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Another Kind of Love: A Performance of Prosthetic Politics
Debra Levine

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Verónica Zebadúa

The Noble Warrior was a Drag Queen
Kerry Swanson

Eréndira a caballo. Acoplamiento de cuerpos e historias en un relato de conquista y resistencia
Ana Cristina Ramirez

The Underskin of the Screen: Performing Embodiment in Through the Looking Glass
Cynthia Bodenhorst

A Critical Regionalism: The Allegorical Performative in Madre por un día
Amy Sara Carroll

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EDEMA/ Colaboratorio de Arte Público: Ritos de Sanación Social
Eduardo Flores Castillo

O que deve ser um corpo da era da cirurgia plástica?
Helena Vieira

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[Page 2: A Critical Regionalism: Mexico's Performative Range-of-Motion in Madre por un día & the Rodríguez/Felipe Wedding.
by Amy Sara Carroll]

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In the context of Madre por un día, the prosthetic stomach revisits envy narratives, denaturalizing via humor the privileged equal sign between Woman and maternity. It likewise rewrites the stomach as a metaphor, shifting the terms from that of cultural engulfment and assimilation to that of potential and anticipation, where avant-garde cultural production's relationship to aesthetic-industrial complexes is no longer scripted in terms of an anxiety concerning "the new"'s susceptibility to being swallowed/ingested, but becomes one of potential insemination, i.e., cultural production itself can plant the uncertain seeds of a radical politics.

In effect, Madre por un día functioned allegorically, (re)presenting "how newness might enter the world" (Bhabha 1994: 212). Expanding the scope of the piece's impregnation of the masculine, the presence of Bustamante and Mayer on "Nuestro Mundo" amounted to a recognition of feminist cultural production in Mexico, where, as Bustamante and Mayer point out, they were the only two women among their peers willing to form and participate in a feminist art collective. Through this action and others in the Madres series, Polvo de Gallina Negra became recognizable as a champion of an intertwining of the feminist (a particularized political) and the aesthetic in the Mexican 1980s.

This intertwining represented a new politicization of the aesthetic, marking a paradigm shift in Mexican thinking about the relationship between the aesthetic and the political in general. Moreover, Mayer and Bustamante's inclusion on "Nuestro Mundo" could be read as tantamount to a (trans)national insemination, where the pair conceptually offered themselves up as a matrilineal originary point, a queer maternal couple presenting insemination and pregnancy as transferable privileges (versus, among jockeying oppositions, one which would pit the real against the artificial in some meta-critical Lucha Libre). The performative action established the pair as "mothers of both Mexican performance AND feminist art," where that double-stranded genealogy acknowledges Polvo de Gallina Negra's progeny: the particularly high number of women in the Mexican performance art world.

Mexico as Queer Nation

Obliquely one could take an interpretative leap of faith, imagining Mayer and Bustamante's performance as setting the televisual stage for a subsequent national intervention on the part of Liliana Felipe and Jesusa Rodríguez almost fifteen years later. But, this, of course, would overlook Felipe and Rodríguez's already unprecedented presence in the Mexican public sphere as performers, social activists, and proprietresses of El Hábito. Felipe and Rodríguez's wedding, which also blurs the boundary between representation and the social real, underscores this blurring as an identifiable trait of the couple's life/work, where, if as Roselyn Constantino has observed, "[i]t is difficult to separate Rodríguez's theatrical performances from the political ones. They inform each other and at times overflow boundaries—theater in the streets, political acts in the theater bar" (2000: 187), the wedding goes further than this—rendering irrelevant the boundaries of the public and private, the personal and the political-aesthetic.

  Photo by Gabriela Saavedra

In the wedding, Felipe and Rodríguez were mock-married (enacting J. L. Austin's classic example of a "performative utterance" [1962]), re-outing themselves as lesbians and partners in order to draw attention to the fact that same-sex unions are not legal in Mexico. Their piece, which was nationally televised on Valentine's Day 2001, attracted the attention of millions of viewers to both performance as a genre and the relationship between sexuality and the nation-state (most notably to previous allegorical depictions of "repro-narrativity" in the sense that Michael Warner floats the phrase [1993], including revised presentations like Mayer and Bustamante's). Various versions of the wedding are now in circulation (as more than one television station and its constituents stood in as the wedding's witnesses), but most of the documentation is marked by fragmentation and a heightened attention to campiness. The emphasis on humor reflects Rodríguez and Felipe's own overarching commitment to humor as a political tactic. Humor, for the pair, represents a tool/weapon in a discursive war of maneuvers, where the very battle over questions of censorship too often occludes "other concerns including who has access to staples as basic as food and medicine" (Rodríguez 2001).

This dangling qualifier modifies and checks the import of performance as a methodology for the couple, but also points to the ethical staple of their performative philosophy, bringing to the forefront how Rodríguez and Felipe themselves resist taking their work as intervention too seriously. Humor allows the pair to up the ante of the a priori in their overall efforts. By this I mean that humor facilitates Rodríguez and Felipe's generous assumptions regarding the "viewing-level" of their audiences; humor becomes the vital ingredient in the "molcajete context of cabaret" in which their work carves out a space for itself, and by extension, feminist and queer representation (ibid.).

