Chosen Memories: Contemporary Latin American Art from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Gift and Beyond

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Regina José Galindo. Looting. 2010

Eight gold fillings, 53 9/16 × 14 15/16 × 14 15/16" (136 × 38 × 38 cm). Gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund. © 2024 Regina José Galindo

Artist, Regina José Galindo: My name is Regina José Galindo, and I am an artist and poet from Guatemala. What you’re seeing here are eight Guatemalan gold fillings that were extracted from my mouth in Germany, as part of a 2010 work called Saqueo or Looting.

The performance takes my mouth as a metaphor for the Guatemalan land—a perfect landscape full of riches. First, a dentist in Guatemala drilled into eight molars and placed eight fillings made from the highest purity of Guatemalan gold. One filling per molar, one molar per month.

Eight months later, when I had already installed the eight fillings in my teeth, I traveled to Berlin where the second part of the performance took place. There, a German doctor slowly removed the eight gold fillings from my mouth and they were left on display as works of art in Germany while I returned to my country empty-mouthed.

Looting was documented with photographs and video, but it is the eight gold fillings that I have chosen as the final document of the work. It seems to me that the radiance of those little stones contain all the pain and injustice that result from exploitation. Today, the gold of my molars is in New York, as is the case with great treasures from the Global South that are hoarded and displayed in the first world.

Guatemala is a country that has been historically exploited—not only for gold, but for other minerals, for its rich lands, and for its waters. Today, the looting does not stop. The looting that began with colonial conquest more than 500 years ago continues.