During the 2014-2015 academic year, Nao Bustamante will be Queer Lab’s Artist in Residence. Throughout the year, Queer Lab will work with the artist to develop and produce Tierra y Libertad, an exhibition for The Vincent Price Art Museum in East Los Angeles. Tierra y Libertad revolves around the historical figure of the soldadera, the woman who fought on the front lines of The Mexican Revolution. Archival photographs of soldaderas surprise us. These women wear long dresses with lace detailing. They hold guns and have ammunition belts strapped across their bodies. They are ready for battle. What is their story? How can we access their history? How did their participation in battle happen then when the idea of women on the front lines of violent conflict is, today, so controversial? What is the gender of violence, of vulnerability? What might a feminist investigation of their experience look like? The artist uses “speculative reenactment” to answer these questions about historical experience. Her visions of these women’s experiences are infused with 21st century security technologies—some real, some imagined.
Bustamante will develop her artworks by engaging UCR’s archives of photographs pertaining to The Mexican Revolution. Many of these images have not been cataloged: Bustamante’s research will open up scholarly engagement with UCR’s resources in this area. Queer Lab will facilitate conversation between the artist and the community of feminist scholars at UCR who research The Mexican Revolution: Alicia Arrizón (Professor of Women’s Studies), Devra Weber (Associate Professor of History) and Angelica “Pickels” Camacho (PhD Student, Ethnic Studies). These scholars explore queer, feminist, and indigenous lines of inquiry in their work, and represent just three scholarly voices at UCR exploring the history and the legacies of The Mexican Revolution. UCR will host an afternoon workshop grounded in the research of these scholars, as well events exploring sex/gender and security discourse. Throughout the year we will create opportunities for students to get involved with Bustamante’s project: students may work with the artist on her cinematic installation project, and collaborate with Professor Jennifer Doyle on supporting the production of the exhibition itself. Bustamante and Doyle will work with KCET’s Artbound to share the development of this project with the regional public.
Our aim is to support conversation about gender, race, violence and vulnerability. At a time when students are rightly concerned about sexual violence on and around the college campus, and at a time when black and brown people are at a particular risk of violence legitimized by lynch-logics, it is important that we think carefully about what it means to make a body “safe,” and how we might resist the discourses of security that are mobilized against us.
In the 2015 Winter quarter, Professor Doyle will teach a course on Nao Bustamante’s work, and in the winter and spring, she will offer courses on gender, violence and resistance (through the English Department and through the LGBS Minor). Professor Doyle is currently completing a short book on sex, violence and campus security. This project is being anchored by Queer Lab and The Vincent Price Art Museum, with additional support provided by a range of Departments at UC Riverside (including Ethnic Studies, Theater, and Media and Cultural Studies). To get involved, email Jennifer Doyle.