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In Going Bananas, the culminating exhibition of gloria galvez’s residency at Women’s Center for Creative Work, the activist artist presents a fruit in crisis. Galvez examines the Musa Paradisiaca, likening the colonized exports of fruit plantations to prisoners within an open-air penal colony.
For the first portion of her residency, galvez collaborated with other members of the Los Angeles chapter of the political-action group Critical Resistance, hosting workshops toward the elimination of violent police tactics and the prison-industrial complex. In her solo interrogation of the banana, galvez adapts this language of protest—picket signs, a postcard-writing station, takeaway stickers—to peel back the plight of the endangered, bitter fruit. In a small room painted blood-red with stenciled, yellow crescents tiled throughout, alimentary terms like “storage” and “expiration date” become analogous to carceral structures.
The video Life In An Open Air Prison (2018-2019) uses hand-drawn computer animations and text to provide an abridged origin-story of the “Banana Republic,” referring to Guatemala and other countries of the Global South crippled by imperialist trade. An abstracted American flag appears through toxic white pesticide clouds which, according to a handwritten intertitle, cause laborers to “turn blue, see stars,” before melting into a red colorfield. The lenticular print Chiquita (2017) contrasts a banana in Carmen Miranda drag with a banana in a hazmat suit spraying chemicals. The double image pits the hip-slinging, exoticised stereotype against the traumatic legacies of Chiquita, Dole, and United Fruit Co., all of whom sterilized foreign soil in their respective pursuits of profit.
In A Postcard Note of Solidarity to Banana (2017-2019), viewers are invited to send a postcard to those fruits “detained” at 365 Market, another contemporary global empire. “Contact is essential to helping overcome the feeling of isolation a prisoner will experience,” the postcard instructions declare. While this obviously fictional scenario could appear insensitive to actually incarcerated human beings, galvez makes the familiar fantastical, pointing out the acceptable absurdities of life under Capitalism. Rather than commercialize the political through professionalized pablum, she uses empathy, humor, cartoons, and mock-DIY aesthetics to imagine a version of justice which does not require putting human beings into boxes. The fruit might be a metaphor, but it resonates with urgent realities.
Going Bananas runs from March 1–March 31, 2015 at Women’s Center for Creative Work (2425 Glover Pl., Los Angeles, CA 90031), and is part 2 of a project titled Get Free: An Abolitionist Framework Applied to All Things, that galvez made while in residency at Women’s Center for Creative Work.