Veronica Cordova de la Rosa gave a talk entitled ‘Images of violence from Mexico : a performance based enquiry’ about her art and PhD study, on Tuesday 21 March at Common Ground – a pop-up workspace on Little Clarendon Street, Oxford. Formerly, it was a Barclays Bank and the talk was in the disused bank vault. A performance by attendees followed.
Veronica Cordova de la Rosa has completed a PhD at Oxford Brookes University where she undertook practice lead research about violence in contemporary Mexico against women. She shows slides of her research and performance work, describing her intentions.
- Her first slide is a photograph of her with flowers obscuring part of her face and which is also shown in the flyer for her talk. She says that women are found abandoned in places such as cotton fields or derelict buildings. The flowers are both beautiful but also suggestive of dismemberment or similar. Flowers though can represent many things including remembrance or celebration, femininity, etc which gives it a complex meaning. The next slide shows her face with twigs obscuring part of her face.
- For ‘The Structure of War’ (2016) a slide shows her with bright paper cut-outs using lettering on tissue paper or similar, and paper wrapped around her. Veronica says – this is how women are seen by employers or large corporations. There is the idea of words and ‘curative talk’ which is drawn from Freud she says. Later in the attendees performance, stencils used creating the letter cut-outs are introduced into the space to become part of the performance.
- ‘On becoming my grandmother’ (2014) shows Veronica dressed as her grandmother with a walking stick, hat and shawl around her shoulders. For the performance, she walked around in the way that a ‘senile or demented’ person would walk around. ‘In my mind, I was my grandmother’ she says. Apparently, another person accompanied her to ensure her safety but begged her to stop the performance because they found it too convincing and too disturbing!
- Veronica shows a slide which is a performance with a chair. She had began to feel guilty at not working with images of the victims: ‘If flowers could talk they would not be flowers’.
- ‘The presence of absence’ is a performance with torn-up images of victims and flowers.
- ‘Silent witness’ (2013) is a performance which involves sweeping the torn images of victims. The brush which she uses has flowers where you would normally find bristles.
- Many of the victims with which Veronica is concerned have been horrendously treated and killed. In ‘Aesthetics of repair’ Veronica uses photos of victims and places part of her body on the photo, using the part which was ‘lost’.
Veronica’s work touches on the most disturbing of subjects: the abduction, mutilation and killing of women in Mexico. Much of it is attributed to the drugs war in the country. She says that the Mexican Government has documented the disappearance of 27,000 people. It’s difficult to frame an artistic response in the face of such slaughter.
The final performance for Veronica’s PhD was entitled ‘Yes, We have names, faces and bodies’ where she read out the names of a hundred missing women, in a gallery setting.
After talk performance
There are perhaps a dozen people who have come to the talk and we have a performance in the bank vault which is located underground – a windowless subterranean room. Bicycles bells are distributed to those gathered, and I decide my performance will be to continuously ring the bell throughout the performance period.
One attendee – Clare Carswell – has a performance in mind. She dyes her tongue purple and illuminates it with a torch while holding a towel with a yellow and white pattern.
A pink cloth was draped from the table during the talk; now it is hung from a line strung across the bank vault. Two people – Naomi and Hugh, wrap themselves in the suspended pink cloth, becoming Giacometti-like figures. One of them holds a torch which illuminates the figure from within. They are like a glow worm – luminescent. Perhaps the vault is now more of a catacomb?
There is an absurdity to the performance especially being in a vault which is – or has been – one of the most secured locations in Oxford. The practice of depositing money and other valuables is now changed to one of social and artistic practice.
The featured image shown above is the flyer used to publicise the talk and performance.
Veronica Cordova de la Rosa tweets as @Flowingladybird: