crown (2011). Site specific performance at Queen Elizabeth Plaza; photographs by Roya Akbari.
A queen is a relationship between a head and a crown.
What if the feet become the site of coronation?
I walk on to Queen Elizabeth Plaza in the middle of downtown Vancouver in a warm, clear-skied early autumn afternoon. A month earlier, a group of young men called me fag as I walked past them in the plaza late at night. Today, the sun lights the pavement from above. I’m wearing a bright red baseball cap with the image of a cock embroidered in gold thread, and the word “Gallo” – rooster – underneath. The cap recalls visual tropes of the nationalist Guatemalan masculinity of my childhood. A Guatemalan viewer would recognize the cap as belonging to a popular brand of beer marketed to men by appealing a macho aesthetic. For a viewer who is not familiar with the iconography, the hat operates at the level of abstraction as a foreign sign, stuck in the failure of its translation. This failure is the crown.
I am barefoot. I’m carrying with me a small black suitcase. I pull from it a CD player. I begin to play a proto-reggaeton song, also from my childhood. The lyrics to the song, Nando Boom’s ‘Mariflor’, fantasize of Latin-America-wide public killings of homosexuals to hip-swaying beats. As the song plays in an extended mix that pounds both its form and its content, I take out a bottle of maple syrup. I open it and take in big mouthfuls. I hold it in my mouth and drop it on to the ground, slowly, like a fountain. The sweet liquid coats my bare feet and spills into the ground.
I take out gold leaf from the suitcase. Canadian mining company Goldcorp, which houses its headquarters just a few blocks away from the Theatre, is currently under investigation for human rights abuses in Guatemala. I sit on the ground and apply the gold carefully to my sticky feet. The music keeps playing. Soon, flakes of gold flicker in the wind, stuck to each foot. The collection of flickering flakes glistening in the sun is the crown.
I stand up. My hips begin to sway to the music in a circular motion. The imaginary ring drawn by my hips, using the homophobic song against itself, that is the crown. People who pass by take notice, and photographs. The crown has been turned on its head.