UndocuNation, a performance and visual art conglomeration, took place this past Friday at International House. The Center for Race and Gender at Berkeley, CultureStr/ke, and the Theater and Dance Performance Studies department here at UC Berkeley helped put on the show specifically for Berkeley students. The show’s main focus was on the complex issues of undocumented immigration, and what that can mean for students especially.
Hosted by the multi-talented Oakland artist Favianna Rodriguez, the show offered visual displays in the lobby and in the ballroom, though the main focus was on the performance artists on stage. There were poets, rappers, singers, guitarists, and even the Harlem Shake at the end. Though Rodriguez mentioned that the event had also previously taken place in SF, she didn’t seem to regret creating a new show just for Berkeley. Rodriguez, who says that the line for her between artist and activist is a blurred one at the very least, has been an active voice in the Bay Area for some time and used to be a UC Berkeley student herself. One of the motifs of her visual art is the monarch butterfly, a symbol for the beauty of migration, rather than the negative aspects of immigration that are hot issues today.
Though some of the acts didn’t quite mesh (re: the trio that remixed “I Wanna Be a Billionaire” with “I Wanna Be a Citizen”), the audience didn’t seem to mind. It wasn’t exactly a show, but more of an open mic event, mixing different races and opinions to unearth and release energy about the injustices of which many are not aware. Comedian Josh Healey perhaps summed up the feelings of the audience best when he pointed out that the divides between art and activist, audience and stage, and two different countries can mean so much to us — sparking physical and emotional conflict — but are essentially false.
AJ is the lead visual arts critic. Contact AJ at [email protected].