Guadalupe Maravilla Exposes the Trauma of Border Crossing

Guadalupe Maravilla, Los Purifiers, 2019, performance at ICA Miami
Guadalupe Maravilla, Los Purifiers, 2019, performance at ICA Miami
Guadalupe Maravilla, Los Purifiers, 2019, performance at ICA Miami – Photo: Chris Carter

Knockdown Center is an immersive gallery and contemporary performance space in Maspeth, Queens, known for showcasing innovative and challenging formats of art and visual media. The building itself, named for the Knock-Down door frame that was invented at the site in 1956, has witnessed a tremendous degree of transformation in its more than 100 years of functional existence. So, too, has the audience of revelers who wander the expansive halls, emerging renewed and recharged as a result of any one of the transfixing exhibits that take place.

One such exhibit that remains aligned with Knockdown’s principled credo while simultaneously showcasing a completely fresh and transformative way of thinking is Disease Thrower, a newly commissioned performance piece by multimedia artist and 2019 Guggenheim Foundation Fellow Guadalupe Maravilla.

Guadalupe Maravilla Performance at Whitney Museum
Guadalupe Maravilla Performance at Whitney Museum – Photo: Filip Wolak

Billed as a work that “lives between an immersive mini-opera and an invented healing ritual,” Disease Thrower spans performance, sculpture and visual art, in an attempt to convey the artist’s enthralling account of being an unaccompanied child immigrant seeking escape from his native El Salvador into the fractured and foreboding arms of the United States, transposed, wrenchingly, against his subsequent intestinal cancer diagnosis. The work is powerful, prescient, and now more than ever, wholly relevant.

Maravilla’s work, which has been collected by the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, MoMA and the Whitney Museum of American Art, always manages to incorporate flourishes of his pre-colonial Central American ancestry by way of various multimedia disciplines, including video, drawings, and performance (both fictional and autobiographical accounts). Disease Thrower, in particular, shines a spotlight on the internalized effects experienced by so many immigrants who share the artist’s menacing and treacherous journey – a journey in which salvation is never promised.

Guadalupe Maravilla: Disease Thrower
Knockdown Center, 52-19 Flushing Ave, Queens, NY 11378
Saturday, March 14, 2020, 6:00 pm EDT