Provocations: Guadalupe Maravilla

Provocations: Guadalupe Maravilla

Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University

View of Guadalupe Maravilla, Walk on Water, 2019. Performance at Queens Museums. Courtesy of the artist.

October 31, 2019
Provocations: Guadalupe Maravilla
November 9, 2019–July 1, 2020
Opening activation: November 9–10, 12-hour opening performance, includes ceremonial gongs, soothing teas, and an overnight sound bath.
Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University
601 W Broad St
23220 Richmond VA
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10am–5pm,
Friday 10am–9pm

The second commission in the ICA’s annual Provocations series is developed by Guadalupe Maravilla, an artist who, at age eight, immigrated alone to the United States from El Salvador in order to escape the Salvadoran Civil War. Disease Thrower draws on his own experiences with illness, migration, and the anxieties experienced by undocumented peoples. His project seeks to transform this gallery into a space for healing traumas related to migration, displacement, and inhumane detainment. 

For Disease Thrower, Maravilla made these totemic sculptures using steel, gongs, and materials that he collected around the U.S.-Mexican border and Central America—retracing a portion of his own migration path. These sculptures will be activated through performance, rituals, and workshops that use sound, movement, and human-to-human connection as a vehicle for healing and exchange. Beginning with a 12-hour sound bath ceremony to open this exhibition, activations will also take place in Spring 2020. 

Throughout this installation are embroidered banners designed by Maravilla. On each, disembodied limbs and clenched fists are embroidered along with images of flowers, dripping blocks of ICE, and skulls. For Maravilla, these fictive icons  become emblems for ongoing resistance against persecution and trauma. The serpentine sculpture suspended above made is made of wood and agave, a plant known for its healing properties.  

The wall mural draws on two key sources. A line-drawing game played by Salvadoran children, Tripa Chuca (Dirty Guts) combines play, logic, and strategy, while the sixteenth-century Azcatitlan Codex narrative drawings told the story of the occupation, migration, and displacement of indigenous Aztec people during the Spanish colonial period. Both Tripa Chuca and the Azcatitlan drawings map real and imagined routes. Inspired by those sources as well as his own memory and intuition, Maravilla has devised collaborative drawing exercises related to these murals that will be used to recall the stories and experiences of both asylum seekers and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients living in the region. 

As a migrant himself, Maravilla is acutely aware of the anxieties often experienced by undocumented peoples. He was one of the large group of undocumented children who migrated to the U.S. during the 1980s in order to escape the Salvadoran Civil War, and he now lives in Virginia, home to one of the largest Salvadoran population in the U.S. Disease Thrower also reflects Maravilla’s own experiences with illness and recovery. He credits non-western forms of treatment—-including gongs and spiritual rituals—with helping him battle cancer. In this project, bowels become a locus for stress and disease, echoing in the sinuous formal qualities of his drawing, sculpture, and performance. Combining themes and forms that echo and reinforce each other across the different parts of the project, Disease Thrower, enacts gestures and rituals that might help heal both the human body and the social body.

Provocations: Guadalupe Maravilla is curated by Associate Curator Amber Esseiva and organized by the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University with generous facilities support from VCUarts Department of Sculpture and Extended Media

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Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University
October 31, 2019

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