I arrived early for María Sosa’s performance The Enemy Inside / The Enemy from Outside (2019), accompanying her solo exhibition of the same name at PARQUE Gallery. I was having a mild panic attack and feeling sick to my stomach. I wasn’t in the mood for small talk, given the various feelings I was having, so I walked around the block, breathing in and out and wondering why I don’t feel nervous walking on stage in front of like 1000 people but I do feel nervous walking into a gallery for a performance. Is that what imposter syndrome is? I walked a couple blocks to the left, kind of southish, the grid in San Miguel de Chapultepec is a little crooked, past the corner store La Esperanza, wondering if the stained glass had anything to do with La Esperanza Gallery, who rent, or at least occupy, the windows of the corner store. I don’t think it did. I can’t tell if they even still exist. I guess I’m a little out of the loop as far as certain things are concerned. Maybe that’s where the imposter syndrome comes from: not knowing everything about everyone but feeling like you should.
Before the performance, María Sosa said, “I’m not going to talk about the performance.” She said, “now I will do the performance,” or something along those lines, and began to read a text. I should have taken notes, but I wanted to pay attention. The text spoke of the general theme of the performance, and of the show, “The enemy inside,” naming the enemy within as an internal colonial impulse, a drive to colonize oneself, to want to look European, act European, have money like a European, so on and so forth, and the devalidating gaze—”the enemy from outside”—that reinforces this drive. She mentioned the autonomous town Cherán in Michoacán, which forcibly removed all elements of the Mexican state. I don’t think I understood the connection at the time, but perhaps it had something with removing the internal colonist as Cherán removed theirs. She put the text down, and pressed play on a portable stereo, which began to play interviews she had done with friends, interspersed with phrases similar to the text she had read. While the recording played, she quietly drew with what looked like calligraphic ink on a huge roll of paper towels. She drew indigenous noses and European noses and caustic phrases about mestizaje. As she drew, she pulled out more paper, creating an awkwardly crumpled pile at the end. The ink bled, the images and phrases blurred. Young men with cameras and/or live Instagram feeds running danced delicately among the clump of people, sculptures, objects, and Sosa herself. Because of the layout of the gallery, kind of like a half-honeycomb with the kitchen, three exhibition rooms, and the bathroom surrounding a slightly larger central space, it was difficult to have a through-line to Sosa. I doubt even the cameras saw the whole performance. I stood on my tiptoes half the time, often losing my balance and kicking the door behind me as I lowered back down. Not being able to see the performance started to feel like not being able to read the bleeding text or see the blurred images. There is no stage at PARQUE Gallery and that is a good thing.
A while ago, after a show, a white jazz musician was lamenting that people claim that jazz music is Black music—which it is, of course. His argument was that he had studied jazz all his life, had practiced jazz all his life, had indeed dedicated his life to jazz. He seemed offended that this did not make jazz his personal property. I don’t understand. Why does love and dedication to something or someone imply ownership of that thing or that person? It’s like what Bonnie Jones was saying as she was making us grilled cheese sandwiches in her kitchen, after we saw her show at the Cardinal in Baltimore: “You know, the thing is: you can’t have it.” If there is a colonial impulse more basic than the drive towards purity (racial, economic, religious, etc), then maybe it is the drive to claim (land, people, a performance, etc). At the end of the performance, Sosa talked a little bit about the performance, explaining the origin of the interviews. They were with friends, she said. I want my work to be on an intimate scale, she said, I think—I still wasn’t feeling very well but I loved the performance and wanted to listen and remember—I want my work to be intimate because it is only through intimacy, personal and interpersonal work, that we can get out of this terrible situation we are in as a world.