Feared Immigrantula Seizes PS1
Hundreds Held Spellbound Saturday Afternoon
PS1 Art Museum - Immigrantula Video
The videos being shown on the large wall screens were aesthetically engaging, as females dressed in partially translucent gowns appearing in Muslim-like clothing danced. The lead female performer wore make up and hair slightly reminiscent of Elvira, a vampire-like woman who introduced late night horror movies in the early 1990's. The lead male also wore vampire-like make up and bright red hair.
In the photo to your left, the lead female of the art performance video at PS1 entitled, We're Here To Take Your Jobs, is shown in the photo to your left.
Peformance Art At PS1 Art Museum LIC
As I looked around, I could see that the creators of this work had grabbed their audience's attention. I could see by the looks on people's faces that nobody quite knew what to make of it. But the visuals were interesting and the music had a rhythmic beat, so we all just relaxed and enjoyed experiencing the scene as it unfolded. A whole army of zombies entered the video as we were segued into the introduction of the main film.
The announcer informed us that we would be seeing a fourteen minute movie to be followed by a live performance. In the photo to your right you can see the crowd watching the video of the art performance entitled We Have Come To Take Your Jobs at the PS1 Art Museum in Queens.
Immigrantula - The Film At PS1 Long Island City
The film starts out in documentary format, with interviews of immigrants and the children of immigrants, talking about how their parents were harrassed, abused, subjected to health hazards and cheated because they were undocumented workers. They were unable to assert their human rights because they didn't have a green card. The actresses say that all these immigrant men were trying to do, was to put bread on their family's tables.
The film starts out in Spanish with English subtitles, and through the course of the film transitions between the English with Spanish languages in both dialogue and subtitles, thus blurring the lines of language dominance. The characters in the film are young twenty / thirty-something immigrants talking about what it's like to be an immigrant, or a child of an immigrant, in 21st century America. It appears they're talking in the back room of a bar.
The immigration police show up, following up on an incident from the night before. They approach one of the women who shows her ID proving she's an American. They ask for the whereabouts of a man, who peeps his head out from a corner in the bar. He's a gay immigrant and also the woman's husband. The lines between male and female also become blurred as the wife is the assertive one, while the husband is quiet and effeminate. One of the immigration officers warns that he'll be back.
The immigration officer is captured by the group on the street that night, and they put him into a web, where a spider [the feared immigrantula] approaches him. I'm not exactly sure what happens next, but at the end I thought the immigration officer was transformed into an immigrant [although I was told it was a symbolic change of heart]. Enthusiastic applause followed the end of the movie.
Performance Art - Saturday Afternoons At PS1 Queens
Then came the live performance. It keyed off the video and movie we'd just seen. The Immigrantula and the heroine and some of the dancers in the video came out in full costume. While the music rocked, and the dancers rolled, the lead actress / artist told us about the struggle of the immigrant families who come to America seeking a new and better life.
She tells us that these people came here because they wanted to work hard to improve their lot in life, just like the American immigrants who preceded them. She told us that some business owners subject immigrants to health hazards, low pay, and no benefits because immigrants do not have any means through which they can assert their legal and human rights without being deported. She told us that undocumented immigrants constantly live in fear because they are sought after like criminals.
Live Performances At PS1 Art Museum - Saturdays
In addition to the dancing, there were shadows cast upon the walls and ceiling. The costumed performers moved in tandem with the announcer's story. I looked around the room, photographing an audience that was fully engaged. This performance was art, theater, drama and music - all geared to a theme that touches the heart and soul of Queens. At the end of the performance there was near roaring applause, an ending climax to an enthralling piece of work.
A shadow on the wall is shown in the photo to your right.
After The Show - PS1 Art Museum In LIC Long Island City
After the show I went back stage to talk to Viva Ruiz about what she was trying to achieve in this work. She told me that she wanted to say something about the inherent goodness of America's immigrants because her father was / is one. That America's immigrants are hardworking people who just want to put food on their family's table. In the photo to your left you can see the enthusiasm back stage following the performance. On this day Viva Ruiz appeared to have a rock star quality to her and is shown center front with her back to us.
In fitting with some of the theatrical choices Viva made, she revealed to me that she's a fan of horror flicks. 'Immigrantula' as an idea that came to her one day, and ever since she's been captivated by the concept. The concept, she told me, is that Americans have an irrational fear of immigrants. And the 'Immigrantula' is a ficititious horror icon, and a means through which she could meld the idea of an irrational fear with the concept of immigration, which is what all Americans really are. After all, aren't we all the children, grandchildren, or great ... grand children of immigrants? Viva also told me that she's both an artist and video productionist, which is why she chose this medium for this performance.
Viva Ruiz & NYC Collaborators
This event was created by Viva Ruiz who grew up in the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens. She's the daughter of Ecuadorian immigrants and decided to do this piece because she wanted to say something about the immigration issue. She collaborated with Desi Santiago, Gavin Russom, Miguel Villalobos, Automagic, Jason Cacioppo and Subvoyant - all of NYC.
Click here to go directly into the photo album of Immigrantula at PS1 in LIC Long Island City. Or use the arrow keys on the slide show to click through it at your own pace.
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