ASCO’s Walking Mural: A Mexican-American Detournement
Start writing a post
Politics and Activism

ASCO’s Walking Mural: A Mexican-American Detournement

Using theories of the everyday to unearth the significance of a simple parade.

ASCO’s Walking Mural: A Mexican-American Detournement

Guy Debord, the founder of Situationist International (SI), focused on theories of the everyday in his manifesto for the group. In part, this manifesto was inspired by fringe artistic movements of the past, such as the Dadaists and Surrealists, and subsequently featured ways to make “strange” the everyday in order to disrupt the institutionalized relationships created by “the spectacle” (or commodity of consumption). Now, imagine you are walking down the street one day, trying to get from point A to point B in order to complete your daily tasks, when you see a group of three Chicano/a individuals dressed up in elaborate costumes partaking in a procession. In its own right, this sight would be considered a spectacle, a visual experience worth stopping and consuming. But upon further examination, the ways in which this piece, "Walking Mural," appropriates and transforms components of both Mexican and American traditions in order to articulate the double alienation experienced by Chicano/a individuals situates it instead as a counter-spectacle. Thus, this piece becomes a source of intervention in the cultural identities created by the spectacle by crafting a new sort of spectacle that changes the understanding of and relation to Chicano/a identity politics. In this way, the counter-spectacle can be seen as functioning in SI tradition of the detournement (which translates to a diversion or disruption), or “the integration of past artistic production into a superior construction of milieu.”

"Walking Mural" was a literal walking performance piece in the form of a “phantasmagorical” parade performed by Los Angeles-based Chicano/a art group ASCO on Christmas Eve, 1972 in East Los Angeles. ASCO member Harry Gamboa, Jr. documented the work in photographs, as was common for the collective. Within these photographs, we see three Chicano/a artists dressed up in varying religious and artistic costumes: the Virgin of Guadalupe (in black), a chiffon Christmas tree with ornaments included, and a multi-faced mural come to life. Each of these likenesses repurposes various components of American and Mexican customs, and with the piece being performed on Christmas Eve, the perfect bridge is created between American and Hispanic culture, rooted in their sameness in terms of religiosity.

As this piece deals directly with concepts of the alienated identity of Chicano/as, it is not one that could be performed by other cultural groups without being tweaked to their cultural traditions and the tensions those have with American culture. In this way, the work seems, upon initial cultural reading, as if it could be performed by other Chicano/as who fall outside the traditional understanding of Mexican and American culture. However, there is underlying artistic critique (as noted in mural reference of the title) in the appropriation and animation of the artistic mode of the mural, which is seen as the most highly regarded Mexican art, but has erased the space for Mexican and Mexican-American artists who want to break from such a propagandistic (in other words, institutionalized) mold. Consequently, by intersecting religious art styles with muralistic ones (as well as contemporary performance) the mural becomes an entirely new cultural project for the new cultural group of Chicano/as. This critique makes the performance less accessible to be performed those who are not specifically Chicano/a artists attempting to change the artistic traditions from which they stem.

In regards to the audience for the piece, it is tied directly to the location. Being in East Los Angeles meant there was definite potential for violent reactions to the piece, as this is a locale of more traditional conservative Mexican culture. There was also potential for police involvement due to racial profiling within this area of the city, and because the performers were not white, the police could possibly have become violent as well. The dual American and Mexican viewership for this piece only continues the message of double alienation Chicano/as face; by questioning the validity of culture and religion that both groups hold near they are giving the metaphorical finger to the two different institutions that exclude them and are aware of the possibly dangerous consequences, similar to those they face in their difference daily.

Other theorists of the everyday could see their ideas utilized in this piece as well, although they all work to the same end of performing a detournement of spectacle. Michel de Certeau’s idea of tactical poaching, or customization of the structures in which we live, is used to hijack the idea of Chicano/a-ness and make it individual. This concept is only heightened by the fact that the individual artists did not confer with one another about what outfits they would wear prior to the performance. (This lack of preplanning also plays with concepts of chance common in the Dada and Surreal bases for Situationist theory.) Additionally, the concept of poaching can explain the use of the nationalistic ritual of parading, both an American and Mexican tradition being used to call attention to and critique the nationalism it heightens. The aforementioned notion of rituality connects this piece to the writings of Henri Lefebvre, as well, who assumes that the everyday is simply an internalized institutional rhythm and that such rhythm must be disrupted by the special ritual time that places individuals back in their communities, such a parade does. Rita Felski further emphasizes this idea of space producing relations and vice versa by explaining the gendered construction of space that is maintained by repetition of action within it. Therefore, by breaking the norms of parades in this work, the artists are seen as breaking down relations that urban spaces demand and making new, more fluid identities to which such relations can be attached.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

Founders Of Color: Rec Room's Dre Taylor On What Blackness Can Look Like And Not Working For Free

"It mattered to me that when we were depicting racial diversity for Rec Room, we showed the broad spectrum of what Blackness can look like."

