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Performing Across Borders

by Whitney Richardson


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Hi Whitney,

First of all, nice to meet you! Yes, my performance for Rapid Pulse is about the Femicide in Spain.

The murders of women through male violence in Spain has become a social problem, reflecting the current state of gender inequality. Violence against women is one of the most standardized forms of violence in the patriarchal societies in where we live. The performance has developed around the number of these deaths, included in the final statistics about feminicide in the country.

As per request, resources for understanding femicide:

You can start with Carol Orlock. She was the first to coin the term “femicide” to speak about the deaths of women by men, simply because they are women. Diana Russell and Marcela Lagarde are also important women who talk about the same.

Artists and activists that cover this topic include:

  • Suzanne Lacy & Leslie Labowitz with In mourning and in rage (1977)
  • S. Lacy with Rape is (1972, book), made in the Feminist Art Program at California Institute of the Arts
  • The theatre work of Angélica Liddell, in “La casa de la fuerza” when she talks about the feminicide in Ciudad de Juarez (México). She is so good. I love her texts.
  • Pilar Albarracín is an visual artist from Spain who has many performative works in which she talks about violence, women and Spanish pop culture. See her videos here.

Hugs from Spain.
See you,

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

YOLANDA BENALBAYolanda has arrived in Chicago, and we get to talk about underlying motivators for her work, society’s expectations of women in Spain and performing on the topic across borders.

Whitney: What were some personal motivators for you to speak out on feminicide in your performances?

Yolanda: From childhood I started to notice inequalities between women and men in the workplace and in other realities, like at home. I grew in awareness of the gender differences in relationship. I imagined and felt the need to building an artwork beginning with my own body. You can see violence against women daily. As a woman I have a body that is subjective, affected by the socialization of an education founded on binarism, machismo and fascism. (No se decir esto: Yo misma como mujer tengo un cuerpo subjetivo que es afectado por una educación: binaria, machista y fascista). Life is full of insidious acts of invisible violence, that rage, that’s what really motivates me to talk about this. Femicide reflect the totalitarian control of bodies. It’s the most extreme form of violence against women, taking her life out of her.

Whitney: What kind of understanding of women is typical in your country? How are women traditionally perceived (what is a woman’s role in society)?

Yolanda: The Judeo-Christian education is still deeply rooted in Spain. In general, the stereotypical notion of woman is like the Virgin Mary- a woman who is mother of your children, can cook, take care, clean and works outside the house. She is also attractive but not a bitch like Mary Magdalene. This woman does everything perfectly. Gradually this woman is emancipated. She now occupies the public sphere that was previously dominated by men. Now the Spanish contemporary woman is faced with a major issue. She fills the roles of “freedom” which used to be reserved just for men, but has to do this without losing forcing his lost identity, falling into a role as a subordinate. Women in Spain still have much to fight!

Whitney: Have you performed on this topic in Spain or elsewhere? If so, what has been the reaction?

Yolanda: I performed about femicide inside and out Spain. I’m so interested in performing in different countries because femicide is an topic between pain and violence. The reaction and lecture of the public depends on their context and point of view about the notions through which I work. The first time that I performed about femicide in Spain outside the country was in Rotterdam, Netherlands, in February. I feel that people that were there, during the performance, understand the painful concept worked on the performance, by comments that they made. Also I remember one woman who asked me if the number “989” was the emergency call number in Spain…It was so powerful for me. Last month in Torino, Italy, I could feel empathy with the topic because femicide and the position of the woman in Italy is really similar to Spain.

photos courtesy of the artist
Whitney Richardson is an artist, teacher, activist and writer, based in Chicago. She currently reports for New City: Art. Her work supports civic engagement, poetic living and mutual aid. She directs Whatever Lab (formerly known as the Kite Collective), promoting environmental awareness and engagement through sensory arts programming. She has a BA in International Studies: Human Rights and a certificate in Sustainable Urban Design.
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