Margarita Cabrera: Pulso y Martillo (Pulse and Hammer)

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Computer sketch of Pulse and Hammer, 2011 © Courtesy of the Artist and Sweeney Art Gallery
Margarita Cabrera: Pulso y Martillo (Pulse and Hammer)

3834 Main Street
Riverside, CA 92501
February 5th, 2011 - April 2nd, 2011
Opening: February 5th, 2011 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

inland empire
Tue-Sat 12-5; First Sunday of every month: 12-5; First Thursday of every month 6-9 (FREE)
installation, performance


RIVERSIDE, CA—In her first solo museum exhibition on the west coast, Margarita Cabrera: Pulso y Martillo (Pulse and Hammer) presents two bold, experimental new  installation/performances, Pulse and Hammer and Florezca Board of Directors: Performance. The impetus for them is Cabrera’s grand vision to create a corporation, Florezca, Inc., in  which undocumented workers are shareholders so that they might be protected by the legal status of a corporate entity. The performances will embody the “corporation” (“corp”  references “corpus” or “the body”) in which the bodies of the undocumented are “given a voice” through representation in the corporation.

For years, Margarita Cabrera has been working on a number of collaborative projects (The Craft of Resistance and Space In Between) at the intersection of contemporary art practices, indigenous Mexican folk art and craft traditions, and US-Mexico relations. These projects have served as active investigations into the creation of fair working conditions and the protection of immigrant rights. The exhibition includes a survey of these past collaborative works from 2003 to 2008. They include replicas of life-size, soft-sculpture appliances that are assembled by Mexican workers in maquiladoras, multinational assembly plants located near the U.S./Mexico border, cacti made from border-patrol uniforms, ceramic sculpture of farming tools, and a large-scale maquiladora for the production of copper butterflies.

Not content to make art about social problems, Cabrera is generating solutions to these problems through her art. In 2010, Cabrera began to research the possibility of forming a multinational corporation for undocumented people in the U.S. called Florezca, Inc. Businesses have long protected their interests by way of incorporation. Incorporation is a way of pooling resources and gaining protection against financial and legal risks. The corporation will consolidate and expand many of Cabrera’s collaborative projects, giving their participants, members of the Spanish-speaking immigrant community in the U.S. (many of them undocumented workers,) the same rights and protection accorded to the shareholders and employees of other multinational concerns, since they will become shareholders in her corporation. Whereas the typical corporation seeks profit above all else, often by way of the exploitation of workers, communities, and natural resources, this corporation is founded on humanitarian principles. It will seek to make a profit for investors, but first it will seek to empower its employees.

The first “share-holders” will be UC Riverside students and community members. Many are undocumented and others are supporters of California’s Assembly Bill (AB) 540 (signed into law in 2001) and the federal government’s DREAM Act, or Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, which would use state bills such as AB 540 as pathways for undocumented students to U.S. citizenship. The DREAM Act addresses on a federal level the situation faced by young people who were brought to the U.S. years ago as undocumented immigrant children but who have since grown up in the U.S. The Dream Act would give conditional green cards to undocumented immigrants if they graduate from high school and pursue a college education or military service.

After a 10-year waiting period, they could obtain permanent residency if they met all the requirements, and they could eventually apply for citizenship. Support for the DREAM Act has grown since it was first introduced in 2001 during the 107th Congress. The House of Representatives passed the DREAM Act in December 2010, but the Senate did not. The next step is open for question. Cabrera’s multinational corporation, Florezca, is one response!

New Installations and Performances

The new Pulse and Hammer performance/installation in the Center Atrium Gallery of the Culver Center of the Arts, will consist of specially built wood platforms that will hold 3 x 8 foot, heavy gauge sheets of copper, the same used in the making of the copper butterflies and references the Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacán, Mexico traditional copper craft-making techniques that Cabrera explored in The Craft of Resistance project.

During the opening reception on Saturday, February 5, 2011, 6-9 PM, performers will beat the copper with sledgehammers in a ritualistic manner. After the reception, the sculptural bases and beaten copper will moved to the North Atrium Gallery to accompany an installation of copper butterflies. The performers will be culled from UCR students and activist groups in support of California’s AB540 and the federal government’s DREAM Act—both are legislative acts in support of a pathway to citizenship through education. Many of the performers will be undocumented students from UCR’s campus. This performance of hammering copper represents immigrant labor. More importantly, it represents the progressive molding and changing of negative preconceptions about immigrants through the use of a traditional craft material.

As part of both a re-presentation of The Craft of Resistance from 2008 and as a bridge to the new Pulse and Hammer performance/installation, Cabrera will install nearly 1,000 copper butterflies in the North Atrium Gallery, creating a swarm-like environment. The swarm represents the manic transformation of the Mexican economy, expressing the threats posed by an oversaturated market and the flight of the younger generation from rural to urban centers on both sides of the border. The monarch butterfly is known for its lengthy annual migration,which spans North America, from Canada to sanctuaries in Michoacán. For Cabrera, the perseverance of these insects draws a direct parallel to the perilous journey of thousands of Mexican immigrants to the United States.

Cabrera will work direct a second performance/installation called Florezca Board of Directors: Performance (Mesa directiva: performance). Still under development, it will be, potentially, the first meeting of Florezca’s board of directors, consisting of Cabrera, AB 540 students, and other. The performance will be a mix of rehearsed statements and improvisation, and will be collaboration with UCR creative writing professor, Juan Felipe Herrera, author of 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross The Border, and UCR MFA candidate in creative writing, Scott Hernandez. Cabrera will work with UCR students, including undocumented ones, and activists, to determine the design of the boardroom table.

The performance will be presented on Saturday, March 5, 2011, and will be part of daylong series of events exploring issues around the border, undocumented workers, and a maquiladora-based economy. A schedule of events is listed below. After the performance, the boardroom table will be moved to the North Atrium Gallery where the copper plates from the Pulse and Hammer performance will be placed upon it, and remain until the end of the exhibition.

The exhibition will also include a series of mydreamstory listening stations in which undocumented students describe their struggles and accomplishments. These recordings are part of an ongoing project, my.dream.story, led by UCR Political Science PhD candidate, Tom K. Wong, and undocumented students across Southern California college campuses, which is about advocating for undocumented youth and the DREAM Act,


The DREAM Project draws attention to the struggles undocumented youth in the United States face by bringing their unique stories to the forefront of the public’s attention in order to raise awareness about how they are negatively affected by an immigration status they largely had no part in determining. Indeed, their parents brought most here at a very young age, unaware of the implications of immigrating. For these youth, their “illegality” is imposed upon them, without consent, and without choice.

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