Rec Room

The world of sustainable fashion is inundated with marketing gimmicks, false advertising, and large corporations cutting corners — Rec Room is the pure antithesis of that.

Keep Reading... Show less

Dunkin' just announced that they'll be releasing their fall menu earlier than ever — set to debut on August 19 — and that it'll include new menu options this season, including a new signature pumpkin spice latte. Let me just say, Starbucks has some fall-menu competition now.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

CBD Lip Balm Is The Calming Presence You Need In Your Life, Trust Me

I tried lip balm, sleep gummies, and an oil dropper from CBDistillery. Here's the final verdict.


CBD has been on making waves within the wellness space for the last few years. Generally related to the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain, it's growing easier to find small CBD companies who are making products specifically designed to fit your needs. As FDA rules for CBD production can be a little hazy, it's true that not all CBD products are created equally. That's why it's important to look into the manufacturing of whatever you're deciding to try, especially if you're new to taking CBD.

As someone who has tried a variety of CBD products — some victories, some failures — I was thrilled when CBDistillery sent me a package of their favorites. They included a Broad Spectrum CBD Oil Tincture, their Nighttime Gummies, and a CBD Lip Balm.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Went To Disney For The First Time Since COVID-19 And It's Officially The Cleanest Place On Earth

I stopped focusing on the pandemic simply because, for the first time in months, I felt safe.

After a few months of self-quarantining, becoming suspicious of every cough, and blowing through masks like a medical school student, restrictions due to the pandemic are easing up a bit and businesses are warily reopening. While these public spaces may look the same on the outside, the way they function and operate is vastly different than a few months ago.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

5 At-Home Therapy Tips You Need, No Matter What Your Therapy Routine Is

Whether you're in a Zoom session or live-chatting, make sure your home therapy space is good to go.

No matter what stigmas you held about therapy before this year, I'm sure 2020 has affirmed that we could ALL use a nice long therapy session. Between wildfires that took over an entire continent, a global health crisis, and what's sure to be one giant circus of an election in the United States, we need help and we need it now.

The fact of the matter is, therapy has been a helpful, valid resource long before the world decided to become one giant dumpster fire. Having a safe space to discuss what's going on in your life, worries you have, and struggles you're facing has become a very normal thing for individuals' mental health.

Keep Reading... Show less

When it comes to wedding planning, each and every detail is customized to the style of the couple. From venue and decorations to food and beverages, nothing gets overlooked — whether your wedding is big, small, or virtual.

The same thing goes for invites, which are getting more and more beautiful every wedding season. If you're looking to customize your wedding invitations, the options are endless... you can add pictures if you wish, opt for fancy artwork, or keep it simple with just text).

Keep Reading... Show less

23 Burning Questions We Have For The Taureans In Our Lives, Answered By A Taurus

The remaining 11 signs took the bull by the horns, and it was a fun and insightful experience!

Jordyn Leach

Lately, I've been digging deeper into astrology and studying my sign. Throughout the journey, it's come to my attention that Taurus are probably one of the most complicated signs - that is, if you're not a Taurus.

To gain a little more perspective on how my sign is viewed by the others, I requested that the participants submit a question in response to the following:

Keep Reading... Show less
Universal Pictures

A music enthusiast like myself has a playlist for every mood. Life's a movie and you're the main character. In no specific order, listen to these songs to feel on top of the world!

Pro Tip: turn your crossfade up to 3 seconds for a seamless transition between each song!

Keep Reading... Show less

It's the most wonderful time of the year again — it's sorority recruitment season! While recruitment can be a fun and memorable experience, it can also take a toll on your mental health, especially this year, considering the special circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are a few reminders to keep in your mental health toolkit during recruitment week to help keep your mental health at bay during this unique experience.

Keep Reading... Show less

We've all been there. You see that super cute guy on your dating app of choice, his bio is funny, and then, the gut-wrenching feeling hits when you see their political views don't exactly line up with yours. He loves Trump, you can't stand him, or vice versa.

A lot of people will say you can get over politics, but I know from personal experience, as well as this survey, that politics play a huge role in whether a relationship will work or if we're even willing to swipe right on that profile.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments