Scheherazade or (Per)forming the Archive
Video: 14 minutes

Scheherazade is an autobiographical and performative meditation on being an artist,
and on the intergenerational transmission of cultural history in the construction of
identity. Affirming the presence of the body of the ‘Other,’ my son’s heartbeats in
utero join my mother’s last breaths.

Shortly before I left El Salvador, I was asked to dance Scheherazade by the artist Julio
Sequeira. At the time, I had no idea of Scheherazade’s bravery or incredible
imagination. I could only focus on the sensual and erotic undertones that Rimsky
Korsakov’s music conjured with its languid violin and tantalizing bells. I felt suffocated
by the orientalist gaze. And I could not do the dance.

In 2006, a few years after my father’s passing, I was reminded of my teenage
Scheherazade and decided to play Scheherazade on my own terms. Like the mythic
Scheherazade, telling stories would ensure my survival, set me free. But the video felt
unfinished. This year, three years after my mother’s death, I am (per)forming it again,
reflecting on the translations, the contradictions, the passage of time.

Scheherazade or (Per)forming the Archive premiered as an installation at the American
University Museum in Washington, D.C. and at the Cultural Center of Spain in San
Salvador this past June. The installation brought together Julio Sequeira’s painting
Hombre Cósmico, the video Scheherazade and ARTE VOZ, a transnational sound booth
that creates a site for the exchange of stories and heartbeats elicited by the art of
Central America.

This Scheherazade is not a legend or a fairy tale, yet it affirms the power of cultural and
personal narratives in the construction of identity. The fabric of our society— here and
there, wherever there might be—is made of countless individual stories like mine, which
in Walter Mignolo’s words, are “ingrained in the body and in local histories.” When
spoken outloud and woven together, these stories show the complexity of history and
identity and can become ours—heartbeats difficult to ignore—reverberating in the
territory of our collective home.