Regina José Galindo is a performance artist who specializes in body art. She is from Guatemala, a country fraught with civil strife and one tyrannical dictator after the next. Galindo grew up in household where politics were not discussed, the nonverbal avoidance to something so galvanizing as violence towards natives, women, and anyone who stood in the way of the current regime pushed her to react with visuals instead of protest signs. Her piece “Who Can Erase the Footprints” spoke about the bloody residue of genocide brought on by a ruthless despot, left a trail of bloody footprints from the National Palace to the Constitutional Court.
Activist in appearance, Regina takes a modest approach to her work, “She acknowledges that the artist has the capacity to open dialogues, but believes that they can effect little change.” Her humility is admirable and I do not offer a counterpoint because of the authenticity of the statement does not detract from the potential power her art has. The focus is not to change the world, rather to work through emotions and reactions, giving an unforgettable image to the audience. Rather than lift up the mantle of activist and become a one woman army, she leaves that to the audience, the individuals who now must process a response to the shocking acts she commits against herself for others. If she carves the word bitch into her leg, should I let her continue? Or should I right the situation that led her to maim her own leg because of years of verbal abuse? How can we remain idle after becoming aware of such facts?
While she lay on a table covered in dirt, she invited the audience to wipe the mud away with a sponge, leaving a transfer of the filth on the participants as they attempted to remove it. In effect, viewing her work transfers the same information, our consciousness seared by the aggressive acts. From bloody footprints to wearing hair from unclaimed female murder victims, shall we continue to stand here with such dirty palms?