Saturday, February 22, 2020

All You Need to Know About the ‘Obscene’ Video Censored by San Antonio’s Department of Arts and Culture — Including How to Watch It

Posted By on Sat, Feb 22, 2020 at 9:40 AM

click to enlarge Dos Mestizx's public art project ¡Adelante San Antonio! celebrates varied aspects of Alamo City history. - BRYAN RINDFUSS
  • Bryan Rindfuss
  • Dos Mestizx's public art project ¡Adelante San Antonio! celebrates varied aspects of Alamo City history.
Until recently, the local artist duo Dos Mestizx was perhaps best recognized for ¡Adelante San Antonio! — a public art project at San Antonio International Airport that comprises outdoor banners, a rose window and an expansive indoor mural compiling myriad aspects of local history.

Last year, the duo — comprised of partners Suzy Gonzalez and Michael Menchaca — co-curated the group exhibition “XicanX: New Visions,” which debuted in December with a selection of works by 11 artists at The Clemente, a New York City institution dedicated to the cultivation, presentation and preservation of Puerto Rican and Latino culture.

For its second iteration, “XicanX” expanded significantly to include 34 artists and 70-plus works that currently fill the ground floor of Centro de Artes — originally the Smithsonian-affiliated Museo Alameda and now a city-owned exhibition space. A press release sent out by San Antonio’s Department of Arts & Culture explained that the local leg of “XicanX” aimed to challenge “previous and existing surveys of Chicano and Latino identity-based exhibitions” while highlighting “the womxn, queer, immigrant, indigenous and activist artists who are at the forefront of the movement.”
click to enlarge SUZY GONZÁLEZ
  • Suzy González
During a media preview, Gonzalez and Menchaca shed light on how the exhibition came together. After coming up with an initial list of artists they hoped to work with, the pair sent each a “self-identity” questionnaire with prompts about age, gender, birthplace, sexual orientation and race/ethnicity as well as questions about their work, career level and motivations. While 89% of the artists they contacted said they considered their artwork to be “motivated by social justice issues,” 73% indicated that they “do not see themselves represented in the art world.” Screen-printed on a wall at the entrance of the exhibition alongside a complete list of artists — only a handful of which jump out as recognizable San Antonio names — the collected data evidences that gallery-goers are likely about to encounter some unfamiliar, challenging work.

click to enlarge Erick Iñiguez's 2016 photograph Standing Rock Thankstaking is among the works featured in "XicanX." - ERICK IÑIGUEZ
  • Erick Iñiguez
  • Erick Iñiguez's 2016 photograph Standing Rock Thankstaking is among the works featured in "XicanX."
Before “XicanX” opened to the public on February 13, a video piece by El Paso-born, Oakland-based artist Xandra Ibarra was deemed as “obscene content” by City Attorney Andy Segovia and removed from the exhibition. An award-winning performance artist who also works under the moniker La Chica Boom, Ibarra creates videos, performances and sculptures as a means “to explore abjection and joy and the borders between proper and improper racial, gender and queer subject.” Taken from her 10-year project Spictacles, the piece in question is the 2004 video “Tortillera,” which you can stream on Vimeo.
click to enlarge Above and below: screen grabs from Xandra Ibarra's 2004 video "Tortillera." - XANDRA IBARRA
  • Xandra Ibarra
  • Above and below: screen grabs from Xandra Ibarra's 2004 video "Tortillera."
From the description included on Ibarra’s website, the five-minute video depicts the artist as she “takes on her own racial bondage to hot sauce, tacos and demographic panic … She dances a ’60s border corrida as a minstrel Mexican housewife, makes tacos with her panties, and jacks off/spreads her seed onto tacos with her Tapatio strap-on.” Although there are some G-stringed butt shots and tassel twirling à la classic burlesque, “Tortillera” isn’t a nude spectacle but a conceptual satire — all the way down to Ibarra’s spicy money shot. In the artist’s own words, “the video is designed to challenge normative ideals of Mexican womanhood and is in alignment with the historical lineage of LGBTQAI+ artists’ strategies to intervene in homophobic and sexist violence.”
click to enlarge XANDRA IBARRA
  • Xandra Ibarra
On Wednesday, Gonzalez and Menchaca attended the City of San Antonio’s Arts Commission meeting and made their case that the censoring of Ibarra’s work “violates civil rights of freedom of speech and expression, as granted by the U.S. Constitution,” and likened its removal to “banishing queer, sexual, feminist and Latinx creative expression, an act of discrimination and glaring homophobia.” As a result, the commission agreed to hold a public meeting on Tuesday, February 25 (10am at Centro de Artes, 101 S. Santa Rosa Ave.) to address the censorship issue and review the work in question.

The Current reached out to San Antonio Department of Arts & Culture Director
click to enlarge COURTESY OF DOS MESTIZX
  • Courtesy of Dos Mestizx
 Debbie Racca-Sittre for comment and received the following statement via Assistant Communications & Marketing Manager Carol Schliesinger: “As is true of all exhibitions in this public facility, the Department of Arts & Culture has the contractual and legal right to determine what is displayed in this publicly funded space. We received the video the day before the exhibit opening, and after reviewing, we determined Centro de Artes was not an appropriate venue for its display. It is not uncommon to have works on loan that, upon review, never make it into an exhibit for various reasons.”

Meanwhile Dos Mestizx launched an online petition at titled “Protect the Civil Right to Exhibit Queer Art in San Antonio Today,” which had collected more than 600 signatures at the time of this writing.

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