Regina José Galindo dips her feet into a white basin of human blood, takes a string of steps, then dips her feet again. She is walking through Guatemala City, her red footprints making a path from the Constitutional Court building to the old National Palace. It is 2003, not long after the Court allowed José Efraín Ríos Montt, who wreaked bloody havoc on Guatemala during his dictatorship in the 1980s, to run for president. Galindo is protesting. She moves decisively, but nothing about her demeanor suggests self-righteousness or vindictiveness. Her performance is quietly graceful, a poetic act of resistance.
In the video of Galindo’s performance, titled Who can erase the traces?, few passers-by give her more than a lingering glance. Only later, when her work was distributed online and discussed by fellow artists and curators, did its political urgency become clear.
Now, on view at Pitzer College as part of Narrowcast: Reframing Global Video, Galindo’s performance emphasizes video as a medium for dissension.
“When I do what I do,” Galindo told Francisco Goldman in a Bomb Magazine interview, “I don’t try to approach my own pain as a means of seeing myself and curing myself from that vantage; in every action I try to channel my own pain, my own energy, to transform it into something more collective.” The medium of video allows her to gesture toward that collectivity: through the documentation, viewers can grasp the intent, introspective urgency of Galindo’s whole performance. They can recognize Galindo as a symbolic conduit of shared suffering.
Writer Camille de Toledo talks about the power of impermanence and the potency of viewing “small, ordinary things done with grace as acts of resistance.” Galindo’s performance may not have been ordinary, but it was certainly impermanent, small, and poignantly graceful.