Hands to Hold is centered around 2 durational performances devised by Emilio Rojas. For a 6.5-hour performance, the artist drank a 1.5 gallons of sap from a 250 year old sugar maple in the Hudson Valley. This action took place in the ancestral homelands of the Munsee and Muhheaconneok people where Rojas resides. 1.5 gallons is the amount of blood flowing through our bodies at all times. This durational performance embodies a transfusion of fluids, the blood of the tree, into the artist’s bloodstream. In the second performance, Rojas created casts of his hands, made soap molds, and performed the ritual of ablution for 8 hours.
In this collaboration between Rojas and poet Pamela Sneed, the artists recognize the labor of artists and black and brown people during this past year of pandemic. It is an attempt to send a blessing to all those hands that by holding on, have held us through. Hands to Hold is a journey of gratitude and acknowledgement, a litany to the pandemics (AIDS and Covid-19) and the waves of mourning around us. It is an attempt to memorialize the intersections of our relationships to this land and the systems of oppression that we’ve inherited.
Emilio Rojas is a multidisciplinary artist working primarily with the body in performance, using video, photography, installation, public interventions and sculpture. As a queer latinx immigrant with indigenous heritage, he engages in the postcolonial ethical imperative to uncover, investigate, and make visible and audible undervalued or disparaged sites of knowledge, narratives, and individuals. He utilizes his body in a political and critical way, as an instrument to unearth removed traumas, embodied forms of decolonization, migration and poetics of space.
Pamela Sneed is a poet, writer, performer and visual artist, author of Imagine Being More Afraid of Freedom than Slavery, KONG and Other Works, Sweet Dreams and two chaplets, Gift by Belladonna and Black Panther. In 2020, she was the Commencement Speaker for the low-res MFA program at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she has been faculty in the program teaching Human Rights and Writing Art for the past 5 years. Sneed also teaches new genres in Columbia University’s School of the Arts.