(Re)framing resistance and (re)forging solidarity : negotiating the politics of space, race, and gender in Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons’ Habla La Madre



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This study provides one of the first examinations of Habla La Madre, a 2014 performance by Afro-Cuban artist Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons launched in the Guggenheim Museum. The performance stems from practices that resulted in the marginalization and exclusion of artists of color from hegemonic cultural institutions such as the Guggenheim. Habla La Madre concerns itself with the politics of identity in its desire to function as a tool for (re)building African Diasporic solidarity. The project looks at historical, cultural, religious, and mythological texts in order to investigate Habla La Madre as a manifestation of Campos-Pons’ hybridized “exilic,” “female,” “African,” and “Cuban” identities. (Re)Framing Resistance and (Re)Forging Solidarity: Negotiating the Politics of Space, Race, and Gender in Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons’ Habla La Madre situates the performance in a history of public performative acts of resistance enacted by enslaved Africans, Afro-Cubans, and African American communities which is a primary goal of this study. The project pays close attention to Habla La Madre as it intersects with the politics of space. A critical objective of this study is to understand the sociopolitical implications of Campos-Pons’ acts of spatial transformation and spatial appropriation around and within the museum. The project also looks at Campos-Pons’ introduction of Santería into the Guggenheim as an attempt at its institutionalization. A history of African and African Diasporic altar production structures an investigation into Campos-Pons’ construction of an altar within the Guggenheim. As a performance that challenges discriminatory practices of art institutions, Habla La Madre situates itself within the genre of institutional critique. The project highlights its consistencies, deviations, and contributions to the field. This research also draws upon conversations with the artist to determine the extent to which her peers have influenced the production and goals of Habla La Madre. Most prior research on Campos-Pons focuses on her practice as mourning; however, this project focuses on the cultural diffusion and celebration the performance brings about.