Inserted within the US tradition of civil war re-enactments, Octopus (2011) by artist Yoshua Okón offers an alternative presentation of the Guatemalan Civil War. Where usually such activities take place in historically significant locations by enthusiasts with no direct experience of the conflict in question, in this work the site is of symbolic significance. The battlefield is relocated to US soil at a Home Depot parking lot in Los Angeles, and the conflict is performed by people who fought during the Guatemalan Civil War. The former soldiers are now members of the Los Angeles Mayan community, and they gather to look for work as day labourers in the same parking lot where this performance takes place.
The title, Octopus, makes reference to the nickname used in Guatemala for The United Fruit Company, UFCO (now known as Chiquita Banana), a US Company based in Guatemala and directly linked to the CIA-led coup and to the following civil war. Also presented is US (2005), a single channel animation originally created for the Monuments For The USA show.
Yoshua Okón was born in Mexico City in 1970 where he currently lives. His work is like a series of near-sociological experiments executed for the camera blending staged situations, documentation and improvisation, questioning habitual perceptions of reality and truth, selfhood and morality. In 2002 he received an MFA from UCLA with a Fulbright scholarship. In 1994, Okón founded La Panadería, an artist-run space in Mexico City.
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