One of the dances performed in Crudo, the malambo, has historically been a male expression of Argentine gaucho machismo and incorporates boleadoras – heavy balls tethered to the ends of long cords that are used to wrangle domestic animals and hunt wild ones. They are the gaucho’s tool of the trade and essential weapon, but Rios’ natty white-suited performer demonstrates none of the violent ball-swinging of his ancestors; instead he has replaced the traditional leather sacks of stones with raw slabs of meat. What may be construed as an activism of identity along the lines of the Afro-Cuban artist Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons quickly turns grisly as snarling guard dogs rush into frame, demanding their immediate due and snapping at the dancing man. It is critical to note that Rios has transformed this powerful, percussive dance into something that is essentially a desperate, even masochistic, offering. The dancer is set up to lose and enters the arena prepared not to be victorious but to endure and taunt and snarl. However, the valiantly pathetic gesture is disrupted by the video’s editing, as new dogs and meat are inserted into and removed from the scene. This introduction of artificiality into what is at first a very poetic sort of singular action, brings the piece closer to resembling a music video (the performer’s boots thunder gloriously). With the dancer offering a raw steak to the dogs in the video’s climax, the entire piece becomes a pessimistic allegory concerning external pressures to ‘be authentic’.
Quoted from article by William Gass about Miguel Angel Rios, Frieze Magazine, issue 118, October 2008
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