Regina José Galindo: "Guatemala is violent, and so is my art"

May 2008 -

One's first reaction to Regina José Galindo's coarse poetry and sinister performances is disgust. She had her hymen repaired on camera, for example, and on 13 April 2008 she allowed herself to be dragged through the Museum for Modern Art (MMKA) in Arnhem by her hair. Galindo (34) enjoys international acclaim. Her work was rewarded with a Golden Lion in Venice in 2005. Why on earth does this fragile Guatemalan woman allow herself to be publicly abused?


"It is always about violence, even here in Arnhem," she explained in the MMKA. "My performance here is cold because the First World is cold. The violence here is masked, passive. Look at the way people from other parts of the world are treated here, for example. In Guatemala the violence is perpetrated much more openly. Thousands of people are still being killed each year: street urchins, prostitutes and drug dealers. A peace treaty may have been signed, but the weapons and social conflicts remain."

Galindo, the daughter of a judge in Guatemala City, was destined to become a secretary and has always had a strong desire to creatively respond to events in her life and country. One of her first performances was in 1999: dressed as an angel, hanging above the street, she recited poems. She made her best-known video in 2003: Quien puede borrar las huellas (Who can erase the traces). At election time, she was so angry about the candidacy of former dictator Ríos Montt that she decided to draw a trail of human blood through Guatemala City.

Nevertheless, she vehemently denies being an activist. "The basis for all of my performances is creativity: the ideas I have. I live in a violent country, and that is where my violent art comes from. I do not believe that art can change the world. The problems that cause the injustice must be addressed."

Galindo is not afraid that her work will get her in trouble. "In Guatemala, the violence is not targeted against intellectuals and artists as it was during the dictatorships in Chile and Argentina. From an intellectual perspective, Guatemala is currently an open society in which the state can be openly criticised. Virtually no attention is devoted to art because it would not serve any purpose."