Erica G. Peralta: Vessels of Dignity
May 5-June 5, 2023
Vessels of Dignity attempts an enactment of disidentification. According to the Cuban-American academic José Esteban Muñoz, disidentification is a kind of performative action in which queer people of color take a position neither for nor against the dominant ideology, instead mobilizing intentionally disparate and contradictory modes of representation to subversive ends.
In her solo exhibition for Proxy, Peralta projects a 4-minute video onto the back “wall” of the gallery, to the soundtrack of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, mixed with her own spoken voice and the sounds of various pop beats and electric rhythms. The video is shot inside the Proxy gallery and starts with an image of a mirror that reflects its surroundings. The artist’s hand, wearing long fake fingernails with rhinestones, “dances” the Swan Lake ballet. Later in the video the hand appears again, but this time only two fingers have the rhinestone fingernails, and the others are “naked.” Still later in the video, the hand is replaced by the wooden articulated hand traditionally used in art schools to teach Drawing and Sketching. The wooden hand is then shown to be manipulated by the living hand of the artist.
Appropriately, the Swan Lake plot is filled with themes of tragic love, betrayals, transformations, and mistaken identities. Peralta deftly uses a conglomeration of white Eurocentric symbols of high culture together with handmade cardboard structures from East Los Angeles that she is seen to be placing--or even throwing down-- in the video. Rather than contrasting a pure race, sexuality or class to the dominant culture, Peralta recognizes in herself an identification that includes stereotypes; a sensibility that can only be seen in specifics. Far from seeking to find herself, she instead seeks to lose herself in history.