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Faith-Based Initiative: "Neo HooDoo: Art for a Forgotten Faith"

The Menil hosts one of the most compelling shows Houston has seen in a long time

Oppression of other peoples is not a thing of the past, as observed by Regina José Galindo, a video artist and activist from Ciudad de Guatemala with three videos on display. In Confession (2007), her head is repeatedly held underwater for long periods of time by a big burly man (contrary to the catalogue, this is not waterboarding, which involves laying a person on their back with her head inclined). The site of this video is a basement in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, rumored to be a refueling point for American rendition flights. There's also 150,000 Voltos (2007), in which she is Tasered by a man until she falls down, and Liempza Social (2006), in which the naked Galindo is sprayed with a high pressure hose until she is knocked down, cold and obviously in pain.

Storm at Sea emits an almost inexplicable energy.
Courtesy of The Menil Collection
Storm at Sea emits an almost inexplicable energy.

When I first tried viewing these, I thought, "What a masochistic nut job," and I wasn't alone. People were getting really upset by these videos, although, show them the same thing on TV, and they wouldn't think twice. Someone had written "This is disgusting" in the Menil's guest book, and a man walking out of the video stall said, "This makes me sick!" But because I am always willing to hear another viewpoint, I asked an artist who knows about these things what she thought of Galindo's work. Her perspective was that by watching Galindo, a small-statured woman, being near-drowned, Tasered and hosed, the viewer would become more aware of the thousands of real individuals facing government-imposed torture everyday. Keeping this in mind, I watched the videos again, but after awhile I became too aware that, unlike the helpless and often innocent victims at Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib, Galindo could ask her afflicter to stop at any time. Despite these criticisms, her intentions are worthy — she's trying to raise awareness about something we all have become too far removed from. And overall, "Neo HooDoo," is such a great show, it would be a sin not to see it.

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