Mad World: Messages to the Future at Galeria de la Raza
So it looks like Arizona has legalized racial profiling, outlawed Ethnic Studies, and forbidden folks who speak accented English from teaching language arts. The Texas Board of Education has set out to rewrite history, by glossing over the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II, renaming the slave trade “the Atlantic triangular trade,” and emphasizing the significance of hard-line segregationists George Wallace and Lester Maddox in the civil rights movement. The Texas BOE also claims that W.E.B. DuBois, Susan B. Anthony, and Ida B. Wells were “obsessed with oppression.” Funny, that–
To me, Texas and Arizona’s boneheaded, mean-spirited, and utterly reactionary actions are the last gasp of a Eurocentric hegemony desperately trying to cling to its rapidly receding cultural dominance, as U.S. demographics inexorably move toward a more diverse and polyphonic society. The top dogs are about to be ousted and they’re not one bit happy about losing their place of privilege, so they’re going down kicking and screaming. As noted by Gregory Rodriguez, “Even though they are still the majority and collectively maintain more access to wealth and political influence than other groups, whites are acting more and more like an aggrieved minority.” Writer and critic Hua Hsu states,
“According to an August 2008 report by the U.S. Census Bureau, those groups currently categorized as racial minorities—blacks and Hispanics, East Asians and South Asians—will account for a majority of the U.S. population by the year 2042. Among Americans under the age of 18, this shift is projected to take place in 2023, which means that every child born in the United States from here on out will belong to the first post-white generation.”
Not to belabor the point, but not only has the horse bolted, it’s three miles down the road. But as evidenced by the nonsense going on in Arizona and Texas, that doesn’t mean that some people aren’t gonna try locking the door anyways.
Because of the shenanigans going on in the Southwest, the fun new show at the Galeria de la Raza, Mad World: Messages to the Future, is all too relevant in this wacky country where racial difference has suddenly become a crime. The show looks futureward from a Chicano/Latino perspective, envisioning a time forty years hence when California is projected to become a white-minority state.
Rio Yanez’s tongue-in-cheek print series, Chicano Visual Almanac, 2050, takes a smart and sassy look at possible future Chicanocentric events. These include a description of the ascension of Hector “Lonely Boy” Suarez to the title of “last surviving Chicano gang member,” as well as documentation of “notable attempts to resurrect Cesar Chavez,” next to a visual mashup of Chavez and the Virgen de Guadelupe. Yanez also includes a chart outlining the many iterations-to-be of the Chicano art movement, listing, among others, “2010: Post-Chicano Art,” “2017: Post-Xicano Art,” “2036: Chicano Art,” “2039: Post-Pre-Colonial Art,” “2041: Inverse-Hispanic Art,” and “2050: Chicano Art,” making a sly dig at the artworld’s ever-changing fashion trends and its love for absurd and overly descriptive nomenclature.
Johanna Poethig’s paired pieces in the show also speculate about possible future scenarios. Breathing, Smoking, and Drinking (BSD) Device, which is essentially a modified gas mask worked up to admit cigarettes, food and beverages, anticipates our poisonous future environment. But all will not be lost–as Poethig notes, “Since we will all have to wear the pesky masks, the BSD will enable us to continue our bad habits as we schmooze and socialize.” Poethig also features the BSD in her other piece, 2050 Calendar Year, a large-scale calendar that features an image of the Hindu elephant god Ganesh decked out in a BSD, clutching a cigar in one hand and coils of tubing from an oxygen tank in the other. The calendar itself commemorates significant dates in the next forty years including “2031: USA declares war on itself,” “2046: Last White Person Day,” and my favorite, “2039: End of Patriarchy.”
One of the show’s simplest yet most interesting pieces is Carlos Castro’s three-channel video installation, No Home Nowhere. Castro asked three different U.S. street musicians, originally from Senegal, China, and Latin America, to play the Star-Spangled Banner on their respective instruments. In his installation Castro exhibits video documentation of their performances on three small monitors mounted on the gallery walls. As Castro notes, “Although none of the individuals could play the tune by memory or even understood what the artist was asking, they quickly learned and performed it.” Castro’s piece suggests that the alacrity with which each musician learned the iconic song signifies that, despite language barriers, cultural differences, and diverse countries of origin, we all do belong in this crazy country, and that inevitably, despite our worst instincts, we all can learn to get along. Not a bad future, overall, and one that I wouldn’t mind sending my grandkids to live in. And hopefully by the time that future rolls around, Arizona and Texas’s reactionary haters will only be a brief, spasmodic, forgotten footnote in history.
PS: For a funny take on Chicano Art shows and the people who love them go here.
Mad World: Messages To The Future
Galeria de la Raza
2857 24th Street
San Francisco CA 94110
Saturday, May 8, 2010 – Saturday, June 26, 2010
Open Tuesday 1-7pm & Wednesday through Saturday from noon till 6pm
Featuring Jose Arenas, Carlos Castro, Emael, Chris Granillo, Erika Hannes, Hector Dio Mendoza, Johanna Poethig, Lady Reni, Joshua Short, Jose Antonio Suarez, Robert Trujillo, Christina Velazquez, Rio Yanez, and Marilyn Yu