Tortillas and matzah. Cilantro and parsley. Gefilte fish and gefilte fish à la Veracruzana.
When Joan Baron and Gloria Martinez-Granados began collaborating last November, the similarities they found between Jewish culture and Mexican culture — specifically traditional foods — were striking.
“When you’re looking at issues of environmental justice, food justice, human rights — the conversation, of course, would center around food,” Baron said.
That was one of the starting places for what became “Good Trouble Bucket,” a performance art piece that the artists planned to present at Artlink Artist Council’s annual Art d’Core Gala in mid-March. Like many events at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the gala — and the performance — were canceled days before the event.
While in-person performances remain on hold, Baron and Martinez-Granados found another way to share their piece with the world. They filmed the performance, alone in the studio with two videographers, and published the resulting six-minute video on Vimeo in June.
“It ended up being a blessing in disguise because the original idea was that it would be recorded during the event, so there would have been between 400 and 500 people in there,” Baron said. “We were very fortunate that we were even allowed to go back in the space, that it was large enough to allow us to go in there and not worry about anybody else being exposed.”
Now the title “Good Trouble Bucket” resonates in the wake of Rep. John Lewis’ death on July 17. “Good trouble” was a phrase that Lewis frequently invoked, referring to the necessary work of activism and the kind of trouble a person could get into while fighting for their rights.
At the center of the Baron and Martinez-Granados’ art piece, both figuratively and literally, is Martinez-Granados’ status as a DACA recipient.
“The most important piece I placed in the piece was my DACA application,” Martinez-Granados said in the video. “It’s been so draining for me to fight to be able to stay in the only country that I’ve ever called home. And putting that big stack [of papers] in really put me in a very vulnerable space.”
The performance of “Good Trouble Bucket” begins with Baron and Martinez-Granados walking slowly and meditatively around a spiral of earth and rose quartz, carrying a bucket of water between them. At the center of the spiral is the DACA application that symbolizes “good trouble.”
For Baron, that struggle offers another common theme in their two cultures.
“The Jews were so familiar historically with the struggle, with moving from place to place, being expelled, running from tyranny,” Baron said. “That’s what the Mexican people are doing today and so many people are doing today. So we wanted to speak to that in this piece.”
Baron’s collaboration with Martinez-Granados began as a result of her work on the Artlink Artist Council. Each year, the council selects emerging artists to collaborate with at the Art d’Core Gala, and when Baron saw Martinez-Granados’ work among the finalists, she knew she wanted to work with her.
“I was immediately drawn to her work because of its focus on human rights, and the dignity of those rights that had been denied to her,” Baron said.
Starting in November, Baron and Martinez-Granados began meeting in one another’s studios, at the library, at coffee shops and on hiking trails, learning each other’s stories and finding common ground in their art and cultures.
From there, the project grew organically.
“This piece really is a story of two women finding themselves, exploring and discovering, literally, their sisterhood,” Baron said.
After completing the walk to the center of the labyrinth, Baron and Martinez-Granados wash their hands and faces in the bucket and sit across a table divided by a sheet of a chain link fence, where they pass foods like nopalitos and matzah to each other through the spaces between the links.
That element of sharing was essential to the piece, Baron said.
“We felt the more we could speak to that and show what we have in common versus what we don’t, that it would help to bring a nurturing quality and love about each other to the table,” Baron said.
In total, the performance lasted around 45 minutes, all of which was filmed by Alcazar Creative and then edited together into the final six-minute video. The longest part of the performance, Baron said, came toward the end: after sharing a meal through the fence, the two women stand and begin pounding clay into the bottom of the fence, forming a dual image: a mountain range, and Baron and Martinez-Granados’ own prone silhouettes.
Finally, their work finished, the two women come together to pray for the passage of the DREAM Act. That moment, Baron said, evokes the motion of davaning for her.
“We bow to each other, we bow to the higher self that we hold within us, but we’re also bowing to the higher self that we know is inside each and every other person out there,” Baron said.
The simple motion of that bow is an echo of her experience attending synagogue as a child.
“I experienced the Jews in the congregation doing this little rocking motion, and it felt really good,” Baron said. “I remember I didn’t understand it — I was very young — but I felt it, and it was very comforting. And I remember feeling very connected to something greater than myself.”
The artists hope to perform “Good Trouble Bucket” in person next spring.
“We’re just in the exploring stages right now, but we’re really excited,” Baron said.
They also hope that the performance will inspire its audience to their own ‘good trouble’ stories, which they will incorporate into the next performance.
“What are you carrying in your bucket? … What are you going to do to make the world a better place?” Baron asked. JN
To view "Good Trouble Bucket," visit vimeo.com/429722930.