Regina José Galindo’s performance Who Can Erase the Traces?, 2003, was shown in video form at the Venice Biennale in 2005, where she won a Golden Lion award in the category “artists under 30” for the works she exhibited which also included Himenoplastia: a video of an operation she underwent to reconstruct her hymen. Regarding her use of her body as an art form Galindo has stated: “My body not like an individual body, but a social body, a collective body, a global body. To be, or to reflect, through me, her, his, their experience; because all of us, we are at the same time ourselves and others.” (Aucklandtriennial).
Who Can Erase the Traces? consists of a video of a street performance in which Galindo carries a white enamelled bowl of blood through the streets of Guatemala city. Before she begins her walk Galindo dipped each of her feet into the bowl of blood so that she so that she left a trail of bloody footprints on the pavement as she walked. She would stop at regular intervals to re-dip her feet. At the end of the performance the footprints of blood stretched between two political landmarks: the Court of Constitutionality and the National Palace (Bombsite).
Her performance was a work of political poetry directed against José Efraín Ríos Montt a candidate running in the presidential election in 2003. Galindo’s protest performance was based on what happened during Montt’s fourteen months of dictatorship between 1982-1983. According to the ‘killer files’ on the Australian political website Moreorless:
The 14 months of Ríos Montt’s rule will become the bloodiest in Guatemala’s history since the invasion of the country by the Spanish some 400 years earlier. Mayans suspected of sympathising with the guerillas are killed en mass or subjected to atrocities. Women and girls are raped. The use of torture is widespread. Over 400 Mayan villages are razed. Crops and livestock are destroyed. The insurgency is contained but with a tragic human cost.
As the terror reigns, Ríos Montt broadcasts weekly sermons on morality. His regime and policies are supported by the US Government and US-based, right-wing religious groups. US President Ronald Reagan is reported as saying that Ríos Montt is “a man of great personal integrity” who is “getting a bum rap on human rights.”
It is estimated that during the 14 months of Ríos Montt’s rule about 70,000 civilians have been killed or “disappeared”. (Moreorless)
Against this savage background Galindo’s Who Can Erase the Traces, 2003, acquires considerable significance, indicating the power of visual and corporeal poetry to deal with the darker side of human behaviour. For more on Galindo see (karaandrade; bombsite).