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Nothing of this is a dream

Stages of Resistance
A group of artists sit in chairs and on the floor in a room where the walls are covered in various paintings and photographs. A tripod stand in one corner. The person in the center of the room wears a large feather earring.
Photo credit: Argenis Apolinario

This piece is part of a blog salon, curated by Caridad Svich, called Stages of Resistance. The series welcomes reflections on themes related to making work for live performance in political and aesthetic resistance to forms and systems that oppress human rights and censor or severely limit freedom of expression. We are in increasingly hostile, volatile times around the world, and this salon hopes to serve as a space for considered, thoughtful, polemical articulations of practice and theory on the subject of resistance, the multiple meanings of political art, and the ways in which progressive, wholistic cultural change may be instigated through artworks.

I am thinking of rivers or the sun fading gold against the wall.

I am thinking of the lights of the city catching the underbelly of clouds or undismissable Jalisco hills, black and white against a cracked roof wall. We wrap ourselves in thick blankets against the night although it is May.

May, the 100th anniversary of Juan Rulfo’s birth.

Do not believe my voice is a commodity. This is Nia Witherspoon singing into the breaking day full of small birds. It takes work to pass - as we are - from one thing to another. There is work to do together.

Our relating is revolution. This is Virginia Grise. We sit in benches lining AAA3A, a white walled gallery the size of a NYC living room. Above us: 50 visual artworks from around the world responding to seminal Mexican writer and photographer Juan Rulfo. The gallery is in fact a converted living room run by artist and curator Blanka Amezkua. Juan Rulfo Turns One Hundred is a group show supported by the Bronx Council for the Arts, but AAA3A is most known for hosting solo shows of Bronx based visual artists. Amezkua’s converted home insists on viewership as personal and transformational, and for the personal to move out into political and social space. Or, as Grise says, AAA3A “liberates the domestic.” Amezkua holds artist-defined space for  artists of color in particular to see and share work of and for a Bronx artistic community.

Amezkua asked playwright Virginia Grise to curate a 24 hour tribute to close the month of Juan Rulfo Turns One Hundred. Cycles upon cycles and we do not dream. Nada de esto es un sueño: 24hrs con Juan Rulfo.

I am thinking of memory.

A refrain through the 24 hours: remember Gaia remember Ase - a body’s will toward life or creativity. We remember Ase, we remember white denial of Ase.

Remembering in the dialects of grandparents. Remembering in dialects or languages unfamiliar to grandparents.

Remember, Sharon Bridgeforth begins each blessing, loaned out from datBlack Mermaid Man Lady.

We remember to breathe.

Curation is caught up etymologically with care. Grise manifests care in her capacity to gather people and practices into a search for political, spiritual, and material becomings.  Scattered throughout the 24 hours, she has asked ten artists (Victor I. Cazares, Sharon Bridgforth, Yadira De La Riva, Georgina Escobar, olaiya olayemi, Yessenia Rivas, Manny Rivera, K.Sloan, Nia O. Witherspoon and myself) to contribute short works - poems, songs, performances, a play reading, a short film, and a stack of blessings. We begin with a communal dinner. Raquel Almazan, Andrea Arroyo, Florinda Bryant, Jorge Cortiñas, Matthew Dicken, David Mendizabal, Andrea Negrete, Max Rienhold, Gerardo Rodriguez, and Andrea Thome read Juan Rulfo’s plainly poetic novel Pedro Páramo in English, Spanish, Greek, and German. The room fills with the smell of oranges as the dead speak and the living seek absolution in a world that simply continues. We watch films projected on the ceiling, we watch films on the roof. Rene Valdez teaches a sequence of tai chi. Set an intention, he suggests, and a dove lands on the neighboring church awning. We fall out after breakfast and sit or nap together. Around the corner to ID Studio Theater for an austere performance of Rulfo’s Diles que no me maten! A closing communal potluck in AAA3A. Sebastian from ID Studio busting our hearts wide with impromptu ranchera songs. 24 hours go easy. Grise guides it all with purpose and radical permissions.

Nothing of this is a dream, and yet we are dreaming; building symbols and history to re-member connectedness. For Grise, theater participates in making us free, where the “us” bears particular loyalty to queer communities of color.  I am thinking of a recent Michelle Alexander claim that the current federal administration and its enablers are the resisters, resisting a palpable and long-growing movement toward a truly democratic community. “We’re not about resistance,” she says “We’re about building a revolutionary movement for the collective liberation of us all.” Liberation is an aesthetic project - as in, our process for imagining freedom informs political and economic action. Nada de esto es un sueño dreams a way of living together that makes it easier to be free.