Things You Notice While You’re Waiting: Annabel Turrado’s Raspado (Abolish ICE/Abolir ICE) and the Contexts of Durational Performance Art

By Jill Marie Holslin. This performance review was published on the MexiCali Biennial webpage. All rights reserved.

 An artist stands on a sidewalk in a park in Mexicali, Mexico
at 1:00 PM, under the blazing afternoon sun, bent over an enormous block of ice
mounted on a metal stand. Resting on the stand, the top of the ice block hits
about mid-thigh in relation to the artist’s body, and she bends down low over
it completely to make her motions. She is dressed in a long-sleeved white
t-shirt, a white bandana around her neck, white cotton pants and black leather
cowboy-style work boots. Around her waist, she wears a black fanny pack, with
the zipper side turned outward. As I approach, I see she is shaving the ice
with a metal raspador, a handheld ice shaver used in raspado shops by Mexican working-class
men to make shaved ice for Mexican-style snow cones. The raspador is a metal
tool about the size of a matchbox that fits comfortably in the hand, with a
sharp blade on the bottom side, a hollow space inside that fills up with shaved
ice, and a top cover that opens and snaps closed again over the bottom
container part. As the artist grips the raspador in her right hand, her bent,
laboring body moves rhythmically, her right arm and shoulder moving back and
forth vigorously scraping the ice. As I get closer, I can see her left hand is
resting on a towel, gripping it, and she leans hard into the ice to give more
force to her scraping. She puts her whole body into the motion, and her right
hip and her arm and shoulder move forward and back as she scrapes the ice. She
keeps a tight grip on the frozen mass, allowing the towel to soak up the melt.
With her hair pulled back tightly in a short ponytail, I can see she is wearing
tiny silver drop earrings.

It is easy to describe this performance. But the term “the
performance” begs the question. What are the boundaries of performance and site?
What counts as the performance and what is “just context?” The durational
performance piece Raspado (Abolish ICE/Abolir ICE) (2020) was staged on a hot
Sunday afternoon in a public park located at the US-Mexico border crossing in
Mexicali, Mexico as part of the 2023 MexiCali Biennial. The work invites the
viewer to notice and consider what it would take to intervene in and even
abolish the oppressive systems of border enforcement that shape everyday
experience at the US-Mexico border. As performance studies scholar Shannon
Jackson and art historian Julia Bryan-Wilson point out with a nod and a wink to
Michael Fried’s critique of minimalism, “it is not only the immediate
performative body of the artist that counts as the piece, the contexts that
frame durational art—whether rhetorical, or national, or institutional—matter a
great deal.”

I argue that it is the immediacy of this
performance, its site-specificity, and its pairing with another performance
which open up complex readings for the viewer. This performance by artist
Annabel Turrado, stages a commonplace situation that implicates the viewer in a
set of expectations related to time, place and duration, prompting a
recognition of her own body and relationships to others in the charged site of
the US-Mexico border.  

READ ON…. Holslin, Jill Marie.  “Things You Notice While You’re Waiting,” MexiCali Biennial, January 9, 2023.

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