustav Metzger retrospective a decade ago (back in the days when the venue was still calling itself the Oxford Museum of Modern Art). So if you find yourself anywhere near Oxford, do yourself a favour and go check this one out. Regina José Galindo: The Body Of Others at Modern Art Oxford (MAO) runs from 31 January to 29 March 2009. Galindo’s Oxford performance and talk took place on 30 January 2009.
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by K Mail on 2009-02-02 01:47:01 +0000

I love live art!

Comment by Dire McCain on 2009-02-02 01:58:49 +0000

I love digital klones!

Comment by The Oxford Spy on 2009-02-02 02:04:43 +0000

But you didn’t mention that former Whitechapel director Catherine Lampert was in the audience at the talk, nor that there were a bunch of Art Monthly contributors at the opening including Peter Suchin, nor that Andrew Nairn was there, not to mention Anthony Auerbach of the INS… this isn’t a social report, it’s a gallery review! Boo! Oh and didn’t you think that Regina’s dress and purple boots were a groove sensation????

Comment by Tessie on 2009-02-02 02:21:48 +0000

Well I’m not about to let a plastic surgeon make marker pen markings all over me!

Comment by The Cambridge Spy on 2009-02-02 02:30:40 +0000

The Oxford Spy is rubbish, he didn’t even notice that Galindo’s Italian dealer Ida Pisani and her redheaded assistant Cristina were also present, not to mention UBS curator Joanne Bernstein… Cambridge produces serious spies, Oxford is just for upper class layabouts.
Joanne Bernstein is a London-based curator. She has a BA Hons in Art History and an MA in Gallery Studies. She has carried out extensive research in Latin American art and architecture. She curated Tierra de Tempestades, the first exhibition in Britain of contemporary art from Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua (1994-95). She has organized exhibitions at Tate Liverpool, the Serpentine Gallery, the ICA and Camden Arts Centre in London.
From 1995-2000 Joanne was Curator and Visual Arts Programmer at London’s South Bank Centre where she commissioned site-specific installations and organized photography exhibitions and historical surveys including Yoko Ono and Fluxus and Destroy: Punk Graphic Design in Britain. From 2000-2003 Joanne was Tate’s International Manager. For São Paulo she curated A Bigger Splash: British Art from Tate 1960-2003. At the Hayward Gallery, London she organized Rebecca Horn: Bodylandscapes (2005) and at the Barbican Art Gallery, London was co-curator of Seduced: Art and Sex from Antiquity to Now (2007).
She joined UBS in 2006 and amongst other projects, curated Memories for Tomorrow: Works from The UBS Art Collection (Shanghai Art Museum, 20008) and Moving Horizons: The UBS Art Collection 1960s to the present day (National Art Museum of China, Beijing 2008).

Comment by Baron Von Redberry on 2009-02-02 03:03:30 +0000

Achtung! Baron Von Redberry iz der berry goodest!

Comment by Sir Grapefellow on 2009-02-02 03:07:38 +0000


Comment by Díre McCain on 2009-02-02 04:41:03 +0000

…is a creature living in a three dimensional world – in this case our world – but really belonging to a fourth dimensional world. Here’s what happened…
A number of Jeep life cells were somehow forced through the dimensional barrier into our world. They combined at a favorable time with free life cells of the African Hooey Hound. The electrical vibrations of the Hooey Hound cell and the foreign cell were the same. They were kindred cells. In fact, all things are to some extent are relative, whether they be of this or some other world, now you see. The extremely favorable conditions of germination in Africa caused a fusion of these life cells. So the uniting of kindred cells caused a transmutation. The result, a mysterious strange creature…