In addition, just as in the case of Madre por un día, humor in the oeuvre of Rodríguez and Felipe works to mediate contradictions, to illuminate bipolar locations, so that the tacking of an either/or, a neither/nor is rendered once again irrelevant. As such, their work does not dismantle a national allegorical, but points toward its inherent paradoxes, ironies, role-reversals, cross-dressing. Finally, in the specific space of the wedding as a performance, the work parodies the performative qualities of marriage ceremonies in general: the blushing, peacock-strutting bride (now a double-vision), the power invested in the master/mistress of ceremony (the priest, justice of the peace, federal judge, ad infinitum), while simultaneously denaturalizing a sex/gender system which depends upon the wealth of the bride as the image and embodiment of exchange. Re-presenting "realness," the piece parodies allegories of national romance, where a revisited happily-ever-after narrative becomes the means through which to implicate questions of gender and sexuality in discussions of aesthetic creation, patrimony, and patriarchy.

Allegorically Speaking

In this essay I intentionally have placed side by side the work of performanceras coming from distinct traditions of Mexican performance: Mayer and Bustamante, who studied and consider their work to fall under the purview of the visual arts; and Jesusa Rodríguez and Liliana Felipe, who claim their efforts to be based in the theatrical tradition of cabaret. Initially, I did not plan to perform this crossover operation. In fact, I went through a phase of actively resisting reading cabaret as performance, in part because in the Mexican context I felt the conflation of cabaret and performance to be the consequence of a U.S.-based classificatory system.6 Here, however, I have pushed myself in the opposite direction, enacting an unlikely juxtaposition to sharpen the point of a methodological argument. Madre por un día and the Rodríguez/Felipe wedding speak to one another insofar as each circulated/circulates in the public sphere as a performative allegorical intervention, enacting Rosario Castellanos's intuition, "[t]here must be another way of being human and free. Another way of being" (my translation, 1972: 316).

These works operate from a space of the performative, which sutures performance to questions of performativity, rendering superfluous and/or obsolete the binary between these key terms. Their not so hidden (trans)scripts gently resist the anxious theoretical sandcastles which one, as a critic, is liable to build. Bypassing both Judith Butler's "stage-fright" of the theatrical in Bodies That Matter (1993) and Diana Taylor's recent lament that "it may be too late to reclaim performative for the nondiscursive realm of performance" (2002), works like Madre por un día and Felipe and Rodríguez's wedding demonstrate that performance's ability to throw into confusion and/or comic relief naturalized performatives (like motherhood and/or marriage) cannot be underestimated. Renegotiating classic configurations of Woman as allegory and the template of national allegory in the particular context of Mexico, each work offers an alternative performative which allegorically underscores Paul de Man's insight that, rather than being constituted in terms of opposition, there is an inevitable and easy slippage between allegory and symbol that makes performativity possible (1979). 

 

Works Cited

Austin, J. L.. How To Do Things With Words. Cambridge: Harvard U. P., 1962.

Bhabha, Homi K.. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994.

Bustamante, Maris.  Interview with the author. Mexico City,  March 27,  2001.

Butler, Judith. Bodies That Matter. New York: Routledge, 1993.

Castellanos, Rosario. Poesía no eres tú. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1972.

Costantino, Roselyn. "Jesusa Rodríguez: An Inconvenient Woman." Women & Performance: a journal of

feminist theory 11:2, No. 22, 2000, 183-212.

De la Torre, Roberto. Interview with the author. Mexico City, July 29, 1999.

De Man, Paul. Allegories of Reading. New Haven: Yale U.P., 1979.

Franco, Jean. Critical Passions: Selected Essays, eds. Mary Louise Pratt and Kathleen Newman. Durham:

Duke U. P., 1999. 

Gómez-Peña, Guillermo. Interview with the author. Durham, North Carolina, October 10, 2001.

Jameson, Fredric. The Seeds of Time. New York: Columbia U. P., 1994.

---. "Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism." Social Text (Fall 1986), 65-88.

Mayer, Mónica. Rosa chillante: mujeres y performance en México. México: CONACULTA/FONCA, 2004.

---. Interview with the author. Mexico City, May 5, 2000.

McCaughan, Edward J.. "Gender, Sexuality, and Nation in the Art of Mexican Social Movements."

NEPANTLA (3:1) 2002, 99-143.

Muñoz, José Esteban. Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics. Minneapolis:

University of Minnesota Press, 1999.

Orozco Quiyono, Lorena. Interview with the author. Mexico City, March 9, 2000.

Polvo de gallina negra (Mónica Mayer & Maris Bustamante). "Madre por un día/(Mother for a day)."

May 10, 1987. México, D.F.: Nuestro Mundo.

Rodríguez, Jesusa. Interview with the author. México, D.F., April 7, 2001.

Rodríguez, Jesusa & Liliana Felipe. "La boda" ("The Wedding"). Canal 40. México, D.F., February 14, 2001.

Sommer, Doris. Foundational Fictions: The National Romances of Latin America. Berkeley: University of

California Press, 1991.

Taylor, Diana. "Translating Performance." Professions 2002, 44-50.

Warner, Michael. Fear of a Queer Planet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.


Amy Sara Carroll received her Ph.D. from Duke University's Program in Literature. Her dissertation addresses contemporary Mexican and U.S. cultural production, including performance, installation, video and net art, from Mexico City and the Mexico-U.S. border. Currently, she holds a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Latino/a Studies in the English Department at Northwestern University. In the Fall of 2006 she will begin an assistant professorship in Latina/o Studies in the English Department and the Program in American Culture at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her article "Incumbent upon Recombinant Hope: EDT's Strike a Site, Strike a Pose" appeared in The Drama Review (TDR), Vol. 47, No. 2 (T178), Summer 2003.

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