VIVA LA VIDA
POLINA PORRAS SIVOLOBOVA
The title “Viva La Vida,” which translates as ‘Hurray for Life’, comes from Frida Kahlo’s last painting, a still life with watermelons. Inspired by Kahlo’s resilient and self-reinventing spirit, my work centers around a woman who reinvents herself to transcend oppressing historical and social paradigms. As a site-specific, one time performance set in the Plaza of the Church of Santo Domingo de Guzman, “Viva La Vida” addresses the weight of history, religion, and societal expectations in women’s lives. It seeks to empower women by subverting traditional female icons.
The main character in “Viva La Vida” is a young woman at a Quinceañera—a Mexican Sweet-Sixteen, accompanied by 25, ten-year old children. The church of Santo Domingo acts as an omnipresent setting and character to which the young woman directs her actions. The performance lasts one hour and 30 minutes and has six scenes with no text. Its structured storyline accompanied by live music makes reference to pre-Hispanic and Catholic rituals and the Quinceañera celebration.
Scene 1—The Prayers: I enter the plaza dressed as my normal self. I kneel down to pray in front of the church using the seven prayers of Saint Dominic.
Scene 2—The Watermelon Dance: The dance takes over the entire space as the children come out from the garden, each carrying a watermelon. The watermelons are left on the floor.
Intermission: 10-minute music intermission
Scene 3—The Sacrifice and The Communion: Dressed in full Quinceañera attire: a laced corset, white fluffy dress with pink bows, I walk holding a machete as the children trail behind me. One watermelon is sliced open, its fleshy heart is scooped out with my hands to feed the audience.
Scene 4—The Passion: I kneel down to repeat the prayers; this time I drag myself on the floor. I take off my high heels and put them on one of the girls. The girl and I take a watermelon and smash it on the floor. The remaining watermelons are splashed with the help of the audience.
Scene 5—The Waltz: I waltz with a pair of concealed scissors. I cut my dress to pieces and remain in skin-tone undergarments.
Scene 6—The Baths: I bathe myself with milk, lie on the floor, the boys pour honey and the girls cover me with golden glitter.
The Finale: As I get up the children hand me flowers and we all walk away from the church.