La condition de performance
Glenda León, translated by Eva Labarias, preface by Genviève Marot. Quebec, Éditions Nota bene, 2010. Nouveaux Essais Spirale. 113 pages, col. ill. Text in French.
La condición performática
Glenda León. Havanna, Editorial Letras Cubanos, 2001. Special edition. 77 pages. Text in Spanish.
Written by Cuban artist and art critic Glenda León, La condición performática provides a critical reflection on performance art, from both formal and conceptual points of view. Informed by contemporary theory and avant-garde precedents to the history of performance art, León’s text pays special attention to the social, cultural, and political circumstances of Cuban art production in the late 1990s.
La condición performática makes us acutely aware of the important role that context plays to the understanding of artistic practices and the language that is used to describe them. Although notions such as “transgression” and “public intervention” are fundamental to our comprehension of contemporary artmaking worldwide, they take on other levels of meaning within Cuba.
León’s work was published in 2001, though not before it had been reviewed and revised by the State. As a result, certain words or entire sentences had been removed from the orginal version. In response, the artist printed the censored text onto small strips of adhesive tape and re-inserted them back into a limited number of (special edition) copies.
In 2010, the orginal (and un-censored) version of La condición performática was translated into French and published by Éditions Nota bene. It includes an insightful, twelve-page preface by art historian Genviève Marot as well as colour reproductions that were not present in the first edition. The extensive use of footnotes throughout La condition de performance provides the reader with added historical and cultural context.
In the translator’s note, Labarias rightfully interprets León’s re-integration of the censored text into the first edition as a performative act in and of itself – one that leads us to a new understanding of the artist’s writing. Arguably then, León’s special edition becomes an artist’s book that blends critical writing and performance. JL
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Further reading: the January-February 2010 edition of the art magazine Spirale (no. 230) includes a seven-page text/portfolio about the artist, written by Genviève Marot. For details, see http://www.spiralemagazine.com/parutions/230/portfolio/pfolio_01.html
Artist in residence: Glenda León is the 2010 recipient of the International Residency of the Canada Council for the Arts at Quartier Éphémère (the Darling Foundry) in Montreal. Her residency runs from January 15 to May 15, 2010. For details, see: http://www.fonderiedarling.org/soutenir_e/artistes/Leon_g.html