Using her residency at Art Exchange as an opportunity to examine the rapidly changing politics of Guatemala, Regina Jose Galindo takes as her starting point Rembrandt’s famous painting ‘The Anatomy Lesson’, 1632.
Referring to this group portrait, Galindo points to the increasing professionalisation of violence in Central America, where Mexican drug cartels are hiring kaibiles as mercenaries to perform, with utmost precision, mutilations and other acts of violence. Kaibiles is the name given to an elite corps of the Guatemalan army that gained international reputation for the atrocities committed during the civil war. After the signing of the peace accords and the diminishing of governmental military spending, many kaibiles entered the global free market of violence, in which their reputation assured them a favourable position. Within this context, mutilations should not be understood as mere acts of savagery. Violence has become a rational enterprise and the mercenaries ensure that these acts have mediatic visibility. Not only to create panic in the population, but also to exhibit their competences to potential commissioners. Just as Rembrandt’s portrait was intended to show off the skills of the Guild of Surgeons, mutilations become at once rational, mediatic and staged. Galindo addresses these issues by prominently staging her own body as a site a constant social and political conflict, symbolically becoming the traumatised social body.
Regina José Galindo has shown internationally, including solo exhibitions at Modern Art Oxford, Prometeo Gallery, Milan and representing Guatemala at the 51st and 54th Venice Biennales, winning the prestigious Golden Lion Award in 2005.