Comment by This Is Not Peter Suchin on 2009-02-02 10:13:49 +0000

I was there and so was Stephen Lee…

Comment by aNNA k on 2009-02-02 10:40:49 +0000

“there are 3 visual, 3 auditary, 3 pathic, 3 linguary, 3 chemic and 3 logical dimensions of time, space and value ie 162 dimensions (ie 54 trimensions) of any one workers perspective of any given situation.”
began Brener and Schwartz in unison. The West East Sex Intaifada had begun.
“The spirits are rising. 2000 Prostitute nuns of the HMS Juliana transported to rebuild the avante-garde of white colonialists into the far east Oceanic paradise are with us now – 200 years of struggle against colonialism replayed in an afternoon. ”
Meenwhile Barrack Obama was meeting with David Cameron through the underground dungeon at Westminster. The Queen had summoned thier etheric doubles to meet them at Nunhead cemetary in order to provide material manifestation for her Freemasons of the Future. But it was Sarkozy not Berlusconi who was to act as the lamb and donkey upon which the ascension to Paradise was to take place. Barrack Oh Bomber dropping over Pakistan – Barack Oh Bummer fucking Prince William and Harry in the face: Nunhead Cemetry was to stand in for Show Dorshid of Darfur – Cameron was the Zaghawa Janjaweed and Condoleezza Rice to become the situgraphical superimposition of Queen Elizabeth the Beast of Incaland. Blood mixed with sperm in the pint glass on the table, swirling in an infinity of monadic space, time and meaning.
“Haya Al Inqalab
Haya Al Fala
Haya Al Inqalab
Haya Al Fala”
The Azaan rang out as the sun set over South London. Fuck you to the Leninists. Fuck you to the Anarchists. Tea cups smashed on the coffee table. The armchair revolutionaries stamp their feet. Its time to move. Return to the occupied University of West Essex – the Christian Night rallying her disciples for ideas hunting on the new moon. They were fresh out of any clues so were scrambling in the dark on their bellies digging the dirt with their genitals. After 3 hours they discovered a wormhole into a foul den. Was it the underground torture chambers beneath the Houses of Parliament? Plane Silly’s insider Tory connections weren’t letting on or letting go.
The secret genocidal blue-prints for a ghetto/ concentration camp complex on ex-US bases were the key to the CND deal that had been drafted in these dungeons 27 years earlier. but now even that was history. even that was deemed a comprimise by the English nationalists. A return to Inkan rule the great Incan empire. Inkaland 4ever No surrender to the Inkans. No border No Nation No to Anarcho Racism No left right synthesis. No glorification of war.

Comment by The Pseudo Brian Sewell on 2009-02-02 11:14:47 +0000

I was there but those Oxbridge spy rotters appear incapable of identifying me. Now if Anthony Blunt was still alive he’d have had them deported to Siberia for failing to do their job properly. Anthony was a master spy as well as an excellent art historian and tutor and I do miss him. Personally I can’t say Galindo’s exhibition did much for me, that is until I went to the toilet and there was a poster for the show mounted right by the urinals. Now the picture on this poster is a still from Social Cleansing (2006), which shows a naked Galindo being hosed down with highly pressurised water… As I was peeing and looking at Galindo being sprayed I had an epiphany and I suddenly understood what all these contemporary exhibitions are about because they certainly aren’t art, but now I realise they are porn. And looking at Galindo as I urinated certainly put some life into my magic wand… which is very strange indeed but then maybe this Galindo creature really has something in the porno, not the art, line. Well it is either that or it was the hunky young fellow peeing at the urinal next to me. There has never been a first-rank woman artist. Only men are capable of aesthetic greatness. Women make up 50 per cent or more of classes at art school. Yet they fade away in their late 20s or 30s. Maybe it’s something to do with bearing children.

Comment by The Fake Clement Greenberg on 2009-02-02 11:38:03 +0000

That’s right boy, the false consciousness of 4Dimensional Art as promoted by Boccion and his fellow proto-Fascists, it was a trajectory that includes them with Kandinsky and the gang’s occultist theories that were taken up by my crew cos it allows us to enter your mind thru yr anus and u no it. So while the ‘aura’ of the original artwork is created by shutting down all the dimensions of a workers situiational becoming – outside that of that of vision, pornography gains power by concentrating the 3dimensional sight into a 0 dimensional site of penetration and orgasm. It;s a one way ticket to now here baby.

Comment by The Inauthentic Heath Bunting on 2009-02-02 11:39:31 +0000

Fuck you man I’m the greatest video artist ever

Comment by Frank O’Hara on 2009-02-02 13:01:39 +0000

Brian Sewell above is just being silly, nothing wrong with women artists, my only problem with women is as lovers, men are just so much better in bed!

Comment by The Genuine Asim Butt on 2009-02-02 13:19:49 +0000

Theres never been any “first rate” black artists either – but no fear – the Karachi Stuckists are far from first rate. Disn’t u read my article “Dada is Dead”? Conceptualists and Stuckist gang fights in Rawalpindi was brought the Taliban into firing range – as for networked performace and Net Art, everyone knows that Heath Bunting is the greatest psychogeographer of all time but even he can;t tell the difference between a Happening and a Situation (or indeed a boy or a girl) which just goes to show : it is always up to u to negociate the 154 fold path to corporealism – no one else can ‘do’ ‘it’ ‘4’ ‘u’

Comment by The Inauthentic Valerie Solanis on 2009-02-02 13:26:02 +0000

Sewell is all arsehole and no body. Any Situgrapher can tell u that and homeomorphism is the most basic situlogical equivalence.
The homeomorphism classes are: one hole two tails, two holes no tail, no holes, one hole no tail, no holes three tails, a bar with four tails (the “bar” on the K is almost too short to see), one hole one tail, and no holes four tails.
The homotopy classes are larger, because the tails can be squished down to a point. The homotopy classes are: one hole, two holes, and no holes. Like you arsehole – all soul and no body.

Comment by Msmarmitelover on 2009-02-02 13:30:44 +0000

You don’t seem to be slowing down Stewart!
Lovely to see you yesterday, glad you got home before the snow got too bad!
So interesting hearing about your mother, much food for thought.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-02-02 13:43:59 +0000

Hey home safely but cold… it was freezing but dry, but lucky I didn’t pick up your messages in time and headed to Kilburn anyway, as if we’d made it today I’d have cancelled… I enjoyed the oatcakes and am looking forward to the photos….

Comment by Madonna’s daughter’s best mate on 2009-02-02 14:29:49 +0000

My mum’s the greatest artist ever

Comment by Kerstin Rodgers on 2009-02-02 15:11:55 +0000

I was going to pretend to be Cliff Richard earlier and wrote a response as him but for some reason my faked email address for him was rejected by your Asifwekare software so I’m having to pretend to be Kerstin who’s disguised as Ms Marmitelover (it’s the Ms that gives it away)
I presume that Home’s allusion to ‘oatcakes’ in that message means that Home and Rodgers have already been making the beast with two backs in preparation for Home’s Olympic warm-ups with K at the Hoxton Hotel with various Sploshbook personalities.
But really all I wanted to say was that Madonna’s not bad for her age and should get with Cliff now that she’s single since he, too, is still looking like he can get a half-fare on London’s buses (where operating).
The issue is not whether Maddie should convert to Christianity or Cliff should convert to Kabbalah or whatever the fuck it’s called but whether The Beatles ruined rock’n’roll before it even got started in Britain.
I blame Jet Harris for going solo from The Shadows myself.

Comment by Kirsten Lavers and Little Richard on 2009-02-02 15:30:02 +0000

forget about that r’n’r vs. r’n’b dichotomising and masonic synthesising – meet us at the end of your road in 15 minutes and we’ll tell you a secret

Comment by Msmarmitelover on 2009-02-02 16:26:46 +0000

Jealousy is a terrible thing.

Comment by Msmarmitelover on 2009-02-02 16:27:41 +0000

ah I see , yeah, Stewart got his oats allright. harharhar.

Comment by Msmarmitelover on 2009-02-02 16:32:00 +0000

Actually I’m really flattered. *blushes demurely*

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-02-02 17:02:19 +0000

Watch out or we’ll all end up in the Evening Standard Londoner’s Diary gossip column… And I’ve been there too often already!

Comment by Msmarmitelover on 2009-02-02 17:04:07 +0000

Ooooh yes please. And I liked that thing you did with the mask whilst holding the pamphlet ‘Amputee sex’.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-02-02 17:07:04 +0000

I can see you’re gagging for it K, publicity is very addictive!

Comment by Msmarmitelover on 2009-02-02 17:39:04 +0000

I will untuck your t-shirt.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-02-02 19:38:29 +0000

Thanks I could do with some help in that dept.

Comment by The Real Christopher Nosnibor on 2009-02-02 20:27:02 +0000

Well I’m glad you’ve cut back on the blogging, I have so much more spare tme now for important things, like, I dunno, getting snowed in and shit.

Comment by The Fake Christopher Nosnibor on 2009-02-02 20:27:56 +0000

Having time for shit is important. Constipation is, like bad shit. Actually, it’s no shit at all, but hey….

Comment by Christopher Nosnibor on 2009-02-02 20:28:26 +0000

Bad shirt, man….

Comment by Díre McCain on 2009-02-02 22:06:36 +0000

The Klone Song
By: Isaac Asimov
Tune: Home On The Range
Oh, give me a klone
Of my own flesh and bone
With its Y chromosome changed to X
And after it’s grown,
Then my own little klone
Will be of the opposite sex…

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-02-03 11:23:19 +0000

Oh I just made myself into a girl clone, it’s a groove sensation!

Comment by Sigue Sigue Sputnik on 2009-02-03 13:42:22 +0000

Cloning is, like, a groove sensation but sooo 2006. This year’s thing is ‘Polysynthaesis’

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-02-03 14:40:50 +0000

Polysynthesis is a grammatical phenomenon most famously present in many North American Indian languages; the Algonquian and Iroquoian tongues are the most well-known. These languages, instead of using case endings on nouns and conjugational endings on verbs, mark both subject and object inside the verb; further, subject and object inflections are considered the actual arguments of the verb, while any free-standing nouns associated with a verb are like dislocated topic phrases.

Comment by Sigue Sigue Sputnik on 2009-02-03 15:39:41 +0000

Yeah…it’s, like, a groove sensation and pure horny to boot.

Comment by Phina on 2009-02-03 20:16:30 +0000

And the Mohawk alphabet consists of eleven letters: a e h i k n o r s t w. Whereas Cherokee is written with an 85 character syllabary, some of the symbols of Cherokee resemble some Latin alphabet letters, but when spoken they have completely different sound values. Though some Cherokee writers use the Latin alphabet, the syllabary is preferred.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-02-04 11:58:58 +0000

Toot toot!

Comment by Confused of Cherry Valley Constituency on 2009-02-06 12:24:37 +0000

And wasn’t ‘Love Missile F111’ just coded depravity aimed at encouraging use of ivory dildoes in the House of Commons????

Comment by The Mayor of Oxford on 2009-02-06 19:57:55 +0000

I thought we were supposed to be commenting about Regina Galindo’s show at MAO. Stop all this nonsense about marmite and T-shirts and get back to discussing the art or we’ll redirect our funding to local schools and hospitals forthwith.

Comment by howling wizard, shrieking toad on 2009-02-07 05:40:22 +0000

I am back. People are no good.
I don’t like to venture too far from my cave, but I also went to the exhibition, and enjoyed it, especially the video of the artist supsended from an antiquated bridge arch, dressed as an angel, tearing off pages from her book and throwing them down to the crowds below.
People are no good.
I am off to my cave. C’mon shrieking toad, let’s be off now.

Comment by howling wizard, shrieking toad on 2009-02-07 05:43:38 +0000

John Dee was right, and Peter Ackroyd is sometimes right too.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-02-07 12:17:51 +0000

Me I prefer Plato’s Retreat to Plato’s parable of the cave….

Comment by Stewart Home on 2009-02-15 20:34:53 +0000

This review ‘paints such an exciting picture’ that I’m probably gonna go see this show tomorrow!

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