Note from the Editor: “The Artifact” is not your conventional news source—mainly because it is not a news source at all. What this weekly Sunday article provides is a platform where world events are juxtaposed with works of art, finding echoes and similarities in the often-frictional relationship between the “real world” and the “art world.” It is the case that most works of art, abstract or representative, tend to imitate life or an aspect of it. The Artifact, complementarily, seeks to find life situations that imitate works of art already made.
Performing The Cure
It was announced earlier this month that an avant-garde troupe of performance artists, led by Deborah Persaud, M.D., have made art (and medical) history. Vaguely known to the general public as “AIDS researchers,” these Mississippi based artist-shamans where able, through rituals too complex to explain here, to decolonize the body of a two-and-a-half-year-old girl from the H.I.V. virus she had been born with.
It is believed that the success of the treatment had to do with timing, as the patient underwent antiretroviral therapy (ART) within her first thirty hours of life. “Prompt ART in newborns that begins within days of exposure may help infants clear the virus and achieve long-term remission without lifelong treatment by preventing such viral hideouts from forming in the first place,” according to Persaud.
Though seemingly avant-garde, it is not the first time we encounter these life changing, regenerative types of performances. Who can disregard the art world's greatest exponents of the body politic: La Pocha Nostra. This performance troupe, led by Guillermo Gómez-Peña, is known most recently for its series of poetic interactive rituals that, in similar fashion to the AIDS researchers, explore issues of neo-colonization/de-colonization through acupuncture and other regenerative theatrics. If this sounds too complex is because it is (the body and the internal symptoms that invisibly ail it are always complex issues). Fortunately, we’ve found some footage of “Mapa Corpo,” one of La Pocha Nostra’s rituals, where one may witness the capacity of ART to heal an infected body:
Sugar(t) Man: Ai Weiwei
“Searching For Sugar Man,” have you seen it yet? Perhaps you’ve heard about it after recently winning the Academy Award for best documentary or perhaps you knew about the star of the movie, Sixto Rodriguez, way back before his music entered the mainstream (hipster). In either case, it is the stranger than fiction tale of a musician from Detroit, Michigan who released two wildly unsuccessful albums in the early 70s. Granted, that’s not an exciting premise. The excitement, however, happened on the other side of the world in South Africa, where—unbeknownst to Rodriguez— his albums became not only wildly popular but also a voice of empowerment to a generation opressed by apartheid. “Searching For Sugar Man” traces the search of two South African fans in the late 90s to discover the truth behind the rumors of Rodriguez’s on-stage suicide.
The art world also has its sugar man, the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei: wildly popular around the world, little of him is known in China. Perhaps understandable, as this dissident-artist par excellence has risen to fame by extensively criticizing the Chinese government through denounciations of corruption, violation of human rights and repression of creative expression. In 2011 he was jailed for 81 days for alleged tax evasion, charges Weiwei claims were fake. It was a result of this incarceration that inspired our sugar(t) man to work on an upcoming heavy metal album. Yes, heavy metal and hard rock—of course, with politically charged lyrics. Yet, since his release from prison, the Chinese government has kept Weiwei on a tight leash, censoring him on the media and withholding his passport. “I am completely censored,” he told CNN by phone from Beijing, “I will put it online so people can download it but I think the authorities will just delete it.”
I think it's safe to assume that his heavy metal album, much like Rodriguez’s in the 70s, will flop in China, his home country. On this side of the world, however, where freedom of speech and cries of dissent are held in high regard, the story might be different.
In the mean time, while we wait for this album to drop, let’s remember Ai Weiwei dipping his toes into the world of music with Gangnam Style:
Article by Jovanny Varela-Ferreyra