Irvin Morazan makes new rituals
The following was written as part of a writer-in-residency for the Fusebox performance festival in Austin.
Irvin Morazan makes new rituals
By Jeanne Claire van Ryzin, Writer-in-residence
When Irvin Morazan and I connect by phone, he is in the midst of working on “Boom! Boom” Whammm! Swoosh!” a voluminous performance he’ll stage April 15.
In a state parking garage normally used by government employees, Morazan will greet members of the San Antonio chapter L.O.W. Riders, an all-female motorcycle club. A dozen will ride up from San Antonio where a few years ago he staged a performance with them.
Or perhaps more than a dozen riders. Morazan has worked with club before. “Maybe more will show up, I don't know,” he says. “They like working with me.”
Also on his roster of “Boom! Boom!” participants to muster: 15 teen girls in their resplendent quinceañera dresses, a martial artist and two throat singers who are members of Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth.
Acting as a sort of a conductor, Morazan will lead the movements and sound-making of his cast by playing a harmonica, costuming himself with an enormous cardboard headdress, a nod to his Mayan heritage.
“And then somehow a 50-foot inflatable alligator will be involved in all this,” he laughs. “That’s what I’m working on right now.”
Morazan intends “Boom! Boom! Whammm! Swoosh!” to be a visual, aural and physical happening.
The heavy rumblings of the motorcycles echoing in the concrete garage will produce a physical sensation, he suggests.
“You’ll feel the sound, the vibrations will course through you, cleanse you. This a healing session, a ritual cleansing.”
And then at some moment during the performance, everyone will be invited to scream.
Morazan’s is his own hybrid aesthetic — a mash up of indigenous culture of the Americas and urban street art that hints at the parallels between the ancient and contemporary worlds.
Central to his practice are his enormous, elaborate headdress used in performance and exhibited as sculpture — expressions of his Mayan heritage in a celebratory artistic dialogue with urban street culture.
Morazan has donned a headdress crowned with a boombox and paraded through tourist-thronged Times Square, for a moment the music blasting from his headdress accompanying break dancers.
For “Illegal Alien,” a 2011 performance in Ruidosa, Texas, along the U.S.-Mexico border, he fashioned a headdress of shiny silver elements, including a solar reflector.
In 1984, when Morazan was eight years old, his family fled their home in El Salvador escaping a U.S.-backed civil war. Morazan crossed the border into Texas alone.
And so when he performed his ritualistic reverse border crossing as an adult, his shining sun-collecting shamanistic headdress erased his camouflaged childhood journey. In essence Morazan created a new border-crossing memory for himself.
Morazan’s family settled in New York City, and compared to his previous experience playing on Mayan ruins, the cacophony and chaos of the city left an indelible impression. It was, after all, the era of the boombox and graffiti-covered subway cars and a city scarred with abandon buildings.
“Everyone was carrying ghetto-blasters around, holding these huge things on their shoulders and totally in their own space, but they were blasting music full blast into everyone’s space. It was so different, frightening even,” says Morazan.
Morazan makes his own noise now, issuing an open invitation for anyone to join a ritual of his personal invention.
Of “Boom! Boom! Whammm! Swoosh” he says: “This is a big scream, a cleansing for all of us. A release from everything that’s awful in the world now."