Geopolitical Games. Miguel Braceli. Participatory performance. 2020
Geopolitical Games is a participatory project to create a ball game between an undetermined number of people through a one-on-one game taking place house by house. Participation occurs through an open call, seeking to include different cultures, nationalities and diversities that represent the geopolitics of every territory. This project takes place in the United States; using blue and red balls, this game plays with the aesthetic imagery of the idealized construction of its national identity. Geopolitical Games is a work that dialogues with these imaginaries, inflated and deflated with the body’s air; contrasting patriotism, nationalism and heroism with the fragility of their structures in the context of a pandemic. But above all, restoring the encounter from the resilience of the gesture through this open game. It is a game where the balls are not held by the political parties but by citizens and non "citizens". It is a game that reduces all the borders of the world to 6 feet, where the idea of nationality is diluted by the fatuity of this action. Geopolitical Games builds the idea of a nation from the exchange of our own bodies, trying to keep the ball in the air and the game alive.
The game starts in Baltimore, US, and originates from a proposal initially created to be developed at Fort McHenry, with the aim of transforming a historic military base into a playground. This fort is federal land, the birthplace of the United States flag associated with the Battle of Baltimore in 1812. In the initial proposal, international students from the Maryland Institute College of Art would build this flag through a ball game, confronting the singular idea of national identity, with the presence of our bodies and the multiple nations that we carry in them. With the appearance of COVID-19 we have decided to take the project to neighborhoods near the MICA campus, and develop it within the health and safety protocols set by the city and state. Although it is not a work that was born in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, its adaptation to social distancing examines ways of meeting to trace a progressive path towards social interactions within a new normality: working on the thresholds between public and private space, as well as between global geopolitics and our individual bodies.
Bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British. Engraved by John Bower. 1812
This project is part of Geopolitics of the body, a series of collective performances that seeks to create spaces of encounter between people and territory, opening reflections on issues of migration, national identity, social fractures and other problems typical of the places in which the works are inserted. From a personal perspective, these are topics that interest me due to my own migratory experiences and the strong migration of the Venezuelan diaspora. As a Venezuelan artist living in the United States, I have wanted to approach the geopolitical implications of these two countries; studying the complexity and contradiction of their relationships, as well as the parallels that can be found in opposite systems. Social fractures and polarization become the object of investigation based on their possible links with censorship and totalitarianism. From a global perspective, these are issues that appear in the uncertain context of a pandemic, putting the world's governments in a state of alert and control.
Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press. 1945
In previous works we have worked the series Geopolitics of the body in different territories of the American continent, developing participation projects within educational and community spaces for general reflections on and from the landscape itself. In Here We Are: Postcards from Iwo Jima (2019) we worked with art students of Asian and Latin American descent in a collective performance in Baltimore City Hall. There we raised a flag transforming what usually is a military ceremony into a civic act. This flag was made up of multiple strings instead of a single surface, without moving in the wind and entangling with each other - as well as national identities and immigration, are forms that cannot be contained.
In Enterrar las banderas en el mar (2019) (Burying the flags in the sea) we approached warlike conflicts in the history of Chile's borders with Bolivia and Peru, and the resurgence of these problems through xenophobia manifested by recent migrations in the south of the continent. This was a project developed at the epicenter of the Pacific War, in Punta Angamos and Punta Cuartel; counting on the participation of high school students from a local school, and fighting the nationalism associated with a strong military education. In the performance the flags end up submerged in the water, contained in the same plane while they wash away in the sea.
The last of these projects is Monumentos Horizontales (2020) (Horizontal Monuments) where we shift the iconographic references of the monuments to their geopolitical implications. In the city of Guadalajara, Mexico, we built a 1: 1 scale replica of the obelisk located in Plaza Juárez next to the statue of Benito Juárez at the end of Washington Avenue. The project would begin with the object arranged on the ground with a new materiality; making this monument a malleable and close object, with the aim of turning it into a public assembly to decide its fate. Like the previous projects, the work was developed as a performance and educational project with the participation of students and members of the local community thinking about their own problematics from specific places.
Now, in Geopolitical Games (2020) we approach a North American imaginary of deflated nationalisms, a national identity built through open play, and political systems sustained in a citizen exchange. It is an ongoing project that is taking place in the United States amid the tensions of an electoral year, the social distancing brought by a global pandemic, and a national struggle demanding justice and equality. These are not topics that we can cover in the depth of their real dimension, but they are a reality that we want to inhabit in the resilience of the meeting.
Here We Are: Postcards from Iwo Jima. Collective Performance. 2019
Enterrar las banderas en el mar. Collective performance. 2019
Monumentos Horizontales. Collective performance. 2020
Geopolitical Games is presented through a website, imagining alternative models of virtual exhibition in the public sphere; and it is physically developed in the public space proposing collective participation projects for the development of social practices under restrictions from social distancing. This project is part of the Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize 2020 exhibition, developed for the first time in a digital format. Videos of Here We Are. Postcards from Iwo Jima, Enterrar las banderas en el mar, and Monumentos Horizontales will be available online until Monday, August 06, 2020. On the other hand, Geopolitical Games –the work that is proposed as a project to be developed during the exhibition time– is exhibited in a virtual room through the URL Geopolitical-Games.com/. The proposal for an empty room arises as a form of resistance to the exaltation of the white box model transferred to the digital format. The opportunity for a virtual exhibition is not in the three-dimensional reproduction of the white box of the gallery. Unconstrained by physical walls, we can explore different forms of action and communication within a virtual space. Online environments provide for alternative means of connection and expression that can generate relational practices capable of bridging the gaps between public, physical space and virtual space.