MACLA - A New Cultural Model

MACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana

Funding Received: 2013
San Jose , CA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
December 11, 2013

Jorge Rojas in "Maize y Más: From Mother to Monster?,"

MACLA: Food for thought, food for community
November continued to be exciting and busy for MACLA, with several food-related events. The first was the opening of "Maize y Más: From Mother to Monster?," a contemporary art exhibition exploring the unique heritage of corn in the Americas. "Maize y Más" also illustrates this crop's journey from pre-Columbian times to today: once a sacred staple associated with a mother/virgin figure, today an engineered product which many compare to a monster. It included painting, sculpture, mixed-media work, video, and performance by Yvonne Escalante, Yolanda Guerra, Fernando Mastrangelo, Viva Paredes, and Jorge Rojas. Mid-way through November, we were also pleased to host Miami’s own Teo Castellanos D-Projects, sponsoring "Fat Boy," their thought-provoking piece on hunger and scarcity. Fat Boy was made possible in part by support from the National Performance Network (NPN) Performance Residency program, of which MACLA is an active member. Our projects were featured as a part of San Jose Museum of Art’s Around The Table Festival. As you can see, food and community were on our minds this month!

In addition to attending our exhibit and shows, our audiences were able to engage with MACLA in different ways for our month of food. First, Teo Castellanos and his performers did a dance workshop with the students at San Jose’s Downtown College Prep, which was fun and well received (MACLA is a longtime collaborator and supporter of this school). Teo and D-Projects also stayed behind for artist talkbacks after each performance to field questions on performance, hip-hop, and B-Boy choreography, among others.

On November 1 we also offered a participatory activity in conjunction with the opening of "Maize y Más." Jorge Rojas, whose work "Gente de Maíz" was part of the exhibit, performed "Tortilla Oracle" for an eager general public. Jorge Rojas read the burn marks of participants’ tortillas like one would read tea leaves.  Within 15 minutes the activity was at capacity and had a waiting list for the next day. As Rojas himself says: “Once people enter into the work . . . they realize that I take this very seriously and am committed to what I’m doing. Not only to my performance, but also to the exchange we’re about to have. Each reading begins by creating a sacred space, which involves ritual, prayer and intent. It can be quite personal and intimate. Each reading is really a performance for and about the person sitting in front of me . . . .  I’ve learned through this project that people yearn to be seen for who they are . . . . my hope is that the "Tortilla Oracle" is a place for these types of exchanges to occur and that the experience continues to resonate within them well after the performance.”

This was quite a different participatory experience we’ve offered to our audiences, particularly because of the intimacy and the trust involved. Each person experienced his/her own art performance and oracle so individually that everyone had such a different and transformative experience. It was also art that was experienced as a process of ritual and, more important, as a transaction of give and take, as the artist and viewer must trust in one another in a way which is uncommon and at times, unsettling. "Tortilla Oracle," further, breaks down the separation between artist and viewer through performance. Most important (and gratifying for us) was that the participant drives the experience when he/she makes the decision to commit to the performance. At MACLA, we are always looking for fresh ways for our community to create art side-by-side with the artists we support; this was a great and innovative way to make, experience, and transform art together, in real time.