Protect The Civil Right to Exhibit Queer Art in San Antonio Today

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Xandra Ibarra’s parodic video Spictacle II: La Tortillera has been legally assessed as containing “obscene content” by City Attorney Andy Segovia and has been censored by the city of San Antonio’s Department of Arts and Culture. On February 13, 2020, Ibarra’s work was removed preceding the opening of a group exhibition entitled XicanX: New Visions curated by Suzy González and Michael Menchaca at Centro de Artes. According to the National Coalition Against Censorship, The City of San Antonio’s censorship violates our civil right to freedom of speech & expression, a right granted by the U.S. Constitution. 

The video work by El Paso-born and Oakland-based artist, Xandra Ibarra, addresses homophobia, nationalism, and sexism with critical wit. Her work has proven to be valuable to many art critics who write for Artforum, Forbes Magazine, ArtNews, and academic institutions such as Brown University, Duke University, NYU, and many academic journals, news outlets, and art institutions. The video is designed to challenge normative ideals of Mexican womanhood and is in alignment with the historical lineage of LGBTQAI+ artists’ strategies to intervene in homophobic and sexist violence. The Miller Obscenity Test determines whether work is obscene under the First Amendment by assessing whether the work, “taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” There is no question as to whether Xandra Ibarra’s work contains artistic value. Therefore, we oppose this censorship and see it as banishing queer, sexual, feminist, and Latinx creative expression, an act of discrimination and glaring homophobia.

The XicanX: New Visions group exhibition presents a contemporary contextualization of Xicanx art today. The exhibit is curated through a desire to give a name to a generation of contemporary artists of coiled genetic ancestries, sexual orientations, and studio techniques in the art world. While the City claims that “Art can be a language through which a community expresses itself (and that) Art can serve as an instrument to channel difficult conversations,” this censorship has erased queer freedom of expression and Ibarra’s work altogether. This has halted any conversation that may have arisen from exhibiting her work and harkens to broader instances of phobic responses to queer and gender non-conforming bodies in public. In reference to her work, Ibarra says, "Sex and sexuality are part of critically and radically thinking about aesthetics. I hope the potential of obscenity reveals itself to us as productive, always." 

We invite you to sign this petition that demands that the San Antonio Department of Arts and Culture includes Xandra Ibarra’s work in XicanX: New Visions as originally envisioned. Further, we ask that the City of San Antonio reassess their definitions of “obscenity” that are in fact rooted in a tradition of silencing sexual expression. The city’s response to Xandra Ibarra’s artwork is fundamentally illegitimate, unjust, and deserves reevaluation. Help us fight for our freedom of speech and expression within the arts and the greater realm of human rights. For general press correspondence and interviews:

Curators, dosmestizx@gmail.com; https://dosmestizx.com

Artist, xandraibarra@gmail.com; www.xandraibarra.com

Image caption: Xandra Ibarra, Still of video Spictacle II: La Tortillera (2014). La Tortillera was developed by Xandra Ibarra as a live performance in 2004 when she performed under the alias of La Chica Boom. The performance was later archived for camera in 2014. In Spictacle II: La Tortillera, Ibarra takes on her own racial bondage to hot sauce, tacos, and demographic panic in “Tortillera.” She dances a 60’s border corrida as a minstrel Mexican housewife, makes tacos with her panties, and “spreads her seed” onto tacos with her “Tapatio cock.”