Raquel Punto’s “Action number Nemontemi”

Raquel Punto had a tough act to follow. She performed after La Pocha Nostra, emceed by the brilliant and charismatic Guillermo Gomez-Peña, who constantly importuned journalists and audience members alike to take a photograph and post it on Facebook. By the time that Punto performed Acción número Nemontemi / Action number Nemontemi, the audience for Rapid Pulse 2014 had already watched Sandrine Schaeffer’s evocative and understated re-performance of Rapid Pulse 2013, engaged with La Pocha Nostra’s meaty and salacious performance, and watched the video series Remote Frames and Insular Edges, which documented a series of actions performed in remote locations. Satiated with art, conversation, and Mexicano excess, the audience for Rapid Pulse returned to Defibrillator Gallery to find Punto seated cross-legged on the floor in from of a white canvas.

Raquel Punto RP14 photo by Emerson SigmanPunto sat for some time while the audience filed into the space and took seat on the floor, which smelled faintly of bleach and Pine Sol. Dressed simply in an off white cotton slip with her hair hanging loose around her shoulders, Punto stared meditatively at the canvas, a bowl of black charcoal in her lap and a glass of water by her side. As the audience watched, Punto took a big drink of water and then spat out the contents of her mouth onto the canvas. Reaching into the bowl in her lap, Punto took a handful of what looked like earth or charcoal and shoved it into her mouth, chewing it thoroughly. Again a big gulp of water, and again the expulsion of the contents of her mouth onto the canvas, which was looking a lot less pristine. Punto continued this action until she had finished the contents of the bowl and rubbed the residual spit and black dust into her garment and onto her body. Ripping everything off, she sewed herself into a plastic bag with bright red thread, which echoed the thread used to close up bodies after an autopsy. Garbed in what could only be called a body bag that was stitched together with red thread, Punto silently stood up and left the space.

Raquel Punto RP14 photo by Emerson SigmanPunto’s work, much of which is titled with Nahuatl words, the indigenous language of the aboriginal peoples of Mexico, addresses the continued violence against powerless women that is a daily occurrence in the part of Mexico where Punto is based. Her actions refuse the violence that is enacted on women without voice or identity on a daily basis. By chewing rather than swallowing the black dredge, Punto metaphorically invokes the idea of a refusal to swallow the ideological structure of the western hemisphere that places men so far above women and leads to a culture of rape and depravity. As with all of her performances, Punto is most interested in the imagery of the piece, rather than in conveying a specific and didactic message. Her actions speak to quiet resistance in the face of overwhelming violence. If La Pocha Nostra’s work was about the potentialities of a transdisciplinary approach to identity and culture, then Punto’s work is about the refusal to succumb to the transglobal violence of post-colonization, assimilation, and racism. Little wonder that Punto, at the age of 23 not yet willing to give up feminism altogether, describes herself as post-feminist—beyond the discourses about body women in art, and feminist performance artists that characterized many of the concerns and issues explored in the nineties. For Punto, what is at stake are specific bodies—bodies marked by class, race, gender and power—bodies that don’t matter in the neo-liberal consumerist culture that characterizes the 21st century. Through imagery and actions, Punto seeks to give these bodies—these women—a voice once more.

RP14 performance photos by Emerson Sigman.
Jennie Klein is an associate professor of art history and critical theory at Ohio University. She writes on feminist art, art and the maternal, feminist performance, and performance art and its histories. She is the editor of Letters from Linda M. Montano, (Routledge 2005), The M Word: Real Mothers in Contemporary Art (Demeter Press, 2011) and Histories of Live Art (Palgrave 2012). She is currently working on a book about the work of Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens.