Performance | 1999-2000

Religious syncretism was effectively and fruitfully realized in many Latin countries because of the profoundly dramatic nature of Spanish Catholicism. Unlike the visual and physical austerity of Protestant faiths that were brought to North America during the colonial period, Spanish Catholicism of the Counter-Reformation provided a rich and varied gestural and imagistic vocabulary that could easily be inflected with African and indigenous mythologies.

VOTOS is a performance that springs from my exploration of the corporeal language of Latin Catholicism. In developing this piece, I studied the practices of contemporary penitentes, read the poetry and theological tracts of Christian mystics, and studied anthropological writings on the activities of cloistered women in Mexico and Peru in the 17th century. During the early colonial period as much as twenty percent of the urban female populations of the New Spain and the Viceroyalty of Peru lived in cloisters in which they were able to learn to read and to avoid marriage and childbirth. Their daily routines were punctuated by the continuous performance of faith. The highly regimented schedules of these women resembled those of many performers who were pioneers in the field of body art in the 60s and 70s.

VOTOS premiered at the 3rd Annual Performance Festival in Odense, Denmark in September 1999. I also performed it at the Washington State University Museum, and the Nexus Contemporary Art Center in Atlanta, and The Project in Harlem, New York. The piece was presented as part of Expo 2000 in Germany in August, 2000.