#snatchpower, “Channeling Calafia” (2018), multimedia (images courtesy of Mexicali Biennial)

The Mexicali Biennial was founded in 2006 by artists Ed Gomez and Luis G. Hernandez as a way to critique the recent explosion of regional biennials around the world. Nomadic by nature, it was first held in the Mexican border town of Mexicali before migrating to East Los Angeles, with events being held in various locations on both sides of the border. This year, Daniela Lieja Quintanar has joined the curatorial team for the fourth iteration of the biennial, which will kick off this weekend at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), with exhibitions taking place throughout 2018 and 2019.

This year’s title is “Calafia: Manifesting the Terrestrial Paradise” and takes as its theme the mythical Black female warrior Calafia who ruled over the island of California in Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo’s 16th century epic Las Sergas de Esplandian. Often depicted as the spirit of California, the warrior queen epitomizes the state’s idyllic nature before the European conquest.

This weekend’s series of events includes nine commissioned sound and art pieces, an interactive installation, and a workshop. Friday’s program includes Melanie Griffin​’s ​A Long Way From Here Which is Where I am From, a Black utopia imagined through ritual, plant medicine, and textiles, and Claudia Algara’s Ama-sonic Cabinet, a live performance incorporating dance and hip-hop that conjures one united California, unencumbered by walls. Performances from Mexico-City and Los Angeles-based vocalist Carmina Escobar and Tijuana-based artist Dino Dinco will round out the night.

Edna Avalos, “Baile, Liberación, Resistencia” (2018)

On Saturday afternoon, artist-run collective Slanguage Studio will be offering a workshop (RSVP required), followed by an evening of performance and celebration. Highlights include Haydeé Jiménez‘s iii.tercero, an audiovisual installation remixing field recordings taken in Tijuana and a multi-media extravaganza from “post-apocalyptic, Afrofuturistic, Women’s Liberationist Artist Collective” #Snatchpower incorporating film, live painting, new music, and dance. “We just gon’ art up all ya lil’ mediums till they explode and all that’s left is the spirit realm,” they proclaim in the press release. A DJ set by Edna Avalos titled ​Baile, Liberación, Resistencia fuses reggaetón, psychedelic cumbia, dembow, and other Latin American musical forms in the service of decolonization and resistance.

When: Friday, June 8, 7–10pm; Saturday, June 9, 12–2pm & 7pm–12am
Where: Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) (6522 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, Los Angeles)

More info at Mexicali Biennial.

Matt Stromberg is a freelance visual arts writer based in Los Angeles. In addition to Hyperallergic, he has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, CARLA, Apollo, ARTNews, and other publications.