Visiting Artist: Nao Bustamante (Jenna Speare)

Jenna Speare

ARTH 3539

24 April 2012

Visiting Artist Lecture

Nao Bustamante

            Nao Bustamante is a multimedia performance artist who uses her body in incentive ways. She often invites her audience members to be a part of her world as well. On April 3rd, when I attended the visiting artist lecture that featured Nao Bustamante, she began her lecture with a performance. Her intention was to prove that art was the only space where she could fully express herself. It was here where she invited us to join her art world with a hypnosis act. “Hypnotizing people to be me” she concluded, and created a digital portrait by allowing us to step into her world.

            Nao Bustamante’s body is the main subject of her artwork, she has pieces and performances where she is fully exposed and others where she hides her body. She dresses up, disguises herself, or becomes someone else entirely. The first piece she showed us was one called Rosie does Joan, where she posed as an exhibitionist and went onto Joan River’s talk show. She was impersonating a real person who had sought her out at her day job. The entirety of the performance is documented both on stage and off, and shows how easily she can become someone else in her performances.

            She then went on to demonstrate how people interacted with her body in different installations. In San Francisco, she had set up a performance where she hid her body under a rug, and had set up microphones so that audience members could hear her when they interacted with her. Audience members would sit on her, push her, poke her, and the majority had thought she was observing this interaction as a third person, when in actuality, audience members were hearing her immediate responses to their actions.

            These are merely two examples of all the various ways Nao Bustamante has used her body as the basis for her artwork. She continues to explore a variety of ways in which she can use her body as such. She claimed that she sees her work as “a crazy quilt, rather than a timeline”; she reverts back to old methods and introduces new ones simultaneously. Her works have been comical, serious, and even a combination of the two. My favorite piece of hers by far is a live video/performance piece called Silver and Gold. We follow a woman in a white dress through a luscious forest. She comes upon a wooden figure in gold and purple dress. The woman takes the figure and dances through the forest until the figures dress becomes her own. She is covered in various colors and gold. The woman seems happy until she discovers she has grown a penis. She becomes distraught, and begins running through the forest, when suddenly; the performance takes another unexpected turn. We see her being chased by various images of male penises.

            The performance and video installation had the entire audience laughing, with the overall message being “be carful what you wish for”. On the more serious side of her work, Nao Bustamante took a caviler dress that would have been worn by women during the Mexican Revolution. She kept building the dress up as a method of protection for these “women of war”. The dress was then tested against weaponry of the Mexican Revolution and was deemed to be for the most part, successful. This piece touched on her heritage and her views as a woman, and kept a much more serious tone that her film, Silver and Gold.

            She often finds a way to combine her comic side and her more serious side. I came upon this performance on her website when I wanted to learn more about her work. The piece was called Indig/urrito, combining “indigenous” and “burrito”. She addresses the oppression of indigenous people of Latin and South American by the Spanish conquest over the past 500 years, but did so by saying a performance such as this was the only way for an artist of color to receive a grant for their work. For the performance she wore a very revealing costume and inviting white males up onto the stage to eat a burrito that was strapped to the front of her pelvic area. While the performance in its entirety was comical, it was also addressing a much larger serious issue that dealt with culture and race in the art world.

             Nao Bustamante’s radically vulnerable work encompasses performance art, video installation, visual art, filmmaking, and writing. All of which utilize her body or the human form. She showcases herself in the most organic form as well as herself being other individuals. She has mastered performance art and continues to find new ways to use her body and create new forms of performance that the world has yet to see.

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