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words may not be found

Artist: Coco Fusco (US)




Words May Not Be Found is a performance that seeks to draw conclusions from the German and British colonial past that may allow us to see our contemporary condition, especially in regard to what we dream of “the other.”

More than a century after the German military campaign in South-West Africa, the conflict that emerged in response to an insurrection by the Nama and Herero peoples of Namibia remains a source of collective trauma for both nations. The traumatic nature of this history is due in not only to the scale of violence that was carried out against civilians, but also to the efforts to suppress the sole document that contained Namibian testimony relating to the conflict.



This language-based performance takes as a point of departure the 1918 Blue Book, a report by the British government on the history of German occupation and rule of Namibia. It details the atrocities committed toward the local population, the legacy of this record, its suppression, and the historical amnesia produced by decades of erasure of those words.

Biography 

Coco Fusco (b.1960), interdisciplinary artist and writer, explores the politics of gender, race, war, and identity through multi-media productions incorporating large-scale projections, closed-circuit television, web-based live streaming performances with audience interaction, as well as performances at cultural events that actively engage with the audience.

Much of Fusco’s interdisciplinary art practice over the last several decades has been concerned with the themes of colonialism and power, race, gender, and history. Her exploration of these themes has culminated in staged performances that concern the embodied experiences of these phenomena, in an effort to destabilize their meanings. She locates her own body not only as the site of their merging, but also as their immediate product. This she presents and communicates through her actual performances themselves. In them, she creates and takes on multiple identities to destabilize those identities that have been historically imposed on bodies along colonial, racial, and gendered lines. Fusco also engages with legacies of Cuban exile in her work, as in some of her earlier performances where she stages Catholic rituals and experiences of dislocation.

Fusco was born in the United States on June 18, 1960, to Cuban parents who had emigrated in 1954. Shortly after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, her father was deported. Her mother hid from the INS and did not return to Cuba until after Coco was born. Fusco’s U.S. citizenship enabled her mother’s return to New York while other Cubans seeking entrance into the United States were forced to endure long and confusing delays. As her relatives immigrated to New York throughout the 1960s, her home served as a gateway to life in the United States. Fusco was raised in this bicultural setting, where the private and public spheres of daily life were thrown into sharp relief because of differences in language, culture, and tradition.

Coco Fusco is an interdisciplinary artist and writer and the Andrew Banks Endowed Professor of Art at the University of Florida. She is a recipient of a 2014 Cintas Fellowship, a 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship, a 2013 Absolut Art Writing Award, a 2013 Fulbright Fellowship, a 2012 US Artists Fellowship and a 2003 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts. Fusco’s performances and videos have been presented in the 56th Venice Biennale, two Whitney Biennials (2008 and 1993), BAM’s Next Wave Festival, the Sydney Biennale, The Johannesburg Biennial, The Kwangju Biennale, The Shanghai Biennale, InSite O5, Mercosul, Transmediale, The London International Theatre Festival, VideoBrasil and Performa05. Her works have also been shown at the Tate Liverpool, The Museum of Modern Art, The Walker Art Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona. She is represented by Alexander Gray Associates in New York.

Fusco is the author of English is Broken Here: Notes on Cultural Fusion in the Americas (1995) and The Bodies that Were Not Ours and Other Writings (2001), and A Field Guide for Female Interrogators (2008). She is also the editor of Corpus Delecti: Performance Art of the Americas (1999) and Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self (2003). Her new book entitled Dangerous Moves: Performance and Politics in Cuba was recently issued by Tate Publications in London.

Fusco received her B.A. in Semiotics from Brown University (1982), her M.A. in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University (1985) and her Ph.D. in Art and Visual Culture from Middlesex University (2007).

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