Constellations – Keynote Address

Dr. Marcela A. Fuentes
Northwestern University

The Light You Gave Us: Performing Constellations as Enduring, Transmedia Movements in the Americas

Thursday, October 10, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. in SCI 106

In 2019, Zapatista women sent a call for “women who struggle” in Mexico and around the world to keep alive the flame that they ignited in the nineties. In response to the current military and paramilitary violence deployed on indigenous land at the service of extractivist capitalism, Zapatista women renewed a tradition built upon poetic language, symbolic performance, and social media spreadability to foster communal lifeworlds. Women around the world responded using candles as concrete and metaphoric tools to connect struggles. Activists also used cell phones as ephemeral sources of light and vehicles to create flickering constellations online. In this talk, we will gather to think about the tactics put in motion by contemporary social movements confronting precarity, sociopolitical turmoil, and death. What does the notion of “constellation” help us understand about highly embodied and mediated activist formations that denounce conditions of vulnerability but also materialize collective, life-giving forces? What does it mean to act in/as constellations? What do we do, as critical thinkers, idea-makers, and cultural producers when we cluster, entangle, and assemble events, including conferences? Can “constellations” allow us to elucidate not only transmedia, trans-historic modalities of cooperation but also equally crucial gestures of disaffiliation such as “Not in our name” and “Enough is Enough”? Is “constellations” as a concept/performance that brings to light complex, dynamic, and site-specific phenomena a way to disrupt networks that bring us together but also fragment us?

Marcela A. Fuentes is a performance theorist and artist whose work centers on performance as a means of communication, inquiry, and social justice. Fuentes’s current research focuses on tactical uses of body-based, expressive performance and digital networking in contemporary protests and activisms. Her book Performance Constellations: Networks of Protest and Activism in Latin America (University of Michigan Press) theorizes emerging forms of collective action by examining how activists and socially engaged artists in the Western hemisphere use digital networks to create multi-sited protests in response to the effects of transnational capitalism. She offers the concept of “performance constellations” to trace changing notions of embodiment, liveness, and site-specificity, and ways in which transmedia mobilizations expand the politics of performance as a live event. Her teaching interests include performance art, social art tactics, activism and performance, practice-based research, transnational/decolonial feminisms, and feminist and queer performance. She is currently on the Editorial Board of HemiPress, a digital publication initiative by the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics. She is a former member of the Argentine feminist collective Ni Una Menos (Not One Woman Less) and External Consultant for the Buenos Aires Performance Art Biennial.