Nicaragua Performance Art in the Crossfire

Contributed by Samuel Martínez


El Instituto, together with the Human Rights Institute and the IIE Artist Protection Fund (APF) co-sponsored a live-streaming art event on the evening of Thursday, 8 April 2021, “Nicaragua: Performance Art in the Crossfire (Power, Relational Aesthetics, and Activisms). The event featured the Nicaraguan artists (and APF Fellows) Alejandro de la Guerra and Elyla. After a welcome by Instituto Director, Samuel Martínez, the event opened with a live performance, in which the two artists appeared on split screens in front of blank walls (Elyla from Nicaragua and Guerra in Connecticut). Seated with only their faces and hands visible to the cameras, each artist daubed each side of their face with paint of one primary color, and then executed a series of slow movements with their upper bodies and hands. The piece as a whole unfolded at a mesmerically slow pace, drawing attention to perspective and the frame as mediators of our perception of the human, and serving notice that this would be an event like none other. Afterward, as the artists wiped their faces clean, event moderator, UConn Professor of Art History, Robin Greeley, placed the event in historical perspective. She noted that both artists use symbols, slogans and images that were first generated by the Sandinista Revolution itself, to express widely-felt disappointment with the Ortega-Murillo regime’s betrayal of popular aspirations. In a double irony, Greeley observed that Ortega’s deployment of the Sandinista Revolution’s symbology for his own power stands alongside a younger generation’s creative use of that revolutionary rhetoric and imagery in protest. Elyla and Guerra then took turns sharing slides and videos of their earlier works, including Guerra’s La caída and Elyla’s Solo fantasía. A look at each artist’s work in progress was followed by question-and-answer. Among the topics discussed in Q&A were the liberatory reappropriation of public monuments, the perspective on their home country opened by their time as APF Fellows in the United States, the artistic institutional landscape in Nicaragua, and “artivist” collaboration. The artists gratefully recognize the support of the Artist Protection Fund.