* Invitado al encuentro binacional “La guerra de los dos lados”, durante el diálogo en Cuernavaca, MOrelos – Miércoles 15 de mayo, 2013


Greg “Gringoyo” Berger es cineasta, periodista, humorista y profesor de la Facultad de Artes de la Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos. Desde hace 14 años ha reportado y acompañado a movimientos sociales en México, América Latina y en otros lugares. Actualmente es el director de Narco News TV donde produce videos “virales” de humor sobre movimientos sociales, protagonizados y presentados por los multiples personajes creados por Gringoyo. El “reportero gringo mal informado,” el “turista revolucionario,” y el “empresario mala onda” son algunas variantes de los personajes de Gringoyo, cada uno de los cuales representa una exageración de las políticas o actitudes norteamericanas en América Latina. Anteriormente “Gringoyo” fue productor de documentales para el canal venezolano TeleSur. Sus obras se han mostrado en el Museo Guggenheim, el Museo de Arte Moderno y El Museo del Barrio de Nueva York, El Museo Getty de Los Angeles, y el Zócalo de la ciudad de México, entre otros lugares. Hoy en día, Gringoyo se identifica como “documentalista en recuperación,” dado el estilo irreverente y controversial de su trabajo.


modulating distance. anticipating Mexico despues de los golpes.

