Better Yet When Dead

Performance Installation | 1997

Premiere: YYZ in Toronto, presented at the Festival Internacional de Arte de Medellín.

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.