"The body of the dancers, or phantoms, become sources of knowledge, and their gaze holds the viewer accountable, something that is too often missing from history and art; holding space in historically white spaces in ways that they have never been inhabited before.” -Carolina Caycedo, artist
Questions & Prompts
Imagine you were in this choreographed piece. How would you feel? Why?
Mimic one of the movements you observe in this video. What does it feel like to move your body in this way?
Mimic one of the still (unmoving) poses you observe in this video. What does it feel like to hold your body still in this way?
Select one of the dancers and follow them throughout the scenes. What do they do with their body in each scene? Describe the scenery they engage with. Try this again with a different dancer and compare their movements.
This video is a three-minute clip of a nine-minute and thirty-second video artwork. Based on what you have seen in this clip, what would you expect to see in the other six-and-a-half minutes? Why?
The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens provides the setting for Apariciones/Apparitions. In 1919, Henry E. Huntington and his wife Arabella Huntington promised to turn their private estate into a public institution. At that time, their estate included features such as a mansion, library buildings, several gardens, including the Desert Garden and the Japanese Garden, orchards, and several acres of undeveloped land.
The Huntingtons’ goal of putting their estate into a trust for the public was to “to promote and advance learning, the arts and sciences, and to promote the public welfare” (Huntington 1). They were committed to sharing valuable culture and learning with the public. However, because the Huntingtons valued British, European, and Anglo-American history, this is what they chose to collect and present as important and valuable to future visitors.
The Apariciones/Apparitions artwork challenges The Huntington’s historical definitions of “public good” and “community.” Today, The Huntington aspires to be a welcoming place for all.
In this artwork, Caycedo holds space for Black and brown bodies in the historically white Huntington. The dancers in this work engage in movements and poses inspired by three aspects of human existence: ritual, labor, and rest.
Ritual is the act of using our bodies to perform repeated actions for a sacred or solemn purpose. In this artwork, Caycedo infuses Afro-Latine spiritual practices and aesthetics into the landscape. In particular, the artwork draws on the colors and movements of Oxúm (also written Ọṣun or Oshun). Oxúm is an Orisha, a being that loosely translates to a deity, spirit, or goddess. Orisha are part of the Yoruba religion of West Africa as well as of the African diaspora religions that derived from Yoruba religious traditions. Oxúm is an Orisha of water, pleasure, fertility, and sexuality. Her signature color is deep gold. When an Orisha enters the body of a mortal, the mortal’s entire body is believed to shake. Where do you see elements of Oxúm in this artwork?
Labor is using our bodies, minds, and energy to work. This artwork explores how labor can be a form of ritual (a religious or solemn act). Some of the rituals of labor in this piece include tilling land and washing gold in a river. Where do you see labor in this artwork? What aspects of the labor seem like rituals to you?
Rest is allowing our bodies, minds, and energy to replenish. Rest is the absence of labor, and it is essential to our well-being. This artwork explores how rest can be a form of ritual (a religious or solemn act). Some of the rituals of rest in this piece include lying on a tree in the garden and lying on a table in the library reading room. Where do you see rest in this artwork? What aspects of rest seem like rituals to you?
Analyze the Landscape
Choose one of the below stills (photographs) from the video artwork. Allow the prompts and questions beneath the stills to guide your observation. Once you’re done, you can choose a second still and repeat the process. Compare your responses for the two stills. You can also compare your responses to those of a friend or classmate.
Questions and Prompts
Describe the space. Identify and describe nonliving elements of the landscape. Identify and describe living elements of the landscape.
Describe the movement. How are the people interacting with the landscape? What are they doing? What parts of the landscape are they touching?
Write a monologue or diary entry from the point of view of one of the people in the still. You can use the prompt “as I sit/stand/lie in this place...”
What do you think the people in the still were doing in the seconds before this still was taken? What do you think the people in the still will do in the seconds after this still was taken?
Why do you think Caycedo chose to include this setting in her artwork?
Choreograph an Artwork
Think of a time when you felt unwelcome or excluded from a place. Imagine that you could use that place as the setting for an artwork. What would you want to say about inclusion and exclusion? What parts of yourself would you want to bring into the space? Why? Choreograph a dance, or create another form of artwork, to express your ideas and your sense of self.
References and Resources
Caycedo, Carolina. n.d. “Performance / Geochoreographies.” Accessed February 1, 2022. http://carolinacaycedo.com/category/performance-geochoreographies.
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. n.d. “Carolina Caycedo: Apariciones/Apparitions.” Accessed December 7, 2021. https://fac.coloradocollege.edu/exhibits/carolina-caycedo-apariciones-apparitions/.
Huntington, Henry Edwards. 1919. “Original Trust Indenture.” The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.
The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. n.d. “Apariciones/Apparitions.” Accessed December 7, 2021. https://www.huntington.org/apariciones-apparitions.
Vincent Price Art Museum. n.d. “Carolina Caycedo: Apariciones/Apparitions.” Accessed December 7, 2021. https://vincentpriceartmuseum.org/exhibitions_carolina-caycedo.html.