After spending a few moments in the bathroom “recuperating” I came back into the gallery to find someone mopping up my blood splattered throughout the gallery floor. An overwhelming sense of shame clouded my state of mind. And then,
“Maybe you should’ve considered issuing a blood warning”
Image                                                                                                                                    photo by Claudia Hernandez
The comment caught me off guard. I was still bleeding from my fingers tips. Still in a haze of both the fog spewing out of the fog machine, but also from the adrenaline-come-down from having just performed an exhaustive work of dancing, of dancing while bleeding profusely from my slashed finger tips, of dancing while tethered to a jute rope knotted on to my pierced chest. Dancing a dance that was not really about dancing but navigating a movement fundamentally expressive, while carrying an open wound.
I wanted to disappear.
In the later days the shame would dissipate, and while my friend’s comment stunned me, I couldn’t really give that moment, that sentence, all of the credit for what I was feeling, and the changes in my perception that I was experiencing.
Without me knowing it and as I would find out in those later days, my family had been victims of a drive-by shooting on the same day I was performing hundreds of miles away, safely out of harms reach.
The news was crippling.
The idea of visiting my family and spending time together with them was temporarily comforting; but feeling vulnerable, and helpless was still taking precedence psychologically in almost every minute of the hours of the days ahead of me.
Violence has the power to choreograph cycles of trauma in the most effective way.
But I had work to do. For weeks I’d been building a full body cast of my self for a performance that I’d be presenting along with a text delivered by my boyfriend Dino Dinco on Curating as Choreography, part of a conference at UCLA’s Tactical Bodies: The Choreography of Non-Dancing Subjects. On the day of, we were running late and I had a 220lb body “a cuate” that I still had to lug into the second floor of the Glorya Kauffman Hall where we’d be presenting. I looked over to Dino and noticed the discomfort in his face in knowing that we were holding up the panel. “Go ahead babe, I’ll take care of this. If you have to, start without me and I’ll join you when I get there.”  I looked over at my body reclined on the moving dolly, white bulges of panza, pierna, y nalga, filled with and spilling red clay bricks at the seams. The rope fastening all of my parts was becoming loose and limbs were beginning to gradually shift and fall off the dolly. I gathered my parts, a foot, a fist, a thigh, 12 bricks, 60lbs. I finally made it up to the theatre. Everyone was sitting and waiting. I noticed the pristine hardwood floor. An associate of the theatre asked if I need something to cover the floor, “you know so that the body doesn’t damage it” (or maybe he said “bricks”). “Sure” I said,  “of course”.  He brought in 3, 4’x 8’ fiberboard panels and laid them next to each other along their longest sides. Dino asked how much set up time I needed, and I informed him that I had already started. I’m ready. Somewhere in the course of getting out of the car and into the theatre I lost my sense of awareness for the physical context of what I was about to do. Dragging this other body had already taken a physical toll on me and I was already drenched in sweat before even “starting the performance”. Dino began to speak, and I began my action. I had committed to lifting the body to hold it upright and attempt to keep it standing on it’s own until the uneven distribution of cubic weight would eventually cause it to collapse; and then I’d repeat the process.
I looked at my body and it was already in shambles.
I put on a mask of my face, on my face, (a symbol of character that I’ve been working with when I perform certain pieces). The mask’s eyes are closed due to my smile that pushes my cheeks up against under my eyelids; that same smile now superimposed on this plaster mold ensconcing my flesh underneath it. I couldn’t see a thing. I started to feel around and placed my hands over the chest of the body, felt the nipples, grabbed the rope beneath them and began to lift. The torso reached the height of my own and as soon as the body felt as erect as mine, the weight suddenly overwhelmed me. It slipped from my arms and collapsed on the ground. I bent down to my knees and felt around for the chest again. Some of the parts, an arm maybe, had lost their form. They were now just loose pieces of fabric textured with a powdery, sandy, grit. I found a rope finally and pulled it towards me. It was my legs.  They had broken away from my hips. I grabbed them and folded them in against my torso and began to stand up again…lifting. When I stood up I felt the head smack the left side of my face, 3 clay bricks tied to a smiling mask, 15lbs. I repeated the process each time finding my body more decomposed, less identifiable and heavier to carry until finally I could no longer hear Dino speak. I plopped the body down one last time on the ground and headed towards the hallway. I made it to the restroom coughing and reaching for water; I think I had inhaled some plaster from the mask while I lifted it off my face. I washed my face took a few minutes to catch my breath and thought to myself,
this is not a sustainable practice.
The next day I arrived to see my family. My parents looked exhausted. My brother’s Cadillac riddled with bullets was moved off the street and into the backyard. “Y cuando se van a mexico?”, I asked my dad. They had been planning to visit my grandparents in Durango for months and I assumed that their travel plans had not changed. I was right. Yet part of me wanted to be wrong. My family all know too well the dangers of traveling via land for the extended amount of time through the enormous stretch of what is Mexico’s largest state, Chihuahua and half of Mexico’s second largest state, Durango. Narco related murders have been escalating greatly in the last few years predominantly in the north. Yet my siblings and I all kept quiet because we knew that there isn’t a thing that will keep my parents from visiting their viejitos.
I think back to 2010 the day I got notice of something that had happened in my parents hometown. During las fiestas del Dia  de Independencia de Mexico,  the rancho was under siege. For an entire weekend the rancho, set in a cul-de-sac of mountains with one single road that leads in and out of it, was on lock down. No one was allowed to come in or out of it. A caravan of black SUVs came in and cruised the perimeter of it and stationed itself in the plaza. In between partying, getting drunk and blasting their corridos “a todo volume” as my Tia recalls, “las suburbans” would make random visits and armed men would interrogate different families throughout the rancho. My mother’s account of what happened still sends chills up my spine. During that weekend some people went missing, a few people were murdered and some recruited by “las suburbans“. 
My uncle was amongst those that were visited. 
From inside the house my tia heard multiple truck engines approaching nearer and nearer. The engines seemed to have stopped out in front of the house. My grandmother shut the doors and windows and peeked out through the shutters. “Correle Rosa a la sotea!” My aunt climbed up onto the roof and from behind the water barrel she was able to peek into my uncle’s corral. She saw a few men bring my uncle out into the corral with his hands tied behind his back. They had him face an adobe wall, kneel and sacked his head with a black trash bag. The men all had their guns pointed at my uncle; my aunt couldn’t make out what they were saying but she could see two men’s mouths moving as they paced back and forth behind his kneeling body. After a few minutes the men started to move out. One by one they emptied out of the adobe house, got in their suburbans and drove off. My aunt sat crouched, frozen on the roof top watching my uncle on his knees, also frozen, until finally his wife came and wrapped herself around him removing the bag from his head. 
My parents have both been back since on two different occasions, a year and a half ago to bury my grandmother. Neither have been back since. 
These accounts of how I’m experience violence and embodying the memory of it, the trauma caused by it, at times feels orchestrated purely mentally by myself. Images, thoughts, memories pop into my head seemingly at random moments and distract my focus of tasks at hand.
In about a week I along with Ruben Martinez, a journalist and author, and Raquel Gutierrez, writer, performer, community organizer (both of them so much more than what those titles can describe) will travel down south to Mexico City and engage in a dialogue with a group of writers, journalists, artists, and activists, about the violence that Mexico has been experiencing as a result of narco-drug warring. Since Ruben and Raquel’s invitation I’ve performed 3 pieces all 2 weeks apart from each other and all undeniably affected by my research and texts I’ve been reading about the violencias as one writer Rosanna Reguillo puts it. Mostly internally, but definitely apparent in how I’m navigating decisions of representing the body, my experience of violencias both through personal and mediated forms of contact is having impactful effects on how I’m thinking about my own body and the bodies around me also touched by violence.
Reguillo writes: “the bodies disciplined by the work of violence act as indexes of its power”.
Although I won’t deny that there are connections, I can’t readily draw lines between the drive by-shooting that occurred in my family’s home in East Pasadena on 4/19/13 and the countless murders that are happening in Mexico since 2006 and beyond. I recognize the matrixes of power to be distinct; yet I extend the quote which is referring to “bodies disciplined” (the murdered bodies) to also include the bodies moved by violence by various mediated forms of contact. I’m seeing in my own family how trauma is constantly reshaping lives even if tangentially touched by violence and how I don’t want to feed that power with my own stagnancy. I’m inspired by my parent’s unwavering choice to travel to Magon inspite of all the danger they’re aware of. It makes me wonder about their own urgencies, and question my own.
Proximity becomes an important item to investigate for me in this case. Physical, psychological, memorial, and emotional distances that inform our varying degrees of urgency is something that I think is crucial to consider in conversations of the inherent responsibilities of cultural producers. How can distance be transcended, conceptualized, to bring more focus, more attention to the gravity of a traumatizing situation?
I look forward to setting foot in Mexico finally once again. As an artist I see it as a step towards understanding this new breed of collective trauma, my relationship to it and in my most optimistic and hopeful desire dare I say, begin to imagine what healing looks like.

