Arturo Herrera.

(Tusa de Elote/Honduras Herrera/Toña)

I am an American Mestizo artist from Honduras via Canada who is now living in Detroit. My work is autobiographical, exploring national boundaries issues, including the politics of race and language, borders, and sexuality. I received bachelor's and master's degrees in fine art at the University of Windsor, Ontario, with concentrations in sculpture, photography, and performance art. My most recent work has been featured in Voyager: Migrational Narratives at the Emery Community Arts Center in Farmington, Maine; the Venice International Performance Art Week in Venice, Italy; and Untergeschoss Der Pandora Gallerie, in Berlin, Germany. Previously, my work has been shown at the Detroit Historical Museum, as part of the show Looking For America, an event organized by the New American Economy; the American University School of Public Affairs;; and the University of Michigan as part of Border Control, The New Media Caucus Symposium.

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The National Bird Series

El Pájaro Nacional/The National Bird, an evolving, experimental set of sculptures and performances about national emblems and immigration. The series uses physical masks and bodies to tell the stories of four migratory animals: a goose, a macaw, an eagle, and a coyote, whose species categorizations hold particular significance to either the nations or ecologies I’ve lived in and navigated. The masks and performances are complemented by physical props and artifacts, like immigration documents, that attempt to further expand upon these narratives. Currently, the plot revolves around the negotiation of four characters. Each animal is undeniably different, yet their interactions allow for both conflict and consensus building. The migratory nature of their existence, and the specificity of the places they represent, provide a platform for me to express many of the issues both I and others must repress in order to assimilate into societies that it seems we can never truly call our own.

The Coyote

The Coyote (my character, capitalized) was initially inspired by the coyotes, or smugglers who transport drugs, guns, and people across the southern border of the United States. This inspiration was complemented by the figure of the coyote in Native American culture, who is often depicted as a trickster. The Coyote is a white male, a gringo. The Coyote is seen as the savior, the hope. He is a sexual being, one who satisfies the birds. Rather than hunting the birds for food, the Coyote hunts birds for satisfaction, but sometimes the birds hunt him. The Coyote is an enabler whose desires continually change. One day he’s for you, and the other day he’s against you. He tricks you into thinking what he wants you to think, but also tells you the future. He tells what life is like on the other side, the other side of the border, and the other side of consciousness.
The Macaw

The Macaw is basically the most raw, tell-it-to-your-face bird. Coming from Honduras, his broken English and exotic colors create contrast with the other birds’ quieter demeanors. Based on my own personality, the Macaw is the one that ruins the jokes, the one that tells the end of the story. He swears, screams, and is the most sexually passionate and thought provoking. The Macaw imitates the others, but never gets it quite right. He has all the documentation he needs, a passport, a visa, but somehow he never feels fully at home.
The Goose

The Goose is in charge of nesting the eggs of every other bird, which he accomplishes by using the Coyote as a nest. He has a smooth behavior and seduces all of the other characters. The Goose both entices and tames the Coyote. While the Coyote is typically the instigator of sexual desire, the Goose is the only animal that takes the initiative to arouse the Coyote.
The Eagle

The Eagle and the Coyote are constantly contradicting each other. They get into verbal and sexual arguments, each of which are resolved by the other. The Eagle is the one bird that carries the sensuality and femininity of the series. As a dominant symbol with a reserved side, he also tells the cruel reality of oppression to the Coyote, the gringo, who basks in his white privilege and ignorance. When the Coyote and the Eagle are together, the Eagle pleases the Coyote while also warning the Coyote of the consequences of his actions. While not as raw as the Macaw, the Eagle’s truths are more cruel and biting.
The Turkey
The turkey was initially considered alongside the eagle as the US National Bird, a bird whose attitude starkly contrasts the attitude of the eagle. In El Pájaro Nacional/The National Bird, the Turkey similarly contrasts. The Turkey is an oddball. He is ugly and can’t fly as high as the other birds. He is seen as a pest, but he is a bird of courage, playing the devil’s advocate.

Credits: Olek Brodowicz, Abel Hernández, Furio Ganz, Valeria Segna, Juri Bizzotto, University of Maine Farmington. 

My Name is Arturo Herrera, I was born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Performance art. 12 frames, 60 fps. Duration 1:12 min. 2020
Arturo Herrera, Copyright 2020.