Catalogue text for the performance: Lesson of Dissection by Guatemalan artist Regina José Galindo. The performance was part of exhibition Margins: Walking Between Worlds, held at Art Exchange of the Universty of Essex, UK, with the support of Arts Council England, ESCALA, Firstsite and ROLLO, from 24 September to 5 November 2011.
Lesson of Dissection took place on 11 November 2011 in Essex, UK. Taking inspiration from Rembrandt’s famous painting The Anatomy Lesson, 1632, Galindo’s performance explores the increasing professionalization of violence in Mexico and Guatemala, where drug cartels are hiring mercenaries to perform, with clinical precision, mutilations and other acts of violence.
Whereas during the civil war clearly identifiable collective bodies exercised violence —the State and its army— presently, it has become an option for a multitude of actors, for a multitude of reasons. ‘Privatised’ by criminal gangs, violence has become perpetual, traversing public spaces and crossing national boundaries. Galindo’s new performance to be executed at the University of Essex in November 2011, points to these recent developments in the use and control of violence. Titled Lessons of Dissection, the performance stages Galindo’s motionless body lying on a steel table. A professional surgeon enters the room with a small group of anatomy students to mark the artist’s body with a system of black lines indicating where to cut. The marked body parts are the same as the ones that are mutilated in women’s bodies in Guatemala: arms, hands, nails, eyes, nose, nipples, legs.