by Marelys Valencia for PARSE
This essay explores the role of performance art in redefining blackness in the transnational sphere within the logic of “global apartheid” as defined by Manning Marable. It particularly addresses how imagined and lived blackness(es) continue to express life in proximity to death, yet persist in life, as conveyed in the performances of Afro-Cuban artist Carlos Martiel, who resides in the US. His work trespasses the national framework, either regarding Cuba or the United States, to engage in a cross-border solidarity that confronts the realities of black people and other subaltern groups within contemporary global neo-liberalism. Martiel’s use of his body as canvas points towards the differentiated histories behind today’s migratory movements that bear witness to the perpetuation of unequal guarantees of life, safety and hospitality for non-Western immigrants. I argue that the immediacy of the performance, instead of creating a community of strangers, reveals the fragility of guarantees for non-white bodies subjected to historical violence, and in so doing, his work circumvents the possibility of appropriation by Western audiences of any enduring suffering.
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