The MexiCali Biennial is currently accepting artwork proposals for the 2018/19 round of programming. Please consider submitting proposals for this upcoming dynamic set of exhibitions which will take place at venues across regions of California, both north and south of the border. They are accepting submissions in all media including, but not limited to, performance, film, 2D, 3D, installation and new genres. The curators are looking for solidly researched projects which display a strong understanding and focus on the rigor of the curatorial theme. The MexiCali Biennial is open to all artists living and/or working in the US state of California and Mexico. Special consideration will be made for works produced by artists outside of these areas if the curators deem the proposed projects display a strong understanding of the culture and political climate of the region.
Calafia: Manifesting the Terrestrial Paradise
The curatorial concept for this round of programming will deal directly and indirectly with the myth of the island of California, in particular on the character Queen Calafia. This mythical character serves as an inspiration and a strong persona, as well as a symbol for California itself. She can be seen as both a cause of and an opposition to circumstances in the past, present and future of this terrestrial paradise.
A Brief Study of Calafia and the Mythical Island of California
Calafia is a book within a larger chivalric story written by Castilian author Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo in the early sixteenth century. Expanding on his novel Las sergas de Esplandian, Montalvo created a tale of wonder, full of powerful women and mythical beasts. At the center was Calafia, the queen of the mythical island of California. She was described as a mighty and beautiful queen with great ambition. Montalvo writes, “as you will recall from historical records, during the days when mighty Pagan warriors sailed with great fleets to distant shores of the world, there reigned in the island of California a mighty and beautiful queen. She was more ambitious, daring and courageous than any of the rulers who had previously occupied the throne.”
It is in this tale, in fact, that the word California was first written, and most scholars believe this to be the true etymological source for the name. In describing this mythical island, Montalvo creates an exotic environment full of strong black warrior women and mythical beasts, located very near the Terrestrial Paradise. The island was only inhabited by women “with no men among then, for they lived in the fashion of Amazons.” The women were described as having “strong and firm bodies of ardent courage and great strength.”  They dressed in gold and lived in large caves, where they raised an army of man-eating griffins. These women were successful warriors with a great fleet of ships. The Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes and his men did indeed believe that the Baja peninsula was an island when they first laid eyes upon it. This casual naming of the land is important in that it is the only instance where a state was named after a mythical place.
The MB18/19 curatorial team is interested in projects directly related to the myth of the island of California as well as a broader understanding of the text and its relationship to current and past events in the region. Points of interest are feminism, identity, colonialism, gentrification and displacement, misogyny in Hollywood, the facade of the movie industry, the gold rush, Aztlan and the resistance movement to the current political climate along with a much broader understanding of the border region and the citizenry of the area.