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Lose the Accent Chiquita!

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Lose the Accent Chiquita!:
Theorizing the Flesh Through Performance and Video

Benilda Pacheco Beretta
ABSTRACT

A true photograph need not be explained, nor can it be contained in
words.
Ansel Adams

When looking at an “Ansel Adams” there is a moment of awe, but after experiencing the aesthetic moment or affect of Adams’ work, the utterances and reactions that result are of the how’s, and the why’s of the creative process and of the artist. Artwork that does not evoke or provoke the senses oftentimes is dismissed as not being “art”. But it is the audience’s interaction with “art” which results in a continued dialogue and inquiry about the art object long after its viewing.

As an artist I was resistant to looking closely into my work. Asking questions as to the motivating factors, theoretical underpinnings, historical influences, and contributions to society were not part of my creative process. Like Adams, I wanted my work to speak for itself. But this was not enough because I found I did have questions, questions that were triggered by memories of conflicts dealing with my cultural and social identity. My questioning was separate from the questions generated from the how’s and why’s of the art object (objet d’art). They come from my own lived experiences while growing up in New York City, specifically from the memories and embodiments of a woman of color, which translated into a pallet of vignettes addressing the issues of colonialism.

Lose the Accent Chiquita!, is a multi-faceted autoethnographic expression, which confronts and addresses the past and present and shapes them into an overarching narrative about Caribbean colonial influences on cultural differences, language, racism, displacement, assimilation, gender, and identity formation. Through the interrogation of the boundaries between the conceptual objects of theory and practice, the carnivalesque-like show challenges the audience by provoking the audience’s senses in order to participate and engage in a more direct way and offer an alternative way of looking at theory associated with postcolonial issues. Specifically, I frame my discussion via theories of cultural resistance, cultural memory, Mikhail Bakhtin’s carnivalesque, and Merleau-Ponty’s concept of the flesh.
My live art touches upon the strategy of resistance as proposed by Mikhail Bakhtin in his notion of the carnivalesque. Bakhtin coined the word carnivalesque, to describe the use of performance to parody and resist the production of globalized domination, blending satire, music, and critical theory to challenge the ideologies of colonialism, the gaze, and xenophobia in this century. But it is Merleau-Ponty’s theorizing of the flesh that drives my discussion of combining creative practice and research.

Embarking in this alternative approach of doing practice-based research, I am illustrating the theoretical frames of colonialism by embodying and fleshing out these themes of postcolonialism through live art and video.

For the conference my intent is to perform an excerpt of Lose the Accent Chiquita!, which will highlight aspects of cultural memory and resistance. It will last approximately ten minutes. The remainder of the time will be spent addressing and arguing that performance (practice) converges with theory and theory converges with performance (practice).

By encouraging an arts-based or practice-based research we are making a gesture, if you will, of inclusion and not exclusion of the contributions made by the communities these theories will ultimately affect.

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Written by Benilda Pacheco Beretta

September 19, 2010 at 3:21 pm

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