This is the Winter 2018 course discussion blog for and by UCLA students enrolled in LGBTQ Studies 183: Queer Arts in LA.
This course includes a creative component. When this course was first offered during the Fall 2012 quarter, the students researched queer artists who have a significant connection to Los Angeles. Then created a collaborative website.
In May of 2015, Rafa Esparza and and choreographer Rebeca Hernanzdez held a performance piece titled: A simulacrum of power on top of a a sculptural installation by artist Michael Parker called The Unfinished. Esparza had enlisted members of his family to make adobe bricks by hand, using materials sourced from the Los Angeles river, where the performance took place, and then laid those bricks atop The Unfinished. Esparza's father was a bricklayer who'd built his own first house out of bricks back in Mexico.
Dressed in ceremonial Native American garb, Esparza used a round mirror to reflect sunlight onto them as he Hernandez, and four other dancers moved around the obelisk. When they finished, Esparza did a brief native dance before climbing onto the obelisk for the final act: a slow crawl, from the flat bottom of the obelisk to its pointed top. His mostly naked body scraping its way along the path of handmade bricks.When he finally reached the top, he paused for a moment with his behind eating on the point, which looked as if it were penetrating him from behind. He then proceeded to calmly dress himself in a Western-style suit and tie that had been lying on the ground waiting for him. He finished the performance by lighting branches of sage on the tip of the obelisk.
The question of "what and whose ground?" weighs heavier on the minds of those who are constantly under surveillance such as artists of color, and those who identify as members of the queer community. Esparza uses the identities of young queer people of color, people with immigrant backgrounds and artists who have been pushed out by the art-community and integrates them not in galleries but in public spaces.