Tania Barberán: Cuando nadie te ve

Cuando nadie te ve-37

Para los que vivimos en el norte, viajar a México siempre tiene rasgos míticos de un “retours au pays natal” como escribió Césaire, aunque el país no es donde nacimos, y nunca sabemos si el país nos pertenece o nos apetece o nos desdeña o nos desea. Lo que sí sabemos es que la droga nos une. Por la sangre y por las armas, por la prohibición, por ingerir lo prohibido, por la línea quebrada que nos separa y nos une.

Me reencuentro con Tania Barberán después de muchos años. La conocí en el DF de los 90s, donde se rebuscaba a través del arte y la “grilla”. Entre mis amigos bohemios de la Condesa y la Roma entregar alma y cuerpo a la política era visto con mucho escepticismo; a mi me pareció que esa entrega era precisamente lo que les hacía falta a los bohemios.

Se me hace que los antiguos pleitos sobre “arte” y “política” la sangre los ha rebasado.

Hoy Tania es fotógrafa y escritora y profe en la Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México. Publicó recientemente su primera novela, Cuando hallen las sombras en Sur + Ediciones — un colectivo al cual pertenece Gabriela Jauregui, quien también nos acompaña en la tertulia. Tania ha desarrollado su práctica artística al mismo tiempo que ha asentado una base teórica… y ha labrado esa relación entre representación e historia de tal manera que su arte no se reduce a panfleto y su entrega política no se diluye en lo abstracto.

Su serie de fotos Cuando nadie te ve reinvindica el graffiti callejero más allá del cliché urbano, lo describe como acto íntimo, subjetivo, hasta sensual sin quitarle su eco político de siempre. Espacio de deseo, espacio lúdico, espacio conflictivo. Pie de foto para la ciudad, para la vida misma.

Brutality As Research

“Shamed, dishonoured, wading in blood and dripping with filth, thus capitalist society stands.” – Rosa Luxembourg

Have you read Horacio Castellanos Moya’s book Senselessness? It’s about a writer  hired by the Catholic Church to edit a 1000-paged legal manuscript who slowly goes insane after reading hauntingly poetic testimonies of indigenous men and women from an unnamed Latin American country who survive a bloody genocidal campaign. After reading these frightening accounts of mass murder, gang rape and torture, the nameless narrator carries on in his non-working hours drinking in bars, chasing women of transnational global elite extractions and discovering his choices have led him into the belly of the beast’s favorite cosmopolitan party sites. He becomes incrementally paranoid with each passage he absorbs especially since those military generals are essentially still running the country.

I am reminded of HCM’s narrator after spending these last few weeks reading El Narco by Ioan Grillo, a cultural history that charts the rise of the Mexican drug cartels with plenty of sobering accounts of violence on the border and both Mexican coasts. So sobering that I’ll never want to light up a joint for as long as I live. The implication that we’re all at fault is so obvious it doesn’t even warrant mentioning. Or does it? El Narco is such brutal read that compels me to think beyond finger-wagging, or to at least put the finger-wagging on hold while I meditate on a different kind of implication that comes from being a citizen of the Global North who has spent a lot of time with genocide survivor testimonies I read for all the Central American studies classes I took back in undergrad. The privilege of being able to consume such testimonies from the comforts of my two-bedroom apartment in Silverlake I had in 2001 isn’t lost on me.

However, this time the violent insurgencies aren’t ideological, they’re darkly and intentionally criminal and remind me of all the ways that capitalism has mutated to desperately sociopathic levels. Unlike the narrator in Senselessness though I don’t feel paranoid about being persecuted, but I do feel like I’m going a little insane.

At first it was chilling, the hair on my head standing straight up and out at the banal depictions of violence. 100,000 deaths. One victim equaling a hundred bullets. And then something so typically American happened to me: I couldn’t stop. I super-sized. I developed a low grade addiction and called it research. I kept reading and reading ever so voraciously, flirting with narco blogs, daring myself to look at the carnage. I felt my body drain of humanity in the presence of snuff films; real as  the threatening banners with succinct messages promising a fate worse than death to those who dare skim what is not rightly theirs off the top of the deadliest of trades. ​I did myself a raw and what Maggie Nelson’s calls in The Art of Cruelty ​a “grave disservice by staying riveted by top-of-the-hour ad nauseum “proof” that [we] humans have always pursued…the bloody business of genocide, state-sponsored war, terror and individual acts of sadism across space and time.”

Before it was easy to pretend I wasn’t aware of it. If you’ve ever done drugs then you can understand how easy it gets to pretend stuff doesn’t exist.  I avoided a lot of what was happening in Mexico in the last five years because I just didn’t have the stomach to look at the real let alone the representations of violence in the eye. Why rehearse injurious terror I mused while smoking my little French Theory cigarettes. And I felt far removed from the cultural dynamics happening in the capital city of my father’s homeland mostly because I was estranged from family and didn’t feel connected to any of the queer or activist or organizing or artistic communities. I didn’t have any friends in Mexico and so to speak truthfully yet brusquely I didn’t have any investment.

Well now I want to connect.

I’ve been reading up on the Drug War to prepare for a trip to Mexico City with collaborator and friend Rubén Martinez, along with Los Angeles performance artist Rafa Esparza. We have planned to meet with various artists, writers, and cultural critics in Mexico engaged with the current social context of violence, drug economies and its concomitant artistic representations. These conversations will take place in museums and other intellectual holding spaces that offer a safety to them, one that will make it easy to talk about and defend certain representations. Discussing the ethical and challenging implications of artistic responsibility in representing the social milieu for global spectatorship isn’t new. The representation often comes through an American or European lens. But we’ll be talking about the Mexican social context and for me, it is an opportunity to learn about the artist’s role in preserving some semblance of humanity in those that arrive to the work in question.

In preparation for the trip though I wonder: does consuming range of high-middle-and-lowbrow narco related cultural productions like Tucanes De Tijuana, El Gallo De Oro, Miss Bala, El infierno, El Narco, ​and Reina Del Sur put me on the same plane as fans of the Saw franchise? 

And then I think about authenticity, about origin. What gives me the right to talk about something I feel so distant from, whether it’s a privileged disavowal or not. Could I write the next Salvador​ or The Tattooed Soldier​? I look at the work of Natalia Almada and Teresa Margolles, both of whom are renown artists with roots in Culiacán, and understand the impetus, if not the divine right to tell the story of what is happening because of the connection. It makes sense that they get to and to do so and doing so in a way that doesn’t rehearse a crude and cruel violent mise en scène but rather creates a poetics of aesthetically rigorous empathy. But considering how enormous of a reach the drug trade has, that the goods reach as far as New York and London, the Bay Area and wherever there are nightclubs and pot bars.

Doesn’t that mean that we all have a drug piece inside us all? And how to access that piece inside us all that connects us to the drug economy without creating a pornography of terror?

Liliana Zaragoza: Mirada sostenida


La fotógrafa Liliana Zaragoza nos acompaña en una de las tertulias en el Chopo, recomendada por nuestro colaborador de Cuernavaca, el escritor y activista Raúl Silva.

Liliana Zaragoza describe asi su proyecto Mirada sostenida:

Resistir es sostener la mirada. Sostener la mirada es abrazar la memoria, tocar sin miedo y reescribir sobre las cicatrices capas de piel adentro. Rehabitar las pieles que somos. Intervenir la propia existencia para resignificar las miradas que nos habitan.

Tras siete años de la represión en San Salvador Atenco y Texcoco, de las 27 mujeres sobrevivientes de tortura sexual, 12 mantienen una denuncia internacional ante la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos contra el Estado mexicano.

Mirada sostenida es un proyecto fotográfico que plantea un acercamiento a la resignificación individual y colectiva de la propia memoria. Cada una de las mujeres eligió un lugar que durante el proceso de estos seis años le ha sido significativo y que volver a él simbolizara una reconciliación con su propia historia.”


Bienvenidos al blog de La guerra de los dos lados…

Saludos camaradas, desde mi oficina en Loyola Marymount University, ciudad de Los Angeles Caídos, Califas. Este es un blog “interno” para la comunidad de músicos, poetas y locos que nos reuniremos en la capital mexicana entre el 11 y el 20 de mayo en el Museo Universitario del Chopo.

Aquí postearemos y subiremos lecturas relacionadas con nuestro tema central: el papel del artista ante la violencia cuyo impacto se siente en ambos lados de la línea.

Hoy ofrecemos un par de enlaces con artículos que marcan un poquito del contexto político y social en el que Rubén, Raquel y Rafa viajan a México.

El reportero del Los Angeles Times en México y nuestro amigo Daniel Hernández escribe sobre el “Gentleman de Las Lomas” y las “Ladies de Polanco,” dos casos que enfocan la división extrema de clase en el D.F. y en la sociedad mexicana en general.

Y un titular en el New York Times de hoy sobre los cambios en la relación EEUU-México en cuanto al intercambio de información sobre el narcotráfico bajo la administración de Enrique Peña Nieto — cambios que preocupan a Washington.

Nótese el contraste con la relación binacional durante el sexenio de Felipe Calderón.

Será que el PRI regresa a su estilo de los viejos tiempos, la corrupción sazonada con una postura anti-gringa, o sea, cerrando las puertas a Washington precisamente para llegar a arreglos con los cárteles?

Salimos para México en poco más de una semana… mientras, estamos leyendo el libro Nuestra aparente rendición (antología editada por Lolita Bosch), proyecto que es un antecedente muy importante para “La guerra de los dos lados,” ya que lo nuestro es sencillamente un intento de llevar ese modelo a un contexto binacional, creando puentes entre comunidades de artistas en ambos lados de la frontera.

Así de sencillo… y así nuestro reto. Hacer fluir visiones de otro México, otro Estados Unidos, otra relación entre los países, otra política hacia la droga que significaría el fin de la guerra sin fin, otra manera de relacionar el cuerpo con el estado, otra economía que no tenga divisiones tan lacerantes para el cuerpo, otra manera de morir, otra manera de